The Basics of Salary Negotiation

One of the golden rules of negotiation is whoever speaks first loses. What are the other rules that exist that, if you use them well, will lead to at least a ten percent increase in your salary?

There are a few, but before jumping into those, can you regularly negotiate ten percent more? Yes, you can and should negotiate for at least ten percent more every time you negotiate. I’d also argue you should get ten percent more when you change jobs. So that’s twenty percent for those you math folk.

So now let us break down the rules I follow in negotiating salary:

  1. Don’t say a number
  2. Be ready to walk away
  3. Have stories
  4. Don’t do it on the spot

Don’t Say a Number

So the golden rule is tough to apply throughout an interview process. Interviewers and recruiters will ask for salary histories or target compensation. Some states they may not be allowed to do this, but that doesn’t mean they’ll follow the rules. So, how do you push them to say a number? Here’s how I do it:

“I’m more interested in finding out if we’re a good fit for one another. If we are, I promise we’ll find a number that we both like.”

It takes practice to say it confidently, but it works.

You may say that in your application forms, they are asking for it. Leave it blank, or as one person I worked with loved to do, put, “1 mil (negotiable).”

There are lots of reasons not to say a number beyond the negotiation position, but that is for other articles to explore.

Be Ready to Walk Away

Being ready to walk away is a state of mind that I want to have in my interview. Yes, I want a job, but also I’m valuable, and any company is lucky to have me. If this company isn’t the one, then another will be.

When preparing to interview, I recommend that you set a number in your head that if you get even one dollar less than it that you will walk. Placing a floor for your compensation is essential to guard your career and make sure you can find some level of fulfillment. Nothing eats away at a perfectly good job than believing you’re underpaid the whole time.

Setting that floor and realizing you have a lot to offer help to put you in the frame of mind that if this job doesn’t look like it isn’t going to benefit you in the ways you want, that you can find something else.

Lastly, negotiating adds some amount of risk to the process. It hasn’t backfired on me or my mentees yet, but I believe there is a non-zero chance the company walks away from the table.

Have Stories

It isn’t always the case that when you ask for ten percent more than they ask you to justify it, but you should have a file ready of great things you’ve done. So when you do ask for a higher compensation than the offer you can make the case very clearly that you’re worth even more than they expected.

Having stories at hand is also a key ingredient in seeking a raise or promotion. Be your advocate, and show the great things you’ve done.

Often though, there is little fuss about this, but it’s a far better sell to have a few killer stories right then to emphasize why you’re worth that bump.

Don’t Do it On the Spot

Last up is to not negotiate on the spot. I recommend receiving the offer and immediately firing back with an acknowledgment and saying that you’ll need to look it over. I may also ask for more information on the other benefits as well.

I may already have determined that I’ll negotiate, because I always do, but I want to see everything and gather myself for the conversation.

I will call back within a day and then prepare my ask. This time allows me to settle my nerves, prepare to walk away from it, and look at how satisfied I’ll be with this job at this compensation.

Negotiating right then when you receive the offer feels impulsive to me, and I think it appears as though the offer wasn’t considered. I haven’t tried this way to confirm that it has an impact.

So in 2020, for all of you thinking about a new job or how you can get compensated better, look at how these few rules can help get you paid at least ten percent better. For those of you interested, I’m starting a newsletter on my site that will have career and job advice. Sign up and join the fun!