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5 Ways to negotiate a better salary

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For most people, one of the most intimidating aspect of landing a new job is negotiating for the salary that they really want and deserve. Many are concerned that the opportunity will disappear if they ask for more money. Others aren’t comfortable with discussing money in a forthright manner. Still others are intimidated about asking for fair market rates, especially if they were underpaid in their last position. Whatever the case, try utilizing some of these strategies to gain more of those elusive dollars in your next role…

  1. Know your worth

Even before you apply for a job, you need to do your research into what are the current market rates for your target job. Thanks to websites like Glassdoor.com and Salary.com, it is easier than ever to figure out comparable salaries, both within a specific employer and a targeted geographic area. Additional resources are the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) and state-specific employment data, such as the Colorado Labor Market Indicator Gateway (https://www.colmigateway.com). Armed with solid figures about the current state of the market is critical in gaining a fair salary.

2.  Find out their salary range before you state any numbers

The old interviewing rules stated that you never wanted to talk about salary during the interview process. However, that’s not how the game works anymore. This changed because HR now uses salary requirements as a screening factor. For example, it is now a common practice for HR to gain a candidate’s salary requirements during the phone interview. Look out – it’s a trap! Don’t ever give out your salary requirement without discovering their salary range first.

So how does find out the company’s salary range? During the phone interview or early interviews with the HR department, ask them. This can play out two different ways….

If HR asks for your requirements, state “well, I’d like to know a bit more about the job first. Can you tell me what your salary range is?” This gives you the option to either confirm that your requirements fall within that range or to walk away before wasting too much time on an undesirable position.

If HR doesn’t ask for your salary requirements, you can still ask them what their range is. As long as you are speaking in terms of range early in the process, it’s not a damning maneuver.

One unfortunate exception to these tactics is the dreaded salary requirement on the application itself, especially if it doesn’t allow you to enter a range. In that case, select a number in the middle of your acceptable salary range.

3. Avoid sending your salary history if possible

Sometimes HR wants you to send your salary history. This is another trap! If you give your salary history, you just gave away your negotiation strength.  Companies look at salary history to determine a salary offer.  HR knows that many people change jobs to increase their salary by as little as 5-7%.  If the employer knows the details of your past earnings, they may offer less based on your salary history. The only exception to the salary history rule is a professional salesperson, especially in commissioned positions.  In that case, salary history is a reflection of success.

If you are in a situation or application that won’t let you move forward without entering this information, be sure to state your salary range within your cover letter to let an employer know what your expectations are.

4.  Understand the company’s negotiation tactics

The truth is that HR and hiring managers almost always has a second offer in their back pocket. They know that a certain amount of leeway is reasonable, and even expected.  But they also know that most job seekers won’t make a counter-offer, which translates to a win for their overall budgets.

When getting a job offer, ask for that extra 5 – 15% on the salary.  Pressing for more than this can be seen as unreasonable, and those are the offers that will be pulled.  I know than nothing annoyed me more as an HR person than the salesman who suddenly counter-offered a 30% – or more – jump on the base salary.  That just wasted everyone’s time.

5.  Back up your reasoning for a higher salary with solid evidence

When you are moving into a new position, sometimes you may need to justify why you are worth all of that extra money. This could be a number of reasons, such as the current market rate. If you have added to your skills, this is another reason. Gaining a new degree, certification, or professional development courses also add to your worth. Don’t forget your progressive experience and specific projects or results that you achieved for your past employer as well.

However, one of the best reasons for asking for a higher salary is based on what you can do for the company. If you can prove during the course of the interview process that you can help them save money, make money, or solve problems, this allows them to find more dollars in their budget.

But what if they say “No?”

Even if the company doesn’t accept your counter-offer, the world didn’t end. Most reasonable employers will be forthright about not being able to increase the offer. Then you can still accept the original terms.

On the other hand, if the company completely rescinds the offer, you probably just avoided a bullet. After all, any company that will yank an offer off of the table just because you tried to negotiate tends to be a pretty negative culture that tries to take advantage of their employees.

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About the Author:

Since 2004, Donna has been teaching job seekers of all levels effective job search strategies. In 2009, she published her book “Get a Job Without Going Crazy: a Practical Guide to Your Employment Search.” Donna is based in Denver, and has presented workshops in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas. She continues to work with job seekers across the country.

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