How to Be an Ace Salary Negotiator (Even if You Hate Conflict)
Picture the following two situations.
You have been through a series of interviews at a great company, you love the prospect of working for the company, and it looks like you will get the job offer.
During the final interview, the interviewer informs you that they are ready to offer you the job, but you realize that the salary they are offering is lower than you expected.
You ask the interviewer if the company has any flexibility on the salary, but she answers with “There is more to this job than the money. Does this mean you won’t take the job if we don’t increase the pay?”
You have been in your current job for four years, and you love the work you do.
However, a recruiter has been reaching out to you, insisting that you are not making us much as you should be.
You love your job and don’t fancy the idea of quitting, but you would like to be compensated fairly for your work.
Unfortunately, budgets are tight, and you don’t know how your boss will react when you ask for a pay raise. What do you do?
If you have been in such situations, you know how difficult negotiating for your salary can be.
Since your boss is unlikely to immediately give in to your request for better compensation, these negotiations are even harder for people who hate conflicts, because the negotiation might seem like you are putting yourself in conflict with your boss.
According to a survey conducted by Salary.com, only 37% of people negotiate their starting salaries every time.
The study also found out that an astonishing 18% of people have never negotiated their first salary.
According to the study, 44% of respondents have also never broached the subject of getting a pay increase with their bosses during their performance reviews.
In yet another study, it was found that whereas 57% of men make an attempt to negotiate their first salary, only 7% of women made any such attempt. What makes these statistics even more worrying is the fact that negotiating your salary can increase your salary by over 7%.
On the face of it, a 7% difference in salary does not sound like much, but it can make a huge difference.
Let’s assume that you get a salary offer of $100,000, which you accept without negotiating. Your colleague on the other hand negotiates and gets a starting salary of $107,000.
Assuming that the two of you will receive similar salary increases and similar promotions till your retire (for the next 35 years), you will need to work an extra 8 years to have earned as much money as your colleague earned over the 35 years.
This shows why it is so important to learn how to negotiate for your salary.
In this article, I am going to share with you some great tips that will turn you into an ace salary negotiator, even if you hate conflict. Let’s dive in!
TREAT IT AS A COLLABORATION, NOT A CONFLICT
A lot of people treat a salary negotiation as a conflict. They approach it with the “me versus them” mentality.
The problem with this approach is that if you are someone who is averse to conflict, you will approach the same way you approach other conflicts – by avoiding them. Unfortunately, avoiding the negotiation will not help you in any way.
To avoid this, the solution is to view the negotiation not as a conflict, but as a collaboration between you and your employer.
Remember, in a conflict, the aim of each party is to get their needs met without giving the slightest care about the needs of the other party. A conflict is usually a zero-sum game. The only way for one party to win is by ensuring the loss of the other party.
This is not the aim of a negotiation. A negotiation should result in a win-win situation for both parties.
You should view the salary negotiation as a conversation that allows you and your employer to work together to come up with a great compensation package for you, while ensuring that they get a great employee who will be dedicated to the company and engaged in his work, rather spending half the day optimizing his resume and scouring through job sites.
UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR EMPLOYER EXPECTS YOU TO NEGOTIATE
Another thing that keeps a lot of people from negotiating their salary is that they assume that their boss will have a negative impression about them if they negotiate. This is what leads to the conflict mentality.
The thinking is that the boss doesn’t want this, but the pay is not enough for me, so I will just fight for my rights, to hell with his or her feelings. Unfortunately, this is the wrong approach.
For a moment, let’s think about other transactional aspects of life. Whenever you want to buy a car, you are unlikely to take pay the first amount the dealer throws out at you. You will most likely negotiate the price, and the dealer expects that.
Similarly, when you are shopping for a house, you probably won’t pay the first figure thrown out by the realtor. You will try to haggle till you get to a price that you feel the house is worth, and this is something the realtor expects.
Getting hired for a job is also a transaction.
The employer is paying you in exchange for your time, skills, and expertise, and they know that you expect to get what you believe you are worth, therefore they will be expecting you to negotiate your salary.
This is why employers work with a salary range when recruiting. They know that different candidates will not be comfortable with the same salary.
However, it is your job to convince them why they should pay you more.
Therefore, don’t be afraid to negotiate, since it is something they expect you to do.
Actually, negotiating even proves that you are someone who is not afraid to stand up for themselves and go for what you believe you are worth.
