How to Negotiate Salary: 37 Tips You Need to Know
Whether we’re starting a new job or gunning for a promotion at our current one, we all know that we should be negotiating.
Or do we?
A survey by Salary.com revealed that only 37% of people always negotiate their salaries—while an astonishing 18% never do. Even worse, 44% of respondents claim to have never brought up the subject of a raise during their performance reviews. The biggest reason for not asking for more? Fear.
And we get it: Negotiation can be scary. But what’s even scarier is not doing it.
Here’s a good example: A famous study done by Linda Babcock for her book, Women Don’t Ask, revealed that only about 7% of women attempted to negotiate their first salary, while 57% of men did. Of those people who negotiated, they were able to increase their salary by over 7%.
That may not sound like much, but as Stanford negotiation professor Margaret A. Neale puts it, “If you and your counterpart who negotiated are treated identically by the company—you are given the same raises and promotions—35 years later, you will have to work eight more years to be as wealthy as your counterpart at retirement.”
So, whether you’re male or female, in your first job or your fifth, it’s time to learn how to negotiate. And we’re here to help, with a roundup of expert tips and further reading to get you totally prepped for your next negotiation.
1. Know Your Value
If you’re going to get the pay you deserve, it’s crucial to know the going rate for your position in your specific industry and in your geographic area. As I Will Teach You to Be Rich’s Ramit Sethi recently told PureWow, “If you walk into a salary negotiation without a number, you’re at the mercy of an experienced hiring manager who will simply control the conversation.” You can do this by doing an online search on sites such as Payscale or Glassdoor, or by asking others in your field (ideally both men and women, to avoid falling victim to the gender pay gap).
2. Talk to Recruiters
Another way to do some research? Pick up those calls from recruiters. They know what people with your experience and expertise are worth, so use it to your advantage! The next time one reaches out to you, engage in a conversation about the position’s responsibilities and pay. You may not get a specific number, but even a range is helpful.
3. Organize Your Thoughts
To organize all of your thoughts and research in one place, check out the free resources at She Negotiates (yes, it’s helpful for guys, too). We particularly like “How to Source and Research What You’re Truly Worth” and “Negotiation Prep Worksheet.”
4. Pick the Top of the Range
As you’re doing your research, you’ll likely come up with a range that represents your market value. It can be tempting to ask for something in the middle of the range, but instead you should ask for something toward the top. First of all, you should assume you’re entitled to top pay, says She Negotiates founder Victoria Pynchon. Second, your employer will almost certainly negotiate down, so you need wiggle room to still end up with a salary you’re pleased with.
5. Know the (Exact) Number
According to researchers at Columbia Business School, you should ask for a very specific number—say, $64,750 rather than $65,000. Turns out, when employees use a more precise number in their initial negotiation request, they are more likely to get a final offer closer to what they were hoping for. This is because the employer will assume you’ve done more extensive research into your market value to reach that specific number.
6. Be Willing to Walk Away
When considering your numbers, you should also come up with a “walk away point”—a final offer that’s so low that you have to turn it down. This could be based on financial need, market value, or simply what you need to feel good about the salary you’re bringing home. Walking away from an offer will never be easy, but it’s important to know when to do it—and powerful to be able to say “no.”
7. Make Sure You’re Ready
Before you ask for a raise, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions. Have you been at your job for a year? Have you taken on new responsibilities since you’ve been hired? Have you been exceeding expectations (rather than just meeting them)? The answer to all of these should be “yes.”
8. Plan the Right Timing
Turns out, timing is everything. Most people wait until performance review season to ask for a salary adjustment, but by that time, your boss has probably already decided what raises will be doled out to the team. Instead? “Start talking to your boss about getting a raise three to four months in advance,” writer and former human resources professional Suzanne Lucas of EvilHRLady.org recently told LearnVest. “That’s when they decide the budget.”
9. Prepare a One-Sheet
Prepare a “brag sheet,” recommends Kathleen O’Malley of Babble. “It’s a one-page summary that shows exactly how awesome you are as an employee. List any accomplishments, awards, and customer or co-worker testimonials (“You saved me when you did xyz!” emails definitely count as testimonials!) you’ve received since your last review. You want to demonstrate your value to your boss.”
10. Remember Practice Makes Perfect
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Write down what you want to say, and practice to a mirror, on video, or with a friend until you’re super comfortable having the conversation.
11. Set the Meeting for Thursday
Studies show that you’re more likely to get a raise if you ask on Thursday. “As hard-line behavior disappears, we become more flexible and accommodating. Thursdays and Fridays find us most open to negotiation and compromise because we want to finish our work before the week is out,” reports Psychology Today.
