How Do I Negotiate a Higher Salary With My Employer?
The subject of money can be a difficult one to tackle with an employer, especially if you’ve worked at your company or in your position for a while. Most salary negotiations take place during the hiring phase, and subsequent negotiations tend to fall by the wayside after hiring. Add to it the fact that money is a topic that’s highly regulated by etiquette and good manners and it can feel like walking a tightrope between asking for what you’re worth and being overly assertive.
A recent report from the staffing firm Randstad notes that about 60% of women have never negotiated pay with an employer. In many cases, the women will opt to quit after finding new employment with a higher salary rather than ask for more money from their current employer. Furthermore, many employees opt to wait until their employer offers a raise rather than initiate and lead the money discussion themselves.
But, the truth is, you don’t have to leave your job to get the pay you deserve. All it takes is some knowledge and some leverage to get the salary negotiations going. This is especially important for college students and graduates, who need to understand how to leverage their newly-attained degrees and education into a more lucrative and rewarding career post-college. If you’re a college student who’s starting out your career, or if you’re a seasoned veteran at work who just wants to earn more money, our guide below can help you understand how to find the proper compensation for your position, while offering tips and expert advice to help you initiate and succeed in your professional salary negotiations.
How To Prepare For Your Salary Negotiation
You should not jump into salary negotiations without the information you’ll need to back up your reasoning. This is not an overnight process. It takes some planning to effectively prepare for your salary negotiations, so it is important to be patient with yourself and the process as you work through the information-gathering and analytic periods.
To prepare for productive and effective salary negotiations with your boss, you should:
- Research and familiarize yourself with industry salary trends.
If you want to successfully negotiate a raise, you’ll need stats and data on salaries to back up your argument. A large part of successful salary negotiation is knowing your limits, which you can learn by taking a look at the average salary for your position and experience, as well as the highest and lowest earning potentials for your job.
Take the time to conduct thorough industry research to get this information. Use reputable expert sources and be sure to consider your company’s size and capabilities. If you know that your company is on the smaller side, they may be unable to compete with the greater resources that a larger company may be able to offer, but they may also have more wiggle room without the corporate parameters that can stall negotiations, too.
- Prepare supporting evidence.
To legitimize your request, you’ll want to offer proof of stellar performance. It will be easier for your boss to justify the added expense of a higher salary when you have already proven your worth within the workplace.
To help, you should gather supporting documents that can establish a proven track record of success over time and in your position. This can include past supervisor reports, awards, customer reviews, and testimonials from colleagues. You can also outline successful projects you’ve taken the lead on, or money-saving tactics you’ve employed for the company over the years. This information is crucial to help justify your push for more money.
- Know your number.
Your supervisor is likely to ask for a specific number when you’re negotiating a new salary, so don’t go in with a vague idea of what you’ll take. Know exactly what a reasonable salary is for your role. Consider both your experience and education when calculating your proposed raise.
It is especially helpful to know information about past internal raises, so use your internal network to determine what your company pays other employees. Sites like Glassdoor, PayScale, and LinkedIn can also help you determine appropriate salary requirements for your position.
- Update your resume.
Be sure to update your resume before your meeting so it includes any new credentials or skills that you’ve earned or learned since starting your employment at your company. Add any volunteer work or educational accomplishments you feel would help to highlight your value, in addition to any on-the-job training you may have received. You should also consider what you would like to see if you were hiring for this position, as well as any employee values your boss may look for in the workplace.
- Create a list of opportunities.
Take initiative to show your employer how this raise will be better spent for future growth. What will you be able to do that you can’t now if you’re earning more money? What opportunities do you see that would allow you to contribute more or better utilize your skills? This could be funding more education, more certifications, or other useful skills with your raise.
When your employer understands how these incentives are likely to improve your performance, you may have a better shot of receiving the raise that you are after if you can offer this information to your boss.
- Maintain your confidence.
Believe in yourself and your worth. If you don’t believe you deserve a raise, your boss won’t, either. Do not focus on negatives or past grievances you’ve had with your job. Keep the conversation focused on why you’re valuable to your employer, not on a laundry list of other unrelated issues.
You should also avoid threatening to quit or find other employment if you don’t get your raise. Threatening can put your boss on the defensive, which will instantly set the tone for a confrontational meeting. It can also make for an uncomfortable work environment when the negotiations are all over the place. Maintain a positive outlook instead, no matter what turns the conversation may take.
- Practice your pitch.
