A Step-by-Step Guide to Salary Negotiation

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Discussing matters relating to the salary is a daunting task for most workers. Being able to gather courage enough to approach your employer without seeming arrogant, using the appropriate tone for that conversation, and giving a proper and convincing reason why you deserve a pay raise is an art. If you’re hoping for a salary increment, worry not: Economic tailwinds will soon give reason to support your cause, even if temporarily. In 2015, on average, workers got about a 2.5% salary increment, the highest raise in the years following the Great Recession. However, these statistics relate to the average worker. Exceptional workers who utilized their rare skills with a yield of outstanding performance received higher raises, some even astounding concerning their original pay. You may feel that you deserve an increment but butterflies in your stomach don’t let you ask. How do you overcome this feeling and speak up for what you deserve? Besides a salary increment, you may be hoping for a new job or a transfer to a better position at your workplace. This is a step-by-step guide to negotiating for what you’re worth.

Ten Steps to Follow in Negotiating for a Raise

The following process does not have a rigid flow, but the ideas conveyed ought to be applied for a successful salary negotiation:

1. Have a Positive Mindset

In most developed countries, including in the United States, bringing up the matter of a pay increase is considered arrogance. Our views of negotiation are warped even more because of experiences such as locals cringing at tourists who dare to negotiate for the price of a souvenir. This leads to an inherent fear of the negative reaction we expect to come out of arranging for a pay increment. Rather than let this mindset prevent you from getting what you deserve, think of negotiation as a conduit to contentment. Because employers strive to reduce their expenses, they would like to pay you as little as they can. On the other hand, you would want to earn as much as you can. Rather than sit alone and end up resenting your employer, be positive and approach them politely. Start a calm but objective conversation detailing why you think you deserve a raise. Such confidence and objectivity might even earn you respect, maybe even a new position!

2. Identify your Niche

Before choosing to go for a salary negotiation, consider the overall economic situation and whether you have room to negotiate for a raise. For example, the financial position in 2016 was favorable because there were almost 6 million jobs in the market at the end of 2015, an improvement from 2014 where there had been about 5 million jobs available. These statistics may, of course, be different for each industry. The more unique the set of skills you possess, and the more accommodative the economic situation, the better your chance at negotiation. Additionally, it is easier to negotiate an increment during hiring than it is to get a similar raise from an existing boss. If your department is understaffed, or if contemporaries in your position have exited the company recently, take the opportunity to strike a salary negotiation.

3. Know your Value

While salary information tends to be difficult to find within the private sector, doing your research to find out how much others in your position in other areas make is a way to start. There is plenty of salary information online on various industries and specific professions. Some online resources that may be helpful include JobStar.org, PayScale.com, and SalaryExpert.com. Additionally, non-profits disclose some workers’ salaries while making submissions using the IRS Form 990. The public sector, on the other hand, has greater transparency. Salaries for workers in federal government, local and state governments are all public records, some even available online. While the internet is a great resource, much more refined salary information can be obtained by talking to colleagues or to those working in a company that is your potential employer. Accessing confidential information from such sources gives you greater bargaining power.

4. Prepare for the Difficult Question

Career counselors agree on this one thing: Avoid letting an employer or potential employer know the amount you desire too early in the salary negotiation. Revealing it too soon may limit the potential of an even better offer, or alternatively, build walls that work against you. When the employer poses this question, employ delay tactics. Use explanations such as wanting to know what expectations the employer has for you before you delve into matters of remuneration. In case the employer is relentless to hear what is on your mind, give a range of your desired salary rather than be specific.

5. Have a Minimum Acceptable Amount

Consider the situation where the potential employer seems inflexible about your request and have a minimum acceptable amount. If they reject your offer, this amount becomes your final proposal. This creates some objectivity in salary negotiation to avoid the disappointment of accepting something you regret a few minutes later. In setting this amount, consider the economic situation, the number of hours you will be expected to work, the benefits offered such as health and retirement benefits, and the time offered for breaks. The situation is slightly more difficult when it comes to a current boss. In this case, if your request is denied, ask your employer what expectations you need to meet to receive an increment. This pushes them to consider an increase not too far from the time of the conversation.

6. Be Ready to Break Down How you Arrive at the Raise

Have an explanation to why you want that particular amount you’re tabling. Have a flow of ideas that prove that you deserve the raise without bringing in emotions that cloud judgment. Speak with the objectivity of a consultant, as if it is not even your job you’re talking about. Break down the contribution and value addition that you have brought to your position that warrants the raise. If you get your employer to see matters the same way you do, you will definitely receive the pay raise.

