Salary negotiations can be tricky and nerve-wracking. We all want to be paid well for our skills. You might have to negotiate your salary as part of a job interview process for a new position, or at a formal performance appraisal for your existing role. If you don’t do it well, you could miss out on money you deserve and that your employer would be willing to pay.
Here are some tips to help you negotiate your salary.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
Effective preparation is the key to any successful negotiation process. A salary negotiation is no different. Knowledge is power in a negotiation. Before you go into your job interview or performance appraisal, know what salary you want. That means knowing what you’re worth, and being able to justify it.
You should be able to demonstrate why the employer should pay what you want by providing tangible and measurable evidence of your skills and achievements. If you’re applying for a new job, that evidence will be your achievements with another employer.
If the salary negotiation is part of the performance appraisal process for your existing role, you should demonstrate how you have met or exceeded your key performance indicators (KPIs). Don’t make vague statements, like “I’ve worked hard this past year”. Instead, talk in specifics. For example, “I exceeded my annual sales target by 5%”.
Effective preparation also means understanding your employer’s position and what they might be willing or able to pay. This may be impacted by general business conditions, including the state of the economy.
You should also know what the value for your position is in the employment market. You can readily access up-to-date salary information via employment sites like Seek. And if you’re in a highly competitive industry and are valuable to your employer, it’s unlikely that your employer will want to lose you.
When you’re in your job interview or performance appraisal, use the preparation you did to sell yourself! Prove your value to the employer through your demonstrated achievements. This is a subtle way of negotiating your salary without even mentioning it. You need to believe in yourself. After all, if you don’t believe you’re valuable (and if you don’t prove it), why would your employer think otherwise? If you have some unique skills, you’re likely to be in high demand.
Don’t shy away from negotiating
This is important. Don’t feel intimidated during the process and simply avoid negotiating the salary you want. Research shows that men are more likely than women to negotiate their salary. If you’ve done the preparation and can demonstrate your value, you should be in a good position to negotiate your salary. If your employer rejects your first offer, be prepared to negotiate further. Your persistence might pay off, especially if you present a good case.
Let the company make the salary offer
Ideally, let the employer make the salary offer once you have sold yourself and they want to hire you. Always keep in mind the salary you’re prepared to accept. If you nominate a salary first, you may end up with less than the employer was willing to pay. If the employer asks you directly what salary you want, you can try and politely turn the question around by saying that you’d be prepared to accept any reasonable offer for the demonstrated value you bring (or will bring) to the organisation. If you’re successful in getting the employer to make the initial salary offer and it’s over what you were prepared to accept, great! Lock in the deal, and even try and get some further non-monetary benefits if you can. For example, the use of a company car. It’s worth a try! If not, you can try and continue the negotiation. You can make a counteroffer, highlighting why you’re worth a higher salary. Or you can walk away if it’s a job interview for a new position and simply not pursue it.
Ask for more than you want
This is a standard negotiating tactic. If you ask for more than you want as a counteroffer, you might be able to compromise during the negotiation to get what you want. Negotiating your salary is no different. When there is a compromise, both parties in a negotiation feel they have achieved something and had a win. For example, your employer wins by staying within their salary budget, while you win by getting the salary you really are prepared to accept, or perhaps more. And of course, there’s always the chance your employer will accept your higher counteroffer, especially if you’ve sold yourself and the value you bring to the organisation well!
If you’re applying for a new position and it’s a job you really want, be realistic. Don’t price yourself out of consideration. If you go in with salary expectations too far over what the employer is willing to pay, it’s unlikely they’ll hire you. They’ll think they aren’t in the ball park for your services. And if you then reveal your ‘bluff’ by coming down significantly in your salary expectations during the negotiation, it doesn’t look right.
Stay calm and rational
Don’t get emotional in salary negotiations. Stay calm and rational, sticking to the facts. This will be easy for you to do if you’ve prepared well, know your market worth and can demonstrate your skills, achievements and value to the organisation.
A salary doesn’t have to be just about money. If the employer can’t meet your financial expectations, you might be able to negotiate non-financial rewards to compensate. For example, flexible working hours or training and development opportunities. If you’re successful, you might find that when you factor in these additional benefits the salary offer is worthwhile.
Be aware of your competition
If you’re applying for a job you really want, consider how many competing applicants there are likely to be and what sort of salary they might be expecting. If you’ve done your pre-interview research and preparation, you’ll have at least some idea of this. You’ll need to know what differentiates you from the other candidates to both get the job and to negotiate the salary you’re prepared to accept.
What advice do you have for negotiating a salary? Join the discussion in the comments below!