How to negotiate your next salary

On the Job

How to negotiate your next salary

This conversation applies to both internal employees and external candidates. You could be negotiating to enter the company as a new hire or an internal transfer or promotion. The key to a successful negotiation is doing your homework, staying objective and setting boundaries.

Step one: Do your homework. When speaking with a company about salary, you need to come armed with information — about the work. The company will already have this information, so you’ll be at a disadvantage if you don’t prepare.

  • Understand what it takes to do the job. Think about your current job description and the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to be successful. While attributes like punctuality, initiative and attitude are good, they shouldn’t be the focus of the conversation. Managers and recruiters will be looking for the hard skills and proven experience that will help them reach their bottom-line goals.
  • Research what comparable pay might be. It might be tempting to focus on what other people in the company are currently being paid. While you may know what your colleagues are making, this shouldn’t be a part of the conversation. You have to sell yourself. Check websites such as Indeed, Salary.com or the Bureau of Labor Statistics for salary data.

Step two: Stay objective. Once you’ve done the research, it’s time to present your case. Keep emotion out of the discussion. This is tough because it’s your salary. Candidates and employees often lose the negotiation because they bring emotion to the table.

  • List your accomplishments in terms of money. If you want to get someone’s attention, talk about how much money you’ve raised for a company or you’ve saved them. For example, it becomes easier to talk about a $5,000 pay increase when you saved the organization more than $25,000 last year. While these numbers are fictional, take some time to think about the value you bring to the company in cash terms — because you’re asking for cash.
  • Put yourself in a manager’s or recruiter’s shoes. The company’s managers and recruiters have budgets and salary guidelines they need to work within. When they hesitate, it’s not personal. They’re simply evaluating your knowledge, skills and abilities against the salary ranges and budgets they have to work with. Your role in a salary negation is to give them the argument that helps them justify your request for more salary.

Step three: Set boundaries. The word negotiation implies a give and take between parties. Be prepared to hear the other side present its case and look for you to compromise. Ideally, you’ll want to think about these two things before you start the negotiation:

  • Consider alternatives to money. There’s more to a paycheck than the cash you receive. Benefits such as flexible work schedules, insurance premiums, auto allowances and professional development opportunities are all desirable alternatives to salary. If you suspect the organization wants to give you more but salary isn’t an option, decide if you’re willing to accept something else.
  • Be prepared to walk away. The last thing you want to happen is to take a salary package you’re not happy with and be miserable in the job. There comes a point in every negotiation where a final decision must be reached. It’s possible (but not likely) you’ll present your case and the company will simply say, “Okay, you got it.” Be prepared to give in a little and decide how much giving in you’re prepared to do.

Salary negotiations are tricky. The actual negotiation conversation is such a small part of it. The challenging part is getting the information together to present an objective, well-thought out case for the salary increase — and then understanding when walking away might be what’s best for everyone.

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