AVOID MENTIONING YOUR SALARY HISTORY
During the interview, most employers will ask candidates about their salary history.
The aim of this question is to help the employer gauge how much money they should offer you.
However, answering this question is not in your best interest.
By mentioning your previous salary, you are giving them a starting point for their offer, which might lower than what they had in mind.
Therefore, try as much as possible to avoid answering this question.
Remember, you are under no obligation to disclose your previous salary to a potential employer. You can deflect the question by saying something like:
“I am not really comfortable discussing my salary history. Why don’t we focus on the value I will bring to this company, rather than what my current employer is paying me?”
“My current position is not exactly similar to this position I am interviewing for. Therefore, I’d prefer that we focus on what my duties and responsibilities in this position would be and then decide on a fair compensation package for this job.”
If you have gotten so far in the interview process, they are interviewing you because you are a qualified candidate who they believe will add value to their company.
Therefore, they are unlikely to back out of the interviewing process simply because you are making it harder for them to get a good deal on your services.
By deflecting this question, you are essentially saying that you expect them to throw out the first number. In most cases, this number will be higher than they might started with if you disclosed your current or previous salary.
While it is best to avoid disclosing information about your salary history, some interviewers will relentlessly pursue this information, and you might have no other option but to divulge the information.
If you find yourself in such situations, below are some examples of how to can share the information to avoid putting yourself at a disadvantage.
“At the moment, my current total compensation stands at $80,000. I am looking for new employment opportunities because the compensation being offered at my current job is not competitive with what is being offered in the market. I have benchmarked the salaries for the kind of work I have been doing, and new hires are starting at $100,000.”
“At my current job, I am getting $100,000 accompanied by a 25% guaranteed bonus based on the performance of the company as well as an individual performance bonus of between $15,000 and $30,000. Last year, my performance bonus even exceeded this range because my current employer knows I am not being compensated adequately, even though they haven’t determined how best to adjust my compensation to match market rates.”
With such answers, you give information about your salary history, while at the same time discouraging your potential employer from using this information as the basis of your offer.
When it comes to disclosing your salary history, I will give one warning. Don’t lie.
While lying can help you get a better offer, if they find out that you are lying, this could reflect badly on you and could even end up costing you the job.
KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
Sometimes, your prospective employer will ask you what your salary expectations are.
Answering this question can be a bit tricky. If you quote a modest figure, your quote might be lower than what your prospective employer had budgeted for, meaning you will be leaving money on the table.
In addition, if you quote a figure that is too low, the employer might start doubting your experience or professionalism, something that will hurt your chances of getting the job offer.
On the other hand, if you quote a figure that is too high, you will lose your credibility.
The key to answering this question is to know the market value in the region for people with your academic background, qualifications, skills, and experience.
Sometimes, finding out what other people with your background, qualifications, skills, and experience are being paid can be a bit difficult considering that a lot of companies discourage employees from divulging details about their compensation.
However, you can still find this information through sites like LinkedIn, PayScale, Glassdoor, as well as through trade organizations.
Once you know the salary range for people like you working in the same kind of jobs, you can give a figure within this range with the confidence that you are not selling yourself short.
It is advisable to go for a figure that is close to the top rather than bottom of the range. You don’t want to willingly leave money on the table, do you?
MAKE IT CLEAR WHY YOU DESERVE WHAT YOU’RE ASKING FOR
When you are negotiating the price of a car or house, have you ever noted how the dealer or realtor tries to get you to agree to their price? They don’t simply mention their price and stop at that.
They give you reasons why they believe the car or house is worth what they are asking for.
For instance, a realtor might mention things like the big lawn outside the house, the extra room, quality of the materials and finishes, and even the neighborhood itself.
When you negotiating your salary, you want to think like a realtor or car dealer. You are trying to sell yourself, your skills, and your experience, and the potential employer wants to make sure they are getting a good deal.
Therefore, don’t just state the figure you want.
Help the employer understand why they will still be getting their money’s worth even if they are paying a higher amount.
If you cannot justify why you are asking for a higher pay, your employer is unlikely to give in to your requests.
One thing to keep in mind when justifying your demands is that you should never use your personal situations as a basis for requesting better pay.
This applies both when you are interviewing for a new job and when you are negotiating a pay raise at your current job.
I have often seen employees ask for higher pay because they are about to get married, they just had a newborn, their kid just started school, they have a sick parent or relative they need to take care of, and so on.
