Why does negotiating pay give most people a bad case of the shakes?
We all work for pay – well almost everyone. Why can’t negotiating pay be a win / win with the employer so you are paid fairly and the company pays its employees (you) fairly?
Talking about pay is scary. Negotiating pay is the last step in the job search process after often navigating a complex interview exploration process. After getting that far, we don’t want to jinx anything or take the chance that all that hard work gets flushed by talking about money.
But talking about pay is the way you maximize your family coffers to get the most value from your hard work. It behooves us to improve this skill to achieve win / win, the optimal outcome.
Everyone wins when you improve your salary negotiation skills. The company hires the person they want for a price they are willing to pay. You as the candidate win because you get paid fairly compared to the market and compared to others in the company. We achieve a happy balance point.
You need some ammunition to make negotiating salary a win / win. Don’t just go into negotiation unprepared. That is the surest way to accept whatever the company offers which might be less than you want or less than you are worth.
Research competitive salary. Get actual data from sources like salary.com, glassdoor.com or payscale.com about how other people are paid for your job. Checking several sources is a good idea to create a clearer pictures of how companies compensate people doing the same job. You want to be paid within the competitive range for the work you do. Notice we are not referencing what you were paid at the last company. Strive to be paid competitively to achieve win / win.
Consider the big picture. Base salary is often only one part of a total compensation package. What other element of total compensation are important to you? Would you trade a little pay for more paid time off? What kind of bonus do you want? Are you willing to put more of your total compensation at risk in commission? These other elements can add up.
Think in terms of range, not a specific number. This is where your research comes in handy. What is the lowest amount of money that is still within the competitive range that you are willing to accept? This forms the lowest rung of your competitive range. Stay within the competitive range according to your research but allow yourself to dream a little to come up with a top end to your personal salary range. You can’t get it if you don’t ask!
When to talk salary. A couple of ground rules:
- Defer discussion about salary until you know they are ready to give you an offer. “I am sure we can come to terms when the time comes.” “I am comfortable with compensation within the competitive range.”
- EXCEPTION: If a headhunter working outside the company asks your salary history give him or her the details. Otherwise they won’t work with you. An outside headhunter has incentive for you to get the best salary package you can.
Make it a poop sandwich. When the company is ready to make an offer, the negotiations can sound something like this:
- “I am really thrilled about this opportunity.”
- “I would be comfortable with a salary within the competitive range for this position, which is $LOWEST NUMBER YOU WOULD ACCEPT to $IN MY DREAMS.”
- “I am so excited to get started.”
Then shut up! Silence implies confidence. If you keep jabbering away nervously, the company will not take you seriously. A solid company will be willing to pay its employees a salary within the competitive range.
Lead off with the salary range but don’t forget the other compensation elements that are important to you. That could sound something like this:
- I know that base salary is only one part of the compensation package.
- I am curious about paid time off. I was getting four weeks at XYZ Company. That seems only fair.
- Let’s discuss incentive pay [or the other compensation elements].
Your fear of rejection should not overcome your personal interests to be paid competitively. You work hard. You deserve to be paid competitively. That is the essence of a win / win salary negotiation!