Whether you’re a new professional discussing your starting salary, or a seasoned employee asking for your pay rise, “negotiating salaries” is a term that most people dread.
It can sometimes be scary working up the nerve to do this one “small” task. But put those nervous feelings aside. According to a recent study in the Journal of Organizational Behaviour, failing to negotiate on an initial job offer could mean missing out on over $600,000 in salary during a typical career.
The good news is though, according to PayScale, 75% of people who do ask for a raise actually get one. So avoid the excuses of “The economy is bad”, “I’m lucky to have this job” and “It’ll be awkward asking for more money”. If you don’t negotiate, you can’t expect change. Without change, you can be left feeling undervalued, have low job satisfaction, not to mention lose out on thousands of dollars in your lifetime.
So what’s the best way to go about starting these negotiations? Career coach and business consultant Karen Southall Watts says “In today’s complex, global workplace, there is no one way to negotiate a salary”.
However, there are some tips you can get familiar with to feel more at ease when it comes down to how to negotiate your salary successfully. Here are some of the key things to consider before, during and after negotiations take place.
Before you negotiate your salary
1. Understand your worth
Karen Southall Watts says “the first step to a salary conversation is to do your homework. You need to know what the current pay rates are for your type of work, your geographic area and for this particular company.”
Alternatively, Stephanie Kinkaid suggests you “check salaries using sources such as Glassdoor, where you can search specific jobs and even salaries within companies. Once you know the salary range in which your title falls, determine your level of experience. A new graduate should ask for salaries on the lower end of a range, while a seasoned professional can ask for a higher amount”.
If you’re feeling unsure, speak to any close friends or relatives in the industry, as they may be able to help you decide on what you’re worth and therefore the minimum salary to accept.
2. Understand the competition
It’s also important to be aware of how much competition you face in your local area, especially if you’re a new recruit. Karen says “if you’ve got a very unique skill set and the company needs you, then you may be able to get your preferred salary right away.
However, if you’re competing with lots of other applicants, you may need to take what’s offered and do your serious negotiations at your first review, after you’ve proved your worth”.
3. Be ready to sell your value
Make sure you’re prepared for the obvious question, “Why should we give you a pay rise?” by having solid reasons which justify your worth. Think about some of the work you’ve done recently. Have you taken on any additional responsibilities? Have you worked longer hours? Have you taken a course to help you do a specific task that only you can do? Have you tackled any big challenges? Have you saved the company money?
“If you have factual and quantifiable evidence of your worth, you are much more likely to negotiate a higher amount” suggests Stephanie.
4. Practice makes perfect
If you’re worried about your negotiation skills, practice! Sit down with a friend or family member that you trust. Role-play with them and ask for feedback at the end. The more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll feel when you do it for real.
5. Pick your moment
If you’ve done your research, you may want to jump straight in with negotiations, but it might benefit you to wait. According to LinkedIn, globally, January, July and September are the 3 months when professionals receive the most raises.
However, there are other situations that may have an impact on when the best time is for you. For example, if you’re working on a big project, it may be good timing to ask after it’s completed successfully. Or, if an employee is leaving and their workload and responsibility will fall on you, start negotiations and use the situation as leverage.
6. Arrange to meet face to face
Emailing backwards and forwards may sometimes seem more convenient, but when it comes to negotiating a higher salary, Karen suggests doing this face-to-face, or if needed, via Skype or phone.
Although having a conversation with your boss or potential employer about money may seem awkward, it’s important to do. Karen also says that “there’s no tone of voice in email or text and it’s hard to pick up on the subtle signals that indicate you need to change your approach”.
However, if you’re really struggling to be confident enough to get your point across, a salary negotiation letter can be a powerful way to justify your request. You can find our salary negotiation letter template below, available for free download.
Starting salary negotiations
There are lots of things to think about when starting your negotiations. Here are some tips from the experts to help.
1. Let them do the talking
When in negotiations, be silent and let the other side make their offer first.
2. Leave room for compromise
If you go in with the actual amount you want, it’s likely you’ll end up with less. Start with a slightly higher figure, or a salary range, so you have room to compromise.
3. Don’t accept right away
When you’re given an offer, don’t feel pressured to accept immediately. Take a second to think about whether you’re completely happy with the offer.
4. Make a counter offer
If they make you an offer which you’re not happy with, don’t be afraid to go back with an alternative.
5. Be persistent
If it looks like they’re not going to agree to a pay rise, gently push back and justify why you are an asset to their business.
6. Negotiate your benefits
If your company still won’t offer the salary you’re asking for, Stephanie recommends negotiating on other areas. See if your employer is willing to offer extra holiday leave, more flexible hours, better health insurance, extra training, performance bonuses or even a change to your job title.
There are also some things you should avoid
1. Being emotional
Don’t get angry as this can make your boss instantly defensive.
2. Being a pushover
If you’ve done a good job and others have had a raise, make sure you aren’t ignored. Bring facts and figures to the table to help justify the increase.
3. Going against yourself
Try to stay firm when asking for a pay raise. Ask and then wait for their reply. Don’t instantly follow your request up by telling them you’ll be happy to negotiate.
4. Making it personal
Avoid making your salary raise about your personal situation. You should keep it about your qualifications, experience and responsibility level.
After your salary negotiations
If you’ve managed to get a pay rise or additional benefits, well done! Make sure to remember that the offer is put in writing and signed by your employer.
Next, set your sights higher. Know when your next performance review is and use your time over the next 6 – 12 months to show that you’re an asset to the team and can take on more responsibility. This could help you leverage an even higher salary in the future.
If you were unable to get a rise this time, make sure you go back to your manager afterwards and discuss the actions you need to take to get a salary increase in the future. These actions should be reviewed again with your manager in 6 – 12 months.
Got your salary negotiation skills down pat? Nice work. Now onto the next step - learn what to do next to get promoted quickly.