While personal circumstances might have pushed you to look for a new job or ask for a pay raise, it is not the responsibility of your employer to help you handle your personal issues.
They only want to make sure that they are getting their money’s worth. Therefore, resist the temptation to talk about your financial needs when negotiating your salary.
DELAY THE SALARY DISCUSSION AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Money plays a huge role in determining whether people take a job or not, and therefore, a lot of job seekers want to know about the money as early as possible.
After all, what is the point of continuing with the entire interviewing process if you will decline the job at the end because the salary doesn’t match your expectations?
If you want to get a great starting salary, however, it is much move advisable to delay the salary discussion as long as you can.
If you ask for a high salary right from the start, the potential employer might not see why they need to pay you that much.
When you delay this conversation, however, you are giving yourself more time to impress the interviewer and show them why you are the best person for that job.
Once you have shown them your brilliance and convinced them that you are the best person they can get for that position, they are more likely to accommodate your requests, because they don’t want to lose out on such a great candidate.
DON’T FOCUS SOLELY ON THE MONEY
Money is the most tangible aspect of your compensation package, therefore this is what most candidates focus on when negotiating their salary.
This is particularly common with people who are interviewing for their first job.
Sometimes, an employer might be reluctant to give you the amount of money you are asking for, but this does not mean that they are not open to other compensation avenues.
Therefore, if you realize that it will be hard to get your employer to agree to your money demands, you can shift the negotiation to your benefits package.
You can ask for things such as better medical or dental cover, commissions, gym membership reimbursement, extra vacation days, trainings and workshops covered by the employer, and so on.
Not only will these non-monetary elements boost your compensation package, they will also help make your job more satisfying.
DON’T BACK DOWN FROM YOUR OFFER
Sometimes, after stating your offer, your prospective employer might ask for a couple days to think things over.
If a week goes by without hearing from them, you might become worried that you have lost the job because you negotiated your salary. Under such situations, you might get tempted to call the employer and tell them that you will take the job at whatever salary they are offering. Don’t do that.
If you want to be an ace negotiator, one thing you should learn is to stick to your guns.
Of course, I am not saying that you should not make concessions.
However, if you have put all aspects into considerations and given the minimum figure you are going to take, don’t back down from this offer. You should be willing to walk away if you offer is not met.
If you back down on your offer, you will be seen as a pushover, a trait that no employer wants in their employees.
LET THEM KNOW YOU ARE READY TO TAKE THE JOB
During the last stages of the negotiation, it is helpful to use phrases that let the prospective employer know that you are ready to accept the job offer if your requests are met.
Sometimes, the hiring manager might be reluctant about talking to her bosses about some of your requests if they are not sure that you will take the job anyway.
Getting concessions from bosses takes some social and political capital, and no one wants to use up their capital only for you to later say that you have received a better offer from another company.
They are also not sure whether some new demands will crop up before you take the job.
However, if you ascertain that you are ready to take up the offer, they might be more willing to acquiesce to your demands, since they now understand that giving in to your request will end the negotiation.
To let the employer know that you are ready to take the job, you can say something like:
“I understand that the company is not in a position to give me the $100,000 I am asking for. Well, in that case, if you can add tuition reimbursement and an additional week of paid vacation to the $90,000 you are offering, I am onboard.”
UNDERSTAND THAT YOU WON’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT
While I have been giving you tips that will turn you into an ace salary negotiator, it is good to note that it is impossible to have a 100% success rate.
Regardless of how good you become at this, you should understand that you won’t always get employers to give in to your demands.
If your employer is not in a position to grant your demands, you have a number of options. If you feel their offer is too low, what you need to do is to politely decline the offer and keep looking for other opportunities.
There is no point taking a job where you don’t feel like you are being fairly compensated.
If you can work with the employer’s offer, though you still feel it is a bit on the lower side, you can negotiate for a raise once certain conditions are met.
For instance, you can agree that you will have a performance review 8 months or 1 year down the line, after which the employer will give you a raise to match your initial request.
Negotiating a salary can be a difficult experience, especially if you are someone who hates conflict.
However, it is very important to negotiate your salary, since it can make a significant difference in your salary, a difference that becomes even bigger when compounded over years of work.
The key to being an ace salary negotiator lies in treating the negotiation as a collaboration rather than a conflict and understanding that it is something your employer expects.
Other tips to make you a better salary negotiator include avoiding mentioning your salary history, knowing your numbers, justifying your demands, pushing the salary discussion to the very end, and focusing on more than the money.