Money Read Time: 5 min

Mastering the Art of Salary Negotiation

Whether you’re a new college graduate interviewing for your first full-time job or a seasoned professional seeking a pay raise, it can be tricky to negotiate your salary. You may expect a negative response to your request, so you wonder if it’s even worth trying. Or maybe you assume the figure offered by the human resources team is set in stone, so there’s no point in asking for more. Failing to find out the market rate for your services is another reason some employees accept lower pay than they deserve. Luckily, salary negotiation is a skill that can be developed, and there are steps you can take to become more confident and convincing in these conversations.

Do Your Research
As is the case in any negotiation, preparation is key. Without knowledge about how much employees are making in comparable roles or how much your experience and expertise factor into your value, your request for more money might seem arbitrary or undeserved. So, come to the table with facts to back up your proposal.

  • Market value. Use online salary databases, industry reports, and professional networks to learn the typical pay for your role. In addition to learning about current compensation for similar positions at other companies, consider your geographic location and experience level to arrive at an accurate salary range.
  • Your worth. Once you have an idea of what the ballpark salary for the role should be, create a narrative to explain why you deserve a salary at the upper end of (or maybe even above) that range. How much experience do you have in the field? Have you earned any degrees or certifications that would make you more valuable? If there are ways to quantify your contributions in former positions, like boosting sales by a certain percentage, mention that. Let your interviewer know what sets you apart from the other candidates and makes you worthy of your desired salary.
  • Company information. Knowing about the firm and its business will give you an advantage in an interview. You don’t have to know every single detail about the company. Still, showing your interviewer that you’re just as interested in learning about the firm as they are in learning about you can go a long way and make you stand out from other candidates. Understanding the company’s financial health might also help you tailor your negotiation. For example, are they experiencing rapid growth? Have they recently received funding? Knowing about their difficulties and priorities can help you arrive at a solution that works for both parties.

Plan Your Pitch

  • Ideally, you’ll want to discuss salary after receiving a job offer but before officially accepting it. If you’re already employed, try timing your request during annual review periods or when taking on additional responsibilities.
  • It’s generally best to let your prospective employer suggest a range to start. Once you have this reference point, you can negotiate based on their figure. If possible, refrain from discussing your salary history. Focus on future expectations instead. Also, know your state laws; in many states, such as Massachusetts and California, an employer is not allowed to ask you what your current salary is.
  • Market yourself. Rather than talking about your needs and wants as a basis for your proposed salary range, focus on the value you’ll bring to the company and the return on investment they’ll get by hiring you.
  • Give them wiggle room. Don’t be afraid to ask for more than your target salary. This will give the company room to come down or meet you in the middle and still land in an acceptable range.
  • See beyond salary. It helps to be flexible. Just because HR may be unable to budge on salary doesn’t mean they can’t offer additional compensation. Benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, bonuses, paid time off, and professional development opportunities should also figure into your evaluation of the offer. 

Mind the Gap
It’s no secret that women generally make less money than men in the same role. Gender pay gaps exist in many industries, and it is helpful to prepare to directly address negative gender stereotypes or assumptions made during negotiations. Practice what you might say in response to comments about wanting time off for family or needing to leave early to pick up your children, or even about the interviewer sensing a lack of confidence in your abilities.

In addition to generalizations employers might make about women candidates, there’s a common tendency to judge women more harshly for using the same negotiation tactics men use. Highlighting shared objectives, rather than personal asks, can often lead to a more positively received request. Even if you’re softening your approach, maintain your confidence and assertiveness—you deserve equal pay for equal work.

If you have reason to believe bias might be at play, you may also want to professionally and directly address any concerns about gender bias during the interview process. Shine a light on potential discrimination by saying you don’t want to be underpaid due to your gender and you hope the company values diversity and equal pay principles.

This advice can be applied to perceived age-related biases as well. Highlight your extensive experience, vast knowledge, up-to-date skill set, and why these would make you an asset to the team.

Invest in Yourself
Remember, salary negotiation is an ongoing process, not a onetime event. Consistently advocating for fair compensation throughout your career can lead to substantial long-term earnings. Don’t be afraid to revisit the conversation as you take on additional responsibilities or gain valuable experience. Negotiating your salary is an investment in your future financial security. By following these steps and believing in your worth, you can approach the conversation with confidence and secure the compensation you deserve.

 

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