Starting the Conversation
12. Power Up
Before you go into the negotiation, try Amy Cuddy’s tip of doing a “power pose”—in other words, going into the bathroom and standing tall with your hands on your hips, your chin and chest raised proud, and your feet firm on the ground. Doing so raises testosterone, which influences confidence and reduces the stress hormone cortisol.
13. Drink Some Coffee
A study by the European Journal of Social Psychology found that caffeine made people more resistant to persuasion, meaning you’ll have an easier time holding your ground during the negotiation, reports Business Insider.
14. Walk in With Confidence
“The way you enter a room can dictate how the rest of an interaction will be,” reports James Clear of Passive Panda. “Ever see someone slump through a doorway with a scowl on their face? Not very inspiring. Keep your head high and smile when you enter. Starting things off with a positive vibe is very important, no matter how small it is.”
15. Start With Questions
You should start the negotiation conversation by asking diagnostic questions to understand more about the other party’s true needs, desires, fears, preferences, and priorities. Professor Leigh Thompson at the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University says that 93% of all negotiators fail to ask these “diagnostic questions” in circumstances where getting them answered would significantly improve the outcome of negotiations. Asking questions like, “What are your biggest priorities right now?” can help you understand where your negotiation partner is coming from—and offer up solutions that will help.
16. Show What You Can Do
Before you start talking numbers, talk about what you’ve done and—more importantly—what you can do. As Pynchon puts it, “Remember Oliver, the orphan shamed for asking for another spoon of gruel? Imagine if Oliver had approached the headmistress with an offer to clean the dining hall and polish the flatware after breakfast. “‘I’d be able to include a shoe shine for both you and the headmaster if I only had a little additional gruel, and perhaps an egg for energy,’ he’d say, smiling with his most ingratiating grin.”
17. Focus on the Future, Not the Past
When negotiating the salary for a new job, it’s not uncommon for the company (or even a recruiter during the job search process!) to ask about your current salary. It can be a tricky situation, especially if you’re being underpaid at your current job or looking to make significantly more, but it’s never a good idea to lie. Instead, give your current number (including benefits, bonuses, and the like) and then quickly move the conversation along to explain the number you’re looking for, focusing on explaining your new skills or responsibilities, your market value, and how you’re looking to grow, explains Pynchon.
18. Think About the Other Person
When preparing for negotiating, get in the mindset of thinking about the situation from your opponent’s perspective, recommends career expert Steph Stern. Research by Columbia psychologist Adam Galinsky shows that when we consider the other person’s thoughts and interests, we are more likely to find solutions that work well for both of us.
19. Try Thinking About Someone Else
Research from Columbia Business School shows that people—especially women—tend to do better when they negotiate for someone else, reports Stern. “So, in preparing to negotiate, think about how what you’re asking for will impact those around you: It’s not just for you, but also for your family and your future. It’s even for your employer! After all, if you are happier with your position and compensation, you’re more likely to work hard and be successful.”
20. Stay Positive, Not Pushy
Negotiation may be scary, but you should always keep the conversation on a positive note, recommends Jacquelyn Smith of Forbes. “[Kick] off the conversation with something like, “I really enjoy working here and find my projects very challenging. In the last year, I’ve been feeling that the scope of my work has expanded quite a bit. I believe my roles and responsibilities, and my contributions have risen. I’d like to discuss with you the possibilities of reviewing my compensation.”
Making the Ask
21. Put Your Number Out First
The anchor—or the first number put on the table—is the most important in negotiation, since it’s what the rest of the conversation is based off of. If it’s too low, you’ll end up with a lower final offer than you probably want. You should always be the first person to mention a number so that you, not your counterpart, controls the anchor.
22. Ask for More Than What You Want
You should always ask for more than you actually want. Psychology shows that your bargaining partner will feel like he or she is getting a better deal if he or she negotiates down from your original ask. And don’t fear asking for too much! The worst that can happen if you give a high number is that the other party will counteroffer—but the worst that can happen if you don’t negotiate is that you’ll get nothing.
23. Don’t Use a Range
Mike Hoffman suggests that you should never use the word “between” when negotiating. In other words, never give a range: “I’m looking for between $60K and $65K.” That suggests you’re willing to concede, and the person you’re negotiating with will immediately jump to the smaller number.
