Here’s a little secret you might not know:
Employers hardly ever make their best offer first, and candidates who negotiate their salary generally earn more than those who don’t.
Also, very often people who at least attempt to ask for a higher salary are perceived more positively, since they’re demonstrating the skills the company wants to hire them for.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to negotiating your best salary yet:
Do Your Research
Before you go for an interview, you should find out what the market rates are for the job you’re looking for. There are salary surveys available online, and if you’re dealing with a recruitment agency, your consultant should be able to advise you on the salary range for the position you’re interviewing for.
Also think about what you want from the job, both in terms of the job itself and in terms of remuneration. This will help you appear more self-assured during the interview and salary negotiation process.
Don’t Talk Money Too Early
You should never ask about a salary during the first interview. While we all want to earn more when we change jobs, no employer wants to hire someone whose only motivation to change jobs is a higher salary.
So, how do you answer the inevitable interview question, “What salary are you looking for?”
This is where your homework becomes invaluable. Hopefully, you’ll know the market rates for the type of a position you‘re looking for. It’s better to give a range rather than a specific number — you don’t want to give a salary that’s perhaps lower than the employer is looking to pay, but you don’t want to price yourself out of the market, either.
Emphasize that you’re primarily interested in finding the right job for you, and salary isn’t your main consideration.
Believe That You CAN Negotiate In This Economy
It’s true that it will be easier in some industries than others. In my experience, salary scales in the public sector are usually fixed, and there isn’t much room for negotiation. When I make offers in my recruitment job, I take into account the candidate’s current salary, the company’s salary range for the position, market rates and also what other team members are earning.
If you’ve been selected as the candidate a company wants to hire, and you have some highly sought skills and experience, you’re in an excellent position to negotiate.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask — But Don’t Demand, Either
Know what you’re worth and don’t be afraid to ask for it. No one loses a job offer because they ask for something — however, you can have a job offer pulled because of the way you ask.
It’s important that your request is within the ballpark of the salary range, so avoid giving a specific number until the employer is ready to make you an offer. Remember to be enthusiastic, polite and professional during negotiations.
Communicate to your prospective employer through your tone of voice and demeanor that your goal is a win-win solution. If you’re too pushy, the employer may get the impression that you’re not that interested in the job (or only interested in the money) and withdraw the offer.
Keep Selling Yourself
As you go through the interviewing and negotiating process, remind the employer how they will benefit from your skills and experience. Let’s say, for example, that the employer wants to offer $50K, but you’re looking for minimum $57K base salary. Explain how they’d benefit by increasing your compensation. For example:
“I realize you have a budget to worry about. However, I believe that with the desktop publishing and graphic design skills I bring to the position, you won’t have to hire outside vendors to produce customer newsletters and other publications. That alone should produce far more than $7K in savings a year.”
In other words, justify every additional dollar or benefit you request. Remember to do so by focusing on the employer’s needs, not yours.
Make Them Jealous
If you’re interviewing for other jobs, you might want to tell employers about your offer. This should speed up the interview process. If they know you have another offer, you’ll seem more attractive to them, and it might help you negotiate a higher salary.
Ask For a Fair Price
You really need to ensure your requests are reasonable and in line with the current marketplace. A few days ago, I spoke to a candidate for an analyst role who’d asked for a salary of $55K – $60K. Since all analysts at his level (three years of experience) earn between $35K – $40K, this candidate had priced himself out of the process with his unreasonable demands.
However, if the salary offer is below market value, you might want to (gently!) suggest it’s in the company’s best interest to pay the going rate:
“The research that I’ve done indicates the going rate for a position such as this is $6K higher than this offer. I’d really love to work for you and I believe I can add a lot of value in this job; however, I can’t justify doing so for less than market value. I think if you reevaluate the position and consider its importance to your bottom line, you’ll find it’s worth paying market price to get someone who can really make an impact quickly.”
Negotiate Extras and Be Creative!
If the employer can’t offer you the salary you want, think about other valuable options that might not cost as much. You can look at negotiating holiday days (e.g. if new employees must work for six to 12 months before receiving paid holidays, ask that this restriction be waived.), ask for yearly salary reviews or negotiate a sign-on or performance bonus.
Remember to use confident body language and speech patterns. When you make a salary request, don’t go on and on, stating over and over again why it’s justified. Make your request and offer a short, simple explanation of why that amount is appropriate.
Finally, it’s a smart negotiating strategy to ask for a few benefits or perks you don’t want that badly. Then you can “give in” and agree to take the job without those added benefits if the employer meets all of your other requests.
Ideally, both parties in a negotiation should come away from the table feeling that they’ve won. This is especially true when you’re dealing with salary negotiations. You want employers to have good feelings about the price paid for your services so that your working relationship begins on a positive note.
Margaret Buj is a Career & Interview Coach who specializes in helping professionals to get hired, promoted and paid more.