Salary negotiations often freaks people out. Linda, 57, is a program manager who called to say, “I can’t do it! Robin, I’m terrified of trying to negotiate for the salary offer. What if they rescind the offer?” I haven’t heard of that especially when it is so hard to find good, talented people these days. Yet, it took a great deal of coaching to reassure this Baby Boomer that she had nothing to lose if she followed the strategies I laid out in our consulting session. She did and was astonished that they conceded quickly and she’s making $8,000 more than they originally offered and also has an extra week of vacation, too.
The largest raises you’re likely to obtain in your career come when you quit your job and go to work for another employer, but only if you avoid the minefield of mistakes people often make.
The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) released a rather shocking survey result. It noted that over the course of a person’s career, anyone who did not negotiate for a higher salary every time they started a new job would earn $500,000 to $1,000,000 less in lifetime income than an individual who was savvy when handling their salary compensation package.
Most women are afraid to try to negotiate. Women often devalue themselves in the workplace when it comes to salary. They don’t recognize their full worth in the workplace and rarely demand it.
The unemployed typically feel they sit in a difficult spot. They often need the job and the employer knows it. Yet my career counseling clients who knew their worth have been able to negotiate to earn a great salary and compensation package.
Keep this fact in mind. Employers first offer typically is not their best offer and is significantly lower than the amount the employer is often willing to pay. No matter what your situation is, you will increase your take-home pay if you negotiate.
These nine negotiation strategies will enable you to earn more.
1. Know What Your Skills are Worth. Do some research to learn what you should expect to be paid for your years of experience, education, certifications and any specialized training you possess. Try Payscale.com which offers free salary surveys that provide detailed information to help you get an estimate on what you should be earning.
2. Focus on the Employer’s Needs. Begin your conversation with the hiring manager, by reselling yourself. Reaffirm the reasons they want you, the skills you’ll bring, and how you’ll solve their problems. Mention your key strengths and experience plus stress how quickly you will be productive. In other words, give them reasons to pay you more.
3. Restate Your Interest. A reliable way to bridge this negotiation is to say, “I’m interested in the position. I was a little disappointed that the offer was lower than I expected, especially since I have this experience or these skills (note something specific) and will come up to speed quickly.” Smile, then be quiet and remain quiet while the employer makes the next move.
4. Negotiate to Get the Money Up Front. Cash remains king. Promised bonuses, raises, stock options and reviews in a few months all have a way of never happening down the line. Every dollar you negotiate into the salary base is more money you can spend on things you and your family want. Work toward getting the extra cash up front. These negotiations could give you in minutes what would take years to achieve with raises.
5. Be Specific When It Counts. The employer may ask you what figure you have in mind. Know what you want and state it. Be willing to wait. The hiring manager may say he or she needs to go back and ask their boss to get the additional dollars. If they want you, the hiring manager will be your advocate and almost always come back with more than they originally offered. Patience here almost always pays off.
6. Don’t Forget to Negotiate the Perks. You can negotiate for more vacation time. Vacation time is easier for many employers to give out than money is. Nicely make your request, stating how much more time off you want. You can reveal what your current vacation level is, and ask if they can meet it or at least offer more vacation than stated. Also, review the medical plan and the deductible and dependent costs. Many companies’ health plans offer lousy coverage with $5,000 to $10,000 deductibles every year. You can argue for a higher salary to compensate for switching medical plans because of these high deductibles. Many companies have been willing to add more compensation to salaries for this reason.
7. Practice. Think through the negotiation interview. Visualize a successful outcome. Then ask a friend to role-play the conversation with you. Defend why you are worth more money and additional perks. Use the compensation info you researched as your source. Did you convince them? Listen to their feedback. This preparation will decrease your anxiety and increase your confidence and success.
8. Never bluff. Only you can decide when the offer is too low. There will be other offers, but they may be weeks down the road. Offers can be withdrawn when a job hunter says, “$XXXXX is as low as I will accept.” Be prepared to keep looking. Sometimes that is the right move for you. Decide on the lowest figure you can reasonably accept, one that will cover your bills and allow you to concentrate on succeeding in the job and not immediately start looking for another, higher-paying one.
9. Get an Employment Letter. You can offer to write it or the employer can, but be sure the employer signs it. This letter should outline all the terms of your employment, covering salary, signing bonuses, stock options, starting date, benefits and particularly noting anything different from the organization’s standard policies. Too many promises are made and quickly forgotten once you begin the job. Get the details in writing so there are no misunderstandings later. People who have failed to do so have suffered when the promised extra week of vacation was “forgotten” once they started. A written agreement protects what you’ve negotiated for. These letters are prevalent, and it’s wise – and necessary – to obtain one.