24. Be Kind But Firm
Negotiating for a new job? Here’s a great script to try, courtesy of Rebecca Thorman at U.S. News & World Report: “I’m really excited to work here, and I know that I will bring a lot of value. I appreciate the offer at $58,000, but was really expecting to be in the $65,000 range based on my experience, drive, and performance. Can we look at a salary of $65,000 for this position?”
25. Focus on Market Value
Rather than discussing a raise or new salary based on what you make now, keep the conversation focused on what the market is paying for people like you (your “market value”). Re-frame any metric your negotiation partner uses—like percentage differences—as market value, re-focusing the discussion on hard dollars.
26. Prioritize Your Requests
As part of your conversation, lay everything you’re looking for out on the table in rank order. Explains Wharton professor Adam Grant on Business Insider: “In a job offer negotiation, for example, you might say that salary is most important to you, followed by location, and then vacation time and signing bonus. Research shows that rank-ordering is a powerful way to help your counterparts understand your interests without giving away too much information. You can then ask them to share their priorities, and look for opportunities for mutually beneficial tradeoffs: both sides win on the issues that are most important to them.”
27. But Don’t Mention Personal Needs
Don’t focus on your personal needs—like that fact that your rent’s gone up or childcare expenses have increased. (Chances are, your co-workers are dealing with similar situations.) You make a much better case to your boss (and his or her boss!) that you’re worth more when you focus on your performance and achievements.
28. Ask for Advice
After you’ve sold your benefits, talked about your value, and made your ask, Grant recommends asking, “I trust you, and I’d very much value your recommendations. What would you suggest?” By doing so, he says, you’ve flattered your negotiating partner, you’ve encouraged him or her to take your perspective, and you’ll (hopefully) persuade him or her to advocate for you and your request.
29. Use Email Where Appropriate
Most negotiations are done in person or over the phone, but if most of your communication with a recruiter or hiring manager has been over email, don’t be afraid to negotiate over email, as well. It ensures you stick to the script and can be a whole lot less scary. If you do negotiate over email, try to infuse as much empathy, pleasant conversation, and openness as possible into your message, mimicking a real-life conversation. (Here’s how to do it, courtesy of Pynchon.)
30. Don’t Forget to Listen
Listening to the other party during a negotiation is almost as important as your ask and argument. By really paying attention to what the other person is saying, you can understand his or her needs and incorporate them into finding a solution that makes you both happy.
31. Don’t Fear the “No”
You may be afraid of rejection, but according to Pynchon, a negotiation doesn’t actually start until someone says “no.” She explains: “It’s not really a negotiation if we’re asking for something we know our bargaining partner also wants. Negotiation is a conversation whose goal is to reach an agreement with someone whose interests are not perfectly aligned with yours.” So understand that the “no” is just part of the process—not a statement on how you’re doing.
Getting an Answer (and Dealing With the Aftermath)
32. Use Stalling to Your Advantage
“When you hear the other person’s first offer, don’t say ‘OK.’ Say ‘Hmmm,’” recommends executive career coach Jack Chapman. “Give yourself some time, and in the seconds of silence, the other person is more likely to improve in some way.”
33. Ask Questions
Does the person you’re negotiating with flinch or otherwise react negatively to the number you put on the table? Don’t let that deter you; instead, ask open ended questions to keep the conversation moving and show you’re willing to work together. Pynchon suggests things like: “Seems like that took you by surprise. Tell me more…”; “What is the budget for this position based on?” or; “How can I help you move more in my direction?”
34. Don’t Be Afraid to Counter
If you ask for a higher salary and the employer says no? Doesn’t mean the conversation’s over. Try this, says Thorman: “I understand where you’re coming from, and just want to reiterate my enthusiasm for the position and working with you and the team. I think my skills are perfectly suited for this position, and are worth $65,000.”
35. But Don’t Make Threats
Again, you ideally want to work (or keep working) with this person, so it’s important to keep the conversation positive. “Whatever you do, don’t threaten to leave if you don’t get the raise,” Smith reports. “You also shouldn’t threaten your boss with other job offers, interviews, [or] recruiter conversations.”
36. Consider Other Options
If your boss (or the hiring manager) really, really won’t budge? Try negotiating for flex time, more vacation time, a better title, or plum projects and assignments. Here’s how to ask for each, courtesy of LearnVest.
37. Keep Negotiating
If this seems like a lot—well, unfortunately, it is. Negotiation is a complicated process with volumes of books on techniques, tactics, and scripts. The good news? The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Even better, the more money you’ll bring home! So, get out there and start negotiating. You’ve now got the skills to do it right.
Photo of money jar courtesy of Shutterstock.
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