by Ali Robins – November 29, 2016
Money is an uncomfortable subject, be it with family, friends, even your bank teller – there’s something taboo about it.
But on the awkwardness scale, discussing your starting salary with a potential employer might take the cake.
That moment of needing to assign a monetary value to your workplace worth can be nerve racking.
If you go too high you might sound smug, and if you go too low, you risk undervaluing yourself and setting the precedent for future raises
When I started my first job at Company X, HR had asked me the standard question of what I was expecting to earn as a salary. With no training on how to approach a situation like this, I replied instantly – and I will kick myself forever for saying this – if you could even believe these words came out of my mouth: “Whatever is best for you”.
Of course that statement didn’t go in vain. Company X really, truly gave me what was best for them, and not a penny more.
There’s a lot in a number. So how do you know what to ask for, when to settle, and how you can best prepare for that conversation?
Luckily, there’s a strategy!
Before we move on…
Negotiating Your Starting Salary
First thing’s first…
Don’t go in blind.Follow this step by step list that will guide you through the negotiating process from beginning to end. And don’t forget to download the free checklist to be sure that you’re prepared.
Consider The Full Package
Believe it or not…
There’s more to focus on than just the dollar sign on your paycheck.
Think of it this way, it wouldn’t be a good idea to date someone for their money.
In order for the relationship to work you would also need enjoy the time you spend with them. Well, the same goes for a job; it’s important to enjoy your day to day, not just the bi-weekly pay.
Your job may pay the bills, but there is so much more to consider:
- It can fulfill a passion
- Offer a quality work environment
- Likeminded group of colleagues
- Employee Perks
- Potential for growth within the company
- Culture of work life balance
In this article on, the truth about negotiating your salary, Deepak Malhotra, a professor in the Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit at Harvard Business School focuses on the whole picture.
Don’t get fixated on money. Focus on the value of the entire deal:responsibilities, location, travel, flexibility in work hours, opportunities for growth and promotion, benefits, support for continued education, and so forth.
In the end, these “other” qualities might be where the majority of your satisfaction with the job will lie.
So, before you say no to a dollar amount that doesn’t fit with your initial vision, keep in mind the other intrinsic qualities of the job. What else is attractive to you aside for the money?
Maybe it’s very close to your house and you save on transportation time and money.
Once you have managed to secure this open-mindedness, consider the next steps:
Do Your Research
Imagine a lawyer showing up to a litigation without their files or a solid understanding of the case. Would they win? Definitely not.
Don’t count on luck, hope, wishful thinking, or even what you think you know.
Do your due diligence and get informed before you enter into negotiation.
If you are starting a job as a copywriter, for example, research average salaries of copywriters both generally and within the hiring company, so you have a benchmark salary range in mind.
You can do a quick check online using these sources:
Remember that knowledge is power. The more information you have, the stronger and more competitive your negotiating skills will be.
Learn everything you can about the company, like whether they have salary caps. If that’s the case, you’ll know that you can prepare to negotiate in other areas like vacation time, working remotely, or travel opportunities.
Do your homework!
Never Answer First
From both a business and a psychological standpoint, when it comes to negotiating your salary, let HR answer first.
This is tricky to do once they’ve already put the question out there.
The associate executive director of the American Psychological Association suggests in her, article:
If an employer requests one [first], respond “it’s negotiable” or “competitive”. Make the employer be the first to offer an amount so you don’t end up short-changing yourself.
You can also answer with a question like: “I was wondering if you could first tell me what someone with my experience in a similar position earns at your company”
Or, if you are really stuck, you can give a narrow range between X and X, which shows a good balance of both assertion and flexibility.
And, because you’ve already researched and prepared, you have a good idea of what it should be.
Ideally, having them answer first puts the onus on them to be fair and honest employers.
But if you answer first and you lowball yourself, it is not their responsibility to tell you that you deserve more. Considering your qualifications such as past experiences and your level of education, they should have a number in mind.
Don’t do yourself the disservice of underestimating your value like I did with a “Whatever is best for you” disaster of an answer.
Consider this an Extended Interview
Guess what? Just because you got the job and they are ready to negotiate, it doesn’t mean you should stop selling yourself.
Yes, they think you’re great. That’s why you were hired. But, you need to remind them, in a benign and modest way, just how great you are.
Basically, you have to re-toot your own horn without hitting the notch of arrogant.
In this article on negotiating your salary offers some great advice:
When you’re trying to get the base salary up, resell yourself…Remind the employer that you have eight years of experience plus a master’s degree and why you are worth more in the market. All hiring managers expect candidates to try to get more money, he says, and they are almost always prepared to go higher than the initial offer. You just have to ask.
Don’t be ashamed to remind them of the value you will add to the organization, but make sure you come ready with justifications as to why you deserve more than they are offering.
But, asking for more money without a solid explanation as to why you think you deserve it is a risky move.
Prepare The Following:
- A portfolio, even if they didn’t ask for one
- Some ideas for their new website or company direction to show your commitment to the team
- A reminder of your higher education, even bring along certificates
- Unique skills that you have as an individual that might add value to the team (for example, do you speak another language and can help translate conversations with foreign clients)
- Suggestions as to where you can contribute above and beyond your expectations
- Anecdotes of your success from past work experience that will set you apart
It can be uncomfortable asking for more money, but if you feel you are worth more than their initial offer, it’s important to ask so that you go into the job without any resentment.
Happy employees are the best employees and companies know this. If you start off feeling undervalued,it will eventually show in your work.
That being said…
It’s important to be reasonable as well.
Don’t jump from their offer of say, $75,000 to $200,000.
And, it’s equally as important not to nitpick. If there is a slight $5,000 annual difference and it doesn’t seem they will budge, consider that this will be made up in other areas such a perks, bonuses, travel, and an all around contentment with the job.