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Step-By-Step Guide To Negotiating A Great Salary

PROTIP: A well-thought-out negotiation makes you look like a stronger candidate—and employee.

FACT: Employers rarely make their best offer first, and job candidates who negotiate generally earn much more than those who don’t. We’ve found that those people who negotiate their salary in a constructive way are perceived as more favorable than those who don’t negotiate at all, because they were demonstrating the skills the company wanted to hire them for.

MINDSET: Many of my colleagues and I, including Babcock; Bear; Boles-Riley; Gelfand; Kenney; Kray; and others, have extensive research that consistently points to women and girls being less likely to negotiate, limiting effectiveness and success.  I go into more detail in my TED talk, The Benefits of Bossy, but I think it’s especially relevant for women in the business setting to remember what my Mom said, that “the benefits of being constructively bossy far outweigh the costs of sitting politely on the sideline.”

To get the salary you want, you need to lay the groundwork long before you arrive at the negotiation table. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

During the interview process

Do Your Research

Before the interview, learn about the company’s salary ranges and benefits as well as industry salary ranges. Also learn about the company, its competition and the industry. Then think about what you want from the job, both in terms of salary and benefits, as well as opportunity and upward mobility. This information will become valuable during the interview and salary negotiation.

Don’t Talk Turkey Too Early

“You never win by talking about money early on,” says Lee Miller, author of Up: Influence, Power and the U Perspective — The Art of Getting What You Want. “The time to talk about money is when they’ve fallen in love with you.” Before that, you’re just one of many easily dismissed candidates. Once the employer has decided you’re right for the job, “it becomes an issue of, ‘how are we going to make this happen?’” Miller adds.

Avoid the Salary Requirements Trap

I tell people to say: “I completely understand why this is an important issue—you’re trying to determine who you want to continue in this process, and it doesn’t make much sense to pursue candidates you aren’t going to get. Secondly, I know that the tendency is for people to lowball their salary range, because they don’t want to get out of the pool. My preference is to figure out, independent of these issues, the degree to which there is a good fit here and the extent to which I can bring value to this organization and the extent to which I’m going to be fulfilled and involved and committed to this position. I suggest we wait to have the salary conversation until you’re prepared to make an offer.”

If they still want a number, leverage your research to talk industry-standard ranges, not specific numbers. Going back to the MINDSET research, women and girls are less like to express their true opinion.  Don’t let this negatively impact your negotiation before you get started.

At time of offer

Strike First

Mention a specific salary before the employer does. This will start the negotiations in your ballpark. The whole negotiation is based on that first offer. Our research shows women are less likely to make first and extreme offers. Don’t be most women.

Don’t Commit Too Quickly

The employer often offers the job and salary simultaneously. Never say yes right away—even if you like the offer. I would always come back and try to get more. Tell them you’ll give them an answer within a certain time frame.

Make Them Jealous

If you’ve been interviewing for other jobs, call those prospective employers, tell them about your offer, and see if they can speed up the interview process—or make you an offer. Knowing you have another offer will make you more attractive to them.

When it’s time to answer the first employer, mention the other employers’ interest to help boost your value. But don’t make up offers. It’s easy to check, and the interest alone will help you look good.

Articulate Your Expectations

Tell the employer what you want from the job, in terms of salary, benefits and opportunity. “It may be time off, flexibility about where you work, autonomy or ownership over a particular area, it may be your title—whatever has a perceived value to you,” says Joyce Gioia, president of the Herman Group, a think tank of management consultants and futurists.

Negotiate Extras

If the employer can’t offer you the salary you want, think about other valuable options that might not cost as much. Miller always recommends asking for education, which can make a big difference in your long-term marketability.

Quantify Your Value and Performance

Mention your value in quantifiable terms, such as how much money you saved your company and how your projects increased revenues by X thousands of dollars, Gioia says. Then tell them specifically how valuable you expect to be in your new job.

Be persistent and assertive in negotiation to further buck the trend from our research on women and girls’ negotiation habits.

You also can add a few contingencies showing your confidence in your performance. You could ask the employer to give you a salary review after six months rather than a year or for a year-end bonus if you make a certain amount of money. It shows that you believe in yourself and are committed to bringing what you say you can do. You believe you are going to bring significant value to the organization.

Robin Pinkley, Ph.D. is the Duchossois Endowed Professor of Management & Organizations, Cox School, SMU, Dallas, founder of the M2M Center for Profitable Negotiation, and creator of the Gain-Gain Approach to Effective Negotiation. She is a coauthor of Get Paid What You’re Worth and an associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the SMU Cox School of Business in Dallas.

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