7. Timing is Everything

If your timing is impeccable, the increment shall be yours! Consider your timing with precision, beginning with the general economic situation and progressing further to the state your industry is in. If the industry is thriving, consider your company’s position in the grand scheme of things. If all these are in your favor, think about the right time of the month, week and day to approach your employer. High-stress periods will only get you backlash, while times of prosperity create the perfect window of opportunity for you to swoop with your raise.

8. Practice to Find the Right Tone and Demeanor

The tone you start with and the way you carry yourself may be significant determinants of how receptive your employer will be. Avoid appearing arrogant as this may damage your working relationship with your employer. Knowing the market rates and what your proper salary should be with certainty helps to build confidence in case your employer chooses to bluff. If you display an attitude of humility and have a reasonable argument, you are most likely to get the raise you hope for.

9. Dynamics of the Counteroffer

If you receive a counteroffer while negotiating with your current employer, it is not difficult to deal with the counteroffer. All you have to do is accept this, opt to stand firm on your initial proposal, or offer a counterproposal that is more reasonable. However, if the counteroffer from the employer is a result of your expression of feeling more inclined to accept an offer from your employers’ competitor, things may get messy. Accepting it may force you to work in an environment where you are considered disloyal, while rejecting it may force you to move to a new employer. While this may be a tricky scenario, it is a commonly used method that is appropriate in high turnover industries.

10. Think of Non-monetary Benefits

In case the salary negotiation does not work out in your favor, always eye other benefits that you can snatch in the process. Still, have things that you’d like to obtain to make your work experience better. For example, while your boss may not be inclined to give you a raise, they may consider increasing the flexibility of your work hours, the annual vacation period, or even parking spots and office furniture. If you can’t get what you want, don’t settle for nothing!

Considerations in Deciding How Much to Ask For

In deciding how much you want to negotiate for, have the following questions at the back of your mind:

  •    What is the current performance of the company you’re in?
  •    How fast can you be replaced at your position?
  •    What unique skills and value do you contribute?
  •    What is your effect or contribution on revenue streams?
  •    How easy is it to find an employee of your kind in the market?
  •    How have you been performing in performance reviews?
  •    How long ago was your last raise?
  •    What additional input and effect have you had since the previous increase or change in position?

Ten Common Mistakes Made in Negotiating for a Raise

1. Fearing the Process

Rejection is one of the most uncomfortable human emotions. Many are afraid of getting a ‘No’ and prefer not trying at all. Some people even prefer more physically painful experiences, such as having root canals performed on them, to just asking for an increment. It is essential to realize that negotiation is a matter of conflict, and no matter what route you choose to take, you must deal with the conflict.  Many people unnecessarily quit for a position in another institution, when all they needed to do was ask. Employers often report that they wouldn’t have rejected a request from an employee who has left, some even stating that they were considering giving them a promotion or pay increment in a few months.

2. Failing to Build Your Case

Some employees sit around and speculate that they are underpaid. Rather than fall into this category, do some research to find out whether this assumption is correct. Identify the strengths that you possess that not many others can bring to the table. Build your case for why you deserve more than you are currently receiving. Sitting around and doing nothing does more harm than good.

3. Letting Nervousness Wreck Things

Because the salary negotiation is pegged on how you present your case, ensure that you stay calm and composed. While feeling nervous is normal, becoming too nervous ruins the show. Nervousness affects your tone, prevents you from keeping eye contact and may even cause a tremble in your voice. This may make it seem that you do not believe in what you are saying, and may also make it easier for the employer to reject the request.

4. Not Doing a Rehearsal

Negotiation is as good as a pitch. Ensure that you go through the scene in your mind severally. Stand in front of a mirror and practice your presentation. If necessary, write your points down in case you get thrown off at any time. Act out the negotiation with a friend and encourage them to raise issues against your argument. This helps to detect weaknesses in your claim supporting the raise. Rather than memorize your words as in a play, understand the concepts that you’re presenting and be dynamic to deal with objections that you had not anticipated.

5. Giving up Too Fast

Some employees bring up the issue of negotiating an increment then never follow it up. Others get to start that discussion but accept a ‘No’ too fast. While humility is of the essence, persistence will wear the stone. Politely remind your employer of the matter until you get a hearing. When you do, do not back off easily. With confidence, explain objectively why you deserve the raise. In case you get a ‘wait’ for your request, ensure that you follow up on it after the appropriate period depending on your circumstances.

