At a young age, most Americans are taught not to toot your own horn; however, many learn quickly the harsh reality that if you don’t advocate for yourself, no one is going to do so for you, as is the case in salary negotiations.
For both the entry-level job applicant and the experienced executive, engaging in salary negotiations with either a prospective or current employer can be a nerve-racking experience. It’s much more than a debate of dollars — you and your family’s livelihood are at stake amid these very serious talks, invoking an anxiety that causes many to balk at the prospect of making any requests during salary negotiations.
The greatest detriment to successful salary negotiations is selling yourself short, but confidence in your worth, in your preparation, and in your understanding of the employer’s position will help you land the pay you know you deserve.
Salary Negotiations in the 21st Century
In 2018, most everyone can acknowledge that there is a wage disparity among the various demographics of American employees, with some of the most recent research showing women in the United States earning $0.80 on the dollar compared to their male colleagues, according to Time. As the research reveals, black and Hispanic women earn 62.5% and 54.4%, respectively, of the paychecks of their male counterparts.
Salary negotiations can be seen as either an equalizer of opportunity or a hindrance to progress. As the employment professionals at Glass Door discovered in a study, white men are the most likely of the polled demographics to have asked for a raise, while more than 50% of respondents said they would prefer to engage in salary negotiations with someone of their same race.
Though the threat of discrimination may, at best, discourage prospective employees from negotiating their salaries and, at worst, influence an employer’s decision on an equitable wage, there are recent legal advancements to protect employees as they debate their pay. As the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports, many state and local legislatures have banned employers from asking job candidates about their previous pay, which curbs a significant detriment to many applicants as they engage in salary negotiations.
Benefits of Negotiating Your Salary
However difficult it may seem, there are many reasons to engage in salary negotiations. Whether it’s the difference between a few dollars per hour or several thousand per year, that time at the table with your employer and the resulting wage of your discussion can seriously alter the course of your career.
As Harvard University explains in a study on salary negotiations, an employee entering the job market at a $55,000 salary can expect to earn over $600,000 throughout their career than a colleague who starts out at $50,000. For many people, $5,000 is a lot of money, but when considered in terms of distributing over twelve months of labor, some applicants would opt to cease negotiations than risk their modesty and their employer’s ire for the sake of higher salary. When put in terms of a decision impacting the span of your career, the hundreds of thousands of dollars that are theoretically on the line should motivate even the meekest of applicants to take part in salary negotiations.
Salary Negotiating Tip #1 Do Your Research
The first step to confidently take a seat at the negotiation table is to research as thoroughly as you’re able. This includes researching the company and its growth, the average salaries of the desired position, and the job market of that industry as a whole.
“A lot of folks don’t know what they don’t know,” postulates Josh Howarth, district president of global staffing firm Robert Half, in an article by SHRM, as “job seekers typically don’t take the time to research and identify a competitive salary for their position in their local market.”
In an ideal economy, the current market demand for the position’s required skills should be the primary determinant in a starting salary, as the team at Robert Half explain. By thoroughly researching those market conditions, you can confidently decide and defend your worth.
Salary Negotiating Tip #2 Understand Your Employer’s Wants & Needs
First and foremost, it’s important to keep in mind that during salary negotiations, you’re not simply negotiating with a company — you’re also negotiating with a person.
For example, if you’re negotiating with a CEO or founder of a company, you’ll want to frame your pitch according to their perceived personality and values. Similarly, if negotiating with an HR representative, you may want to focus less on your own entrepreneurial value and more on hardline worth. As the Harvard Business Review posts, don’t underestimate the power of likeability. By reading between the lines of the other person’s replies, you can understand the intent behind their inquiries rather than focus on the question itself. That way, you can address what you perceive is the heart of their concern and more easily counter with your own interests.
Salary negotiations are a practice in the art of compassionate conversation. To succeed in getting what you want, you must first understand what the other party wants, and afterward assure them that both can achieve the respective goals.
Salary Negotiating Tip #3 Decide (And Stick To) Your Range
Before you hit the salary negotiations table, know your worth, but also know your bottom line. Based on your lifestyle, your community, and more, it’s easy enough to deduce the minimum dollar amount you’ll need to survive. If you’re interested in that job prospect for much more than money alone, this base number may be enough to sell you if they’re unwilling or unable to go any higher.
But don’t stop — and certainly don’t start — at the bottom of your range.
As Business Insider notes, as a general rule, it’s advisable to ask for up to 20% more than what you’re currently making during salary negotiations. For example, if you’re making $50,000, then it’s completely permissible to push for a salary of $60,000 or more.
As Lynn Taylor, national workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How To Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive In Your Job, explains, “If the original offer is on the low side of your scale, you have more leverage. If you get an offer for 20% over your current salary, you can still negotiate for more — ask for an additional 5% — but know that you’re already in good stead.”
Finally, the overarching rule of thumb in salary negotiations is to always sway the employer to pitch a number first. Hold your ground, and when they ask what number you’d be interested in, turn the conversation around and ask instead what salary is commensurate to their value of the role.
Employers aren’t necessarily out to get you, but as headhunter Nick Corcodilos puts it, they’re doing two things: they’re bargain hunting and they’re keeping more of their profits rather than sharing with employees.
Do yourself a favor and look out for your interests at the salary negotiations table. If you feel you’re qualified for the role, then you’re worth every penny of the value you’re requesting — don’t sell yourself short.