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Why Is It Important to Negotiate a Salary?
Salary negotiation skills are important because they enable you to exhibit confidence and competence. Knowing your value and what you can bring to a company shows you’ve done your market research and are familiar with the economics of the field. If you make it through the job interview process and receive a job offer, strong salary negotiation skills mean a higher chance of getting what you want and, more importantly, what you deserve.
How to Negotiate Your Salary
Whether you’re starting a new job and want to increase the offer or you’re unhappy with the salary at your current job, salary negotiating is an important skill. The idea is to realize that the situation is the adversary and that the person across the table is actually your negotiating partner—a partner who is to be worked with, not against, in pursuit of a mutually beneficial outcome. Here are some tips for negotiating your salary:
- Ask a calibrated question. Most employers look at employees as selfish people. When you walk into your boss’s office to discuss a pay increase, it emphasizes that you are there to get something you want. How does your boss know that giving you a raise is going to help them? How do they know giving you more money is going to be worth their while? Walking into a negotiation asking how you can be more valuable (or highlighting how valuable you have been) makes it less about money first and tells your employer that you are no longer a selfish employee who came in with their hand out. You’re an employee who wants to progress in their role and have an impact.
- See if negotiation is available. If the salary bump for your current position (or first offer for a new role) isn’t ideal, ask if there’s room for negotiation. If there’s wiggle room, make sure you have listened and considered all aspects of the original offer before making a counteroffer.
- Ask questions. Figure out how the current salary offer was calculated. Sometimes a base salary will be lower because it is bundled with various perks or a benefits package, like a signing bonus, health insurance, generous vacation time, or stock options. Don’t assume your prospective employer or recruiter is immediately trying to lowball you—there could be other ways you are compensated beyond your paycheck. Have the person you’re negotiating with break it down for you so you can see the full scope of what’s at play. It’s also good to figure out how employees receive raises down the line (in case you end up working at the job long-term and find yourself negotiating again later).
- Negotiate in good faith. The idea is to demonstrate that you are not here to deceive or exploit the other side—sometimes showing deference can be key. Know your value, and don’t be afraid to ask for it, but come at the negotiation from an honest and informed place. If you want a higher starting salary, first know what other people in the same field with your level of experience, skill, and education make as an average salary, and build your case around that. The more evidence you have supporting a reasonable expected salary, the more defensible your argument, and the more difficult it will be to lose.
- Know your number. Understand that whenever you throw out a range, the other side is going to settle on the end that most favors them. They’re not going to compromise and meet you in the middle of that range. Understand what your range is, as well as the market range, and choose your numbers accordingly. Proposing a salary range around the average income amount means you’re already willing to settle for less, and a hiring manager will likely choose the lower number if it’s an option. Figure out what you should be making, then add a little more to raise the range. That does not mean you will get the first number you ask for, but it helps to start with a bigger amount you can work your way down from using a system like the Ackerman Bargaining Method, which negotiates in incremental amounts until the desired number is reached.
- Get it in writing. Once you and the person you’re negotiating with have settled on acceptable terms, make sure you get it in writing. Memories are easily manipulated and forgotten over time, and having a tangible record of your agreement is the best way to avoid any miscommunication or incorrect information later on.
- Be willing to walk away. If you are in a position to be selective about job prospects, use that as leverage during your negotiation. If you add considerable value to a company, they should be able to compensate you for your time and skill. However, if the final offer just isn’t enough, it’s okay to say no.
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