13 Strategies To Get The Most Out Of Your First Salary Negotiation

In 2018, human resource consulting firm Robert Half International published a survey showing that only 55% of workers tried to negotiate their salary. Yet 70% of employers didn’t expect the first salary offer would be accepted. 

Overwhelmingly, this survey and others show how negotiating is an expected part of the hiring process. Professionals who don’t negotiate their salaries will neglect the most important business conversation they’ll have with a company. The Society of Human Resources Management recently cited a survey by recruiting software company Jobvite, illustrating that 84% of those who negotiated received more money. And one out of five of those who negotiated received up to a 20% increase. 

Stacey Hawley, a career and compensation expert who has worked with C-Suite Level Executives and all other levels of professionals for more than 25 years, says, “While the C-Suite executives are generally receiving fair offers, everyone should try and learn what is considered a ‘competitive’ offer. Preparation is the key to successful negotiation.”

You’ll benefit the most from negotiations when you:

  • Create an amicable business conversation, not a hostile one
  • Make it a win-win for both the employer and candidate (you)
  • Prepare to show market value research
  • Employ thoughtfulness and strategy in every phase of the employment process (hiring, performance, and separation)

Use these strategies to best prepare yourself to successfully negotiate your compensation package:

1. Knowing your market value.

Research is essential in knowing national, regional, and local markets. You also must know your worth and the market rate before you begin your job search. Unpreparedness can hurt your chances of receiving what you’re worth.

2. Remember that confidence sells.

According to Hawley, “Don’t undervalue yourself. The company wants your experience and they want confidence that sells. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are; without confidence, the next candidate will go after it and get it.”

3. Make it a conversation, not a debate.

It’s not about what you want. You agree on the best value of both parties. Practice with someone familiar with the process. It’s not an email. It’s not a text. The conversation is best face-to-face. Nervousness is natural, but don’t fear having this conversation. I have told professionals not to treat the employer as an adversary, but as a partner.

4. It’s not just the salary; it’s the entire package.

Everything is on the negotiation table, from benefits to hours to, yes, salary. Other compensation package components include time off, travel, professional development, and insurance. I’ve heard from professionals who found it easier and more beneficial to negotiate non-salary parts of their package.

5. Know your state laws.

It is unlawful for employers in some states to ask about your salary history. Understand the compensation standards in your state before negotiating. The state of Illinois has just made the salary history discussion off-limits. In addition, new laws in some states protect the rights of employees openly.

6. Be ready to prove your value.

Negotiating is about showing and proving, not telling and swelling. Demonstrating your level of proficiency in your industry is your assurance for pay. The higher the position level, the higher the pay. Linkedin is perfect for publishing proof of your knowledge and expertise. Industry-related articles, media, awards, and volunteer work can increase your visibility to recruiters looking for talent.

7. Some employers’ first question is about salary.

Hawley sees the value in discussing salary right away, as you can know whether the job is worth your time. Conversely, some employers use the upfront salary inquiry to find the talented low-hanging fruit. Several clients and readers have opted out of candidacy if an employer asked. One reader was asked on the phone what his salary requirements were. He told the employer, “I don’t want to waste your time, so I understand if you need to move on.” The employer thought this made him a more desirable candidate, and eventually was hired.

8. “No” is useful intel.

Hearing “no” defines negotiating boundaries. But “no” in these instances can mean “not yet.” When a company resists a candidate’s negotiating requests, it’s usually regarding salary, and negotiation success is widely characterized by an increase in salary. However, remember that the rest of the compensation package has value as well. One component that is often underestimated is health care benefits (flexible spending), as well as professional development.

9. Negotiation doesn’t stop at “you’re hired.”

Even when you’re hired, you’ll need to document and measure success for your performance review or your next negotiating opportunity (and remember performance pay).

10. Okay is not okay.

Your strength is that you’re not average or okay. While you’re waiting for the employer to finish reference checks, remind them of your value. Present them with a list of 20-25 ways you add value to your department, company, and position while waiting for the offer or counter offer. 

11. Ask people who had the position before you.

Using informational interviews could uncover a bevy of salary information and benefits. The best intel is asking people who were in the position, or a similar position. Ask about their workload and years of experience when considering how to negotiate. The LinkedIn people search function will assist you in finding the person or someone who knows them. 

12. Be ready in case of an unseen separation.

Layoffs or terminations are likely inevitable during anyone’s career. You can negotiate your separation package. Time off and outplacement services could be very valuable to explore better offers.   

13. Walk — if necessary.

Hawley says that she is seeing more professionals walk away from low-ball offers. Why work for a company that refuses to see your value? But no matter the outcome, you want to leave conversations offering gratitude and thankfulness for the opportunity.

Remember: You only miss out by not negotiating.

Successful negotiation is the agreement of value exchange for the work accomplished together. By not negotiating, you miss an opportunity to define your career value for now — and for the future. 

Mark is a career advice writer and career consultant. He writes about careers, HR, and the workplace. He contributes to Payscale, FlexJobs, and Recruiter.com career blogs.

Image via Unsplash

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