Salary negotiations may make you uncomfortable, but it’s one of the best ways to increase your income. Knowing how to negotiate salary is a very important skill to have, because you'll be prepared when you're offered a salary for a new job at a new employer or during a performance review.
Here’s all you need to know about salary negotiation before you begin, whether you're looking for a new job or just trying to make the most of your current job.
What is Salary Negotiation?
A salary negotiation takes place between an employer and a potential or seasoned employee. The negotiation is a means of reaching an agreement on a salary and benefits package. Your goal, as the employee, is to negotiate a salary that meets (or exceeds) your needs.
Salary negotiations most often start with an offer from the employer. The employee can choose to accept that offer or negotiate details until both parties agree. If there is no agreement, the employee might decide to look elsewhere for a position with a more suitable pay.
Negotiations are not just limited to salary. They can occur for all aspects of compensation, including salary, bonuses, benefits, vacation time, and more.
How to Prepare for the Negotiation
If you want something from someone, you’re not just going to ask straight out. You’re going to wait for the right moment, you’re going to think about what you will say ahead of time, and you’re going to consider if you deserve what you are asking for.
The same thing goes for a negotiation. Don’t just throw yourself into it without taking the time to prepare.
Here are some simple things you can do before you negotiate your salary:
Have a Salary Range in Mind
The last thing you want to do is approach a salary negotiation without a range in mind. Aiming too high or too low can make or break the process.
Therefore, make sure to do your homework ahead of time. So one of the most important things to keep in mind as you're learning how to negotiate salary is to take the time to find out the average salary range for someone of your skill and experience level within the same industry or position.
It’s also important to make sure you negotiate with a range, and not a set number. Having a range in mind will show your prospective employer that you are flexible and willing to find a solution that suits both of your needs.
Back Up Your Salary Goal With an Explanation
Be prepared to back your demands with an explanation. You need to convince the employer as to why they should agree to your terms. What makes you stand out? What skills and experiences do you have? What value can you bring to their company?
If you want them to offer you more pay, you need to offer them your credentials.
Decide What You Want to Negotiate
Remember, salary is not the only thing up for negotiation. You should go into the process knowing exactly what you want to ask for.
Keep in mind that the company may not accept your offer to up your salary. If you like the position but the pay is low, be prepared to negotiate on other aspects of compensation such as bonuses or holidays.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Just as you would practice for your interview ahead of time, you should also practice for the negotiation before going into it. In fact, most of the hard work should happen before the salary negotiation takes place.
Knowing what you will say, and being prepared for what will happen on their end, will make the process much more comfortable and will also boost your confidence.
How to Navigate the Negotiation
Now that you have all the tools you need to prepare for a salary negotiation, let’s discuss how to navigate through the process.
Wait for an Offer
If you're negotiating a higher salary during a job offer, make sure you don't jump the gun. Wait for a salary offer from the employee first. You want to make sure that the majority of your interview focuses on your experiences, skills, and qualifications. There’s a chance that the employer may consider you for a higher position with higher pay. A premature discussion of salary can take the focus away from you.
Don’t Accept Immediately
Once they’ve made an offer, politely thank them and ask for a day or two to consider. Take this chance to weigh out the pro and cons of the position and to form a negotiation strategy.
Use the Correct Bargaining Lingo
Decide what your negotiation stance is.
If your bargaining position is weak (i.e., you would take the offer), use softer language. Say something like: “I’m very excited about this offer. Are you able to increase the salary to [x amount]?”
If your bargaining position is stronger (i.e., you wouldn’t take the offer), you can use more assertive language. Say something like, “Based on other offers (or my current position) I’ll need the salary increased to [x amount] to accept this offer. Is that possible?”
What to Do After the Negotiation Has Finished
After the negotiation has concluded, it’s time to decide whether to accept or decline the salary offer.
If you decline, be sure to do it politely and thank them for the offer. The way you approach the decline is important as you want to leave the door open for possible future opportunities.
If you accept the offer, decide if you want to further negotiate any other aspect of compensation. Once all negotiations are settled, the employer should put the offer down in writing.
Your next step is to work on gaining more experience and bringing value to the company. Remember, negotiations can re-open every performance period. Throughout your time with the company always ask yourself what you can be doing to bring more value to your work.
What to Avoid During the Negotiation
A hiccup in the negotiation process, or your failure to negotiate at all, can result in a huge loss of potential income (no pressure!).
Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:
- Not doing enough research on the company or the average pay for similar jobs
- Not considering non-salary items to negotiate
- Not being flexible enough with your salary range
- Bringing up the topic of salary before the employer has made an offer
- Too much negotiation! Pick one or a few points that are important to you and negotiate those; too many counter offers can backfire
- Accepting the first offer without taking the time to mull it over
- Not getting the final offer in writing
How much is too much to ask for when negotiating salary?
It is generally appropriate to ask for 10% to 20% more than what you are currently making. If the offer is in the low range, you have more wiggle room to work on the higher end of that scale. If you get an offer that is already 20% more than what you are making, you can still ask for a 5% increase.
The most important thing is to do your research and do the math, so you know what a 10% to 20% increase would total.
Should the salary negotiation occur through email, phone, or in person?
It is best to negotiate salary either in person or through Skype video call. If neither of those options is possible, a phone call would be the next best option.
Negotiations should never take place via email if it is avoidable. Many misunderstandings can occur through email. Further, negotiations typically include a lot of back-and-forth communicating, which is hard to do through email.
If you receive a job offer letter that you’d like to negotiate, see about setting up a time with the employer either in person or via a phone call, to further discuss the offer.
How can I balance multiple job offers during the negotiation?
It may seem overwhelming to juggle multiple job offers, but this can actually work in your favor.
Once you have all offers on the table, be open and honest with each company about the job offers you’ve received. Multiple offers from different companies will create competition, and they may decide to up your pay to seal the deal.
Hopefully these tips have helped you better understand how to negotiate salary without ruining your relationship with your current or future employer. If you're in the process of finding a new job, check out our article about How To Prepare For An Interview next!