6. Not asking questions

After having your request rejected, do not just walk away. Find out why they hold this different opinion. Ask politely, “I would like to understand why you hold that opinion. Do you mind helping me understand why so that I can improve my service?”  Such innocent-sounding questions may act as evidence of your maturity and may have a positive impact on your reputation. Additionally, the answers to such questions may reveal areas that if addressed, allow you to grow professionally.

7. Having the Wrong Focus

Using personal matters as the foundation for your request is the surest way to kill the potential for a raise. Reasons such as a difficult to service mortgage, difficulty raising college tuition for a child, or requiring funds for healthcare are not proper reasons for salary negotiation. Keep your focus held to your professional input and the value you’re contributing to the organization. If your information and skills become the subject of discussion, your likelihood of securing a raise increase.

8. Not Having a Fallback Plan

If you do not have an alternative strategy or plan, rejection will have to be taken if it is the only choice. Before going for the negotiation, consider the other ways you can benefit. Even if you cannot secure other perks or benefits, negotiate for a job review sooner than the next scheduled examination. Most employers do not mind offering non-monetary benefits, so always keep this in mind and exploit that alternative.

9. Stating Figures too Early in Salary Negotiation

When seeking a new job, it is common that the person hiring will want to know your current pay. Avoid disclosing such information as it may limit the offer you receive. Respond with confidence, “As an applicant interested in great service and a mutually uplifting experience, I don’t think it is the right time to discuss that yet.” Focus more on standing out for the job before negotiations of pay come into the picture. Get hired for your skill rather than based on how much you demanded. Anticipate questions on payment and find polite ways of avoiding delving into them.

10. Working with Only One Job Offer

When getting into negotiations for a job, work at having multiple offers. This allows you to understand the demand for your skills correctly and to have an idea of what your value actually is. At such an early stage, you will have the power to set up a bidding war for your service.

Salary Negotiation Tips Just For Women

While gender equality is a matter that is vehemently fought for in our modern society, it is still common to hear occasional complaints of outright discrimination. Even where there is no obvious discrimination, there may be elements of inequality. An example of this is the difference in how men and women are viewed when they raise an issue with their current pay and negotiate for a raise.

For men, this is seen as confidence and standing up for what they truly deserve. Men who do not ask for a raise when they have been heard saying that they deserve more are even considered weakly. On the contrary, women who do go out to fight for what they consider their right are considered arrogant and selfish. This explains why most women seem content with their current earnings even when it is evident that they are being underpaid. Also, when women are courageous enough to negotiate for a raise, the likelihood of being successful is considerably lower than that of their male counterparts.
With this in mind, women must, therefore, find strategies that work in their favor rather than approach the game with the same old tactics. First, women should seek attention to the pay gap in solidarity to avoid being singled out in an attack. When there is unity in asking for a raise by a group of women, they will raise proper attention without fear of discrimination. While doing this, women should seek to draw attention to their contributions to overall team performance.

The biggest mistake made while at this stage is to draw attention to individual results because this creates an opportunity for those against the proposal to attack. Secondly, women should strive to have control of their body language to avoid being interpreted as confrontational. An issue such as body language may be enough to ruin a perfect reputation. A convenient card to pull in this setting is to use smiling to disarm the audience. However, this should not be done if it is not congruent with the usual demeanor of the lady because it will be considered pretense. Third, the use of language with wit may quickly change minds. For example, rather than giving a stiff no, say, “That’s a great offer, but I am held back from accepting it because of this issue.”

Additionally, women should ask for drastically huge demands so that even if only a portion is granted, it becomes a significant step.

Common Mistakes Women Make in Negotiation

1. Being fearful

During the negotiation, fear easily leads to nervousness which shows in failing to have control of tone and body language. This may have a significantly negative impact on the discussion.

2. Beginning the Salary Negotiation with a Very Small Demand

In this case, even if the demand is met, the gains made are very little. Therefore, start with significantly large requests and raise your chances of hitting more of your demands.

3. Using a Combative Approach

Even though this approach may sometimes work for men, it is definitely not suitable for women. Therefore, this should be avoided.

4. Failing to Prepare for the Negotiation

Preparation aids to create ease. If it is difficult to stay focused, preparation also entails creating a list of demands. Failing to prepare often leaves one mindset which is inflexible and easy to disarm. Consider possible objections and think of answers to these.

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