Salary Negotiation – Tips and Pitfalls

Negotiating your salary is scary. There’s no getting around it. But, armed with some solid information and advice, you can do this!

Whether you’re negotiating your salary for a new job or negotiating a raise in a current job, it pays to do a little research.

First, find out what the current salary range is for your job in your geographic area. Glassdoor and PayScale sources are two great online sources where you can plug in your skills, education and experience and find out what other people are making in similar jobs.

Maybe you have unique skills in addition to the basics required for your job. Be ready to provide them.

Second, try not to be the first one to put a number on the table. This will put you at an immediate disadvantage. If it’s significantly lower than what the employer has budgeted and is prepared to offer, they will immediately use that as a base to offer you a lower number. If it’s higher than they expected (watch for nonverbal cues like a quick intake of breath) then you may scare them off or shut down the process prematurely.

Employers will undoubtedly ask what you want or your current salary, but try deflecting by asking them what range they think is appropriate for the job? What does their budget allow?

Make it clear that your skills, or perhaps your performance last year, is what’s fueling this negotiation. If your negotiating a raise be prepared to offer specific examples of your previous performance; it’s even okay to put together a one-page list of your accomplishments and contributions to the firm.

Don’t take the first offer. Employers expect some negotiating and have likely planned for that with their offer. Be prepared to counter and maybe counter again. Don’t be afraid to say no.

Keep in mind that your total compensation includes other things such as insurance and vacation/sick days. Be open-minded about an offer that at first glance appears low; perhaps they are offering annual bonuses based on performance, stock options or other forms of compensation that not only increase the value of the offer, but illustrate the company’s desire to incentivize employees by making them a part of the company.

Do not, under any circumstances, say you need this raise. “I have four kids to support!” “My in-laws just moved in.” “I have a son just starting college.”  Although they may sympathize, this will mean absolutely nothing to a manager. Your compensation is based on your value to the company, nothing more, nothing less. And that’s how it should be!

If you’re to the point where you must provide a number, make it the top of the scale. You can always back down; you can’t go back up. Consider asking for a specific number. For example, instead of asking for $50,000, ask for $49,750 or $51,500. It sounds like you’ve done your research and know precisely what the market will bear and what you’re worth.

Make sure the timing is right. Some companies do annual reviews for everyone all around the same time. If that’s the case in your company, ask for a raise three or four months prior to the review time. Otherwise, the money may already be budgeted and raises allocated by the time they actually get to your review.

Make sure you’ve been at the job long enough to make a raise a reasonable request. Be prepared with your list of reasons why you deserve a raise and how you’ve specifically contributed to the firm. Have you taken on new responsibilities? Or solved problems in a unique way? Have you gone “above and beyond?” You should have answered “yes” to all these questions. Be prepared to illustrate what you’ve done.

If this is a negotiation for a new job, be prepared to walk away. You should have a basement where you absolutely will not go below so stick to it. It means you value what you do and expect employers to value you as well.

Don’t take the negotiation process personally. Stay professional, polite and cordial. Always be positive. There are ways to say “no” without yelling it. Stay positive and stay away from the negative.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Know what you will say before you go into a negotiation. Have prepared responses and prepared questions, but in addition, always listen and respond appropriately.

Go forth and make a deal!