Ask family members, friends, professional mentors, or even a colleague that you trust to listen and advise you on your pitch for a higher salary. Doing this gives you a chance to benefit from their expertise while also practicing your delivery for the real thing, so you are more at ease and comfortable when the conversation takes place.
- Brush up on negotiation verbiage.
Experts stress the importance of using proper language to help influence the outcome you want.
Glassdoor recommends using phrases like, “I am excited by the opportunity to work together…” and citing facts by saying things like, “based on my research…”
You can also use positive reinforcement by opting for keywords like “value” and “market.” If you are not pleased with the initial offer you receive, you can counter with, “Is that number flexible at all?”
- Utilize key negotiation tactics.
There are also several negotiation tactics that you can use, including distributive negotiation, which is also known as hard-bargaining. You can also use integrative negotiation, which is merit-based, though integrated negotiation that takes a more long-term, relationship-based approach. Knowing which tactic to use at the right time can help steer your negotiations in the direction that best works for your objectives.
- Set your meeting.
An important part of the salary negotiation process is the timing. You should set an appointment to discuss the negotiations rather than showing up and expecting your manager to be ready. It is a good idea to give them time to prepare as well.
Annual review time is always a good time to discuss one’s role, but this is also a time of high demand when there is more competition. You may want to pick a slower time, like right after the dust settles from a big project that you excelled in.
Once the big day arrives, be sure to document your meeting, including what was discussed, and save your notes for future reference.
Ask the Experts Section
The best advice often comes from the experts and hiring managers themselves. Here’s what the experts have to say about the right way to negotiate a salary.
Don’t negotiate over email.
“Many people find negotiating salary awkward and use email to avoid those feelings,” said Nadia Ibrahim-Taney, a university career coach at Beyond Discovery Coaching. “It nearly never works. People hire people, and the best way to personalize the recruitment and hiring process is to have as many interactions as possible. It helps you connect more personally, so when you negotiate, they understand more of your backstory (and) background, skill set, and reasoning for the negotiation.”
Only negotiate for a job you actually want.
“Going into a negotiation, the employer assumes you have a fundamental interest and intent in taking the position,” said Ibrahim-Taney. “If you are on the fence about the job, don’t let money drive your decision-making process. Find a company and job you like first, (and) then negotiate.”
“Keep in mind that negotiating the terms and conditions of employment is a business transaction,” said Lori B. Rassas, Executive Coach and author of It’s About You Too: How to Manage Employee Resistance to Your Workplace Diversity Initiatives and Improve Workplace Culture and Profitability. “Everything you say to the employer should be geared toward your ultimate goal of receiving the highest compensation available.”
“I always advise using a range of $5,000 as a standard negotiation amount,” Ibrahim-Taney said. “Understand that sometimes, the recruiting manager may not have as much flexibility on pay as they do on time off or work from home arrangements. Work with them and see if you can find common ground.”
Timing is everything.
“Asking for a raise can be nerve-wracking, and you may be tempted to put it off,” said Erin Urban, a certified Executive Coach at UPPSolutions and author of Elevate Your Career: More Impact + More Income. “Timing may make a difference in how your request is received. Do not wait until performance review time to ask for a raise! In fact, it’s best if you start the conversation months in advance.”
“Simply saying that you ‘work hard’ is not enough,” said Urban. “Cite your wins, accomplishments, and accolades as data to back up your request.”
Akram Assaf, Co-Founder of online job recruitment platform Bayt, said it’s all about the hard stats and data when negotiating a salary increase.
“I always encourage my employees to gather and show me the data about their performance,” Assaf said. “If you have data to back up your value to the company, use that as leverage. This alone will do 90% of the work for you.”
“When we work with our career consulting clients, we recommend our clients take inventory of their career accomplishments,” Jen Wells, a TalentID Group salary negotiation expert with 15 years of experience, said. “It provides the ability to easily recall career accomplishments. Second, it builds confidence by reminding you of the value you have brought to your employer.”
Present a business strategy.
“Have a business case, particularly if your raise comes with a promotion,” Urban said. “Oftentimes, leadership will want to know the return on investment for moving you up the ladder. Know your organization’s strategy and goals. Be prepared to discuss how you will add value in your new role.”
“Resist throwing out the first number,” Nicole Graham, lifestyle and relationship coach at Womenio, said. “When questioned about your wage expectations, explain that they are flexible based on the role and overall compensation package. Alternatively, tell the employer that you’d prefer to learn more about the job’s responsibilities and challenges before talking remuneration.”
