9 out-of-the-box tips for how to negotiate salary

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Asking someone for money can be nerve-racking. This is especially true when it comes to negotiating your pay rate. But, using out-of-the-box tips for how to negotiate a salary can help streamline the process and result in a much-needed confidence boost. 

When negotiating your salary, you have to walk a fine line between what you want, what you need, and what your new employer is willing to give. This balancing act is the entire reason that thinking outside-of-the-box is necessary. In the end, though, it really all boils down to what you’re worth.

This probably isn’t new information, but it’s important to understand how to utilize the knowledge of the value you bring to the table as leverage when you negotiate your salary

Preparing for the salary negotiation conversation is key. Nerves and jitters can derail money talks and leave you feeling deflated or falsely convince you to accept less than what you’re worth. Don’t let that happen to you. Take a look at these tips for inspiration so that you’ll know exactly how to negotiate your salary before you even walk into the room. 

1. Before you negotiate salary, know your value

Would you walk into an interview without knowing how to answer common interview questions? Would you fill out a job application without knowing what the job actually requires? If you know enough about job searching to know how to land an offer, the next step before you can negotiate salary is to figure out your value.

“Do the research to figure out what your market value is,” career expert Anna Schuliger, co-founder of Get Hired, an online course for job seekers explains. 

You probably already have a ballpark idea of what you would like for your salary to be. If you’ve been in the job market for any length of time, you have a general knowledge of what you can expect to make in your given profession. Of course, factors like how much experience you have, where you’re located, and the demand for your role can all make a difference.

Do some research, talk to people in your field, and know your value before you ever step foot into a salary negotiation to give you a leg up.

2. Aim high when you negotiate your salary, just not too high

It may feel like you should shoot for the moon so that your new employer will ultimately come down from your sky-high number to a pay rate closer to what you’re actually aiming for. This tactic could actually backfire and make you look cocky or arrogant. 

“It’s not about asking for much more than your value,” Schuliger says. “You can even sometimes do damage by asking for a way out of the market value for the position.” 

Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t aim high. By all means, know your worth, and don’t be afraid to counter a low offer with a higher number. Be realistic and use the tips below to continue the salary negotiation conversation until you reach a number you are comfortable accepting.

3. Use a range instead of a hard number

“Use a range, not a flat number. Have your range, based on your market value,” explains Schuliger. 

Remember tip #1? You should already know your market value before heading in to negotiate salary. “Once you know what your value is based on talking to people in your field, such as Glassdoor or Payscale, to create a range and have your value number be at the low end of the range,” Schuliger says. 

Schuliger recommends establishing four numbers to create your range. The lowest is a “walkaway number,” or the least amount you’re willing to accept based on your research. The highest is a “reach number,” or approximately $10,000 above the highest salary you find in your market research. Between those two are numbers is an “aspirational number” that is the highest salary found in your research and your “value” which is the number about $10,000 between your “walk away number” and your “aspirational number.”

These numbers will be different for everyone but can help give you a solid idea of what to aim for during salary negotiations instead of just one hard number to say yes or no.

4. Explain your worth during negotiations

When it’s time to negotiate salary, whether you’re asking for a raise or whether you’re in the hiring process in a new role, you’re going to have to explain what you bring to the table. What is it that makes you worth the money that you’re asking for? You must be able to prove why you deserve to be paid the salary that you want. 

Instead of highlighting how much money you’ll be pulling away from the company with your requested salary, point out the value that your work adds to the company. Use specific examples if you can. Remember, the money you’re asking for will improve your life, but your work should also improve the company to make your salary worth paying. 

5. Remember: you’re negotiating, not fighting

The word “negotiate” itself implies a conversation that goes back and forth between two parties. Although that basic description might sound eerily like how a fight goes down, defensiveness and argumentative tactics is not the answer here. 

Will it potentially feel like you’re gearing up to walk onto a battlefield when you prepare for a meeting about how much you’ll be paid? Yes, it absolutely could. But, the old adage holds true — you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. Be polite, but firm when discussing salary. Arguing isn’t likely to get you very far during a salary negotiation.

If you feel like you’re being baited into an argument, stick to the facts instead of fighting back. Reiterate your worth, what you bring to the table, and why you’re a valuable asset to the company.

6. Don’t make salary negotiations personal

When asked