QUIZ: Is It The Right Time To Negotiate Your Salary?
- How long have you been with the company?
- Less than a year
- 1 – 2 years
- 3 – 5 years
- 5+ years
- Have you developed any new skills or earned a degree since being employed with your company?
- Yes, I have received a degree and/or specialized certification to excel in the current position I hold.
- I am currently pursuing a degree and/or specialized certification.
- No, but I am considering to enroll to obtain a degree in my field and/or attend classes to further develop my skills
- No, I haven’t.
- When was your last raise?
- Within the last year.
- Within the last 1-2 years.
- Within the last 3+ years.
- I have never had one.
- Is your next salary review cycle coming up soon?
- 0-3 months
- 3-6 months
- 6 months to one year
- No salary review is scheduled.
- Have you and your manager discussed areas of opportunity and accomplishments within your current role?
- We have had in-depth discussions regarding opportunities for growth.
- We have had some conversation about my accomplishments.
- I have had a salary review only.
- I have had no discussions with my manager.
- Are you exceeding the goal expectations of your current role or just meeting them?
- I consistently exceed my job requirements.
- I sometimes exceed my job requirements.
- I meet my job requirements.
- I have trouble meeting my job requirements.
- Have you researched the annual/hourly salary that the average person with your job title receives?
- I am paid more than the average professional in my role.
- My pay is on par with the industry average for my role.
- My pay is less than the average salary for my position.
- I do not know the average salary for my job title.
- Do you have any documentation or data to support the value that you bring to your company?
- I regularly document professional accomplishments and will present a report on average salary details for my position.
- I have salary information to share with my employer but no professional accomplishments to share.
- I have some data to share with my employer.
- I have no data to show my employer.
- Are you prepared to take on new job responsibilities?
- I am willing to take on any and all job responsibilities.
- I can take on some job responsibilities.
- I will only take on job responsibilities under certain terms.
- I am not willing to take on any new job responsibilities.
- Is your company currently in good financial standing to offer your preferred raise?
- My employer is consistently profitable year after year.
- My company is profitable, but my department is not.
- My company has inconsistent growth.
- My company is experiencing financial troubles.
- Are you open to asking for increased workplace benefits if you receive pushback to earn a raise?
- I will accept workplace benefits or other incentives in place of a raise.
- I am open to some workplace benefits instead of a raise.
- I am willing to discuss options.
- I will not accept any benefits in exchange for financial compensation.
- Congratulations! It looks like you’re ready for the next step in your career. Review some of the recommended language to use during your negotiations and practice your delivery.
- You are almost ready! Your preparation could use a little fine-tuning, and then salary negotiations can begin. Be sure to follow the tips and advice in our guide to help you better prepare.
- Looks like you’re still growing in your career! Check out our resource: “Should I Go To Grad School?” for tips to fast-track your professional growth.
- We recommend doing a little more research before you begin salary negotiations. Familiarize yourself with industry salary trends by checking out our resources, including the 10 Best Master’s Degrees By Salary and 10 Best Doctorate Degrees By Salary.
While negotiating a salary can be stressful, the good news is that you don’t have to worry about catching your company off guard when asking for a higher salary.
“Negotiating salary is nearly always expected in professional roles now,” Ibrahim-Taney said.
And, if you’re a college student or are just starting out in your career, it’s important to understand that the salary you start with is what sets the precedent for your future earning capacity, so make sure to maximize it if you can.
“Your starting salary serves as an anchor throughout your career, with raises, bonuses, and even retirement savings influenced by that initial amount.” Professor Alexander Lowry, who serves as the Executive Director for the school’s Career and Connection Institute, said. “Starting too low could be a costly mistake. Most employers purposely leave some slack in the salary that they offer, anticipating a negotiation. Failing to do so leaves that extra money on the table.”
The worst they can say is no. And, if you don’t succeed at your first attempt in negotiating a salary, remember that the rule is to try, try again. Be sure to remain patient and continue to document and build upon your growing case for a raise, so you have a chance of better results at the next meeting. It may take several tries for your boss to recognize and appreciate your workplace contributions, but once they do, it’s likely to pay off for both you and your employer.
Angelica Leicht is an editor for Grad School Hub. A proud University of Houston alum (go Cougs!), she previously served as an education reporter at Kearney Hub, and an editor at the Dallas Observer and Houston Press. Her writing has appeared in Affordable Colleges Online, Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and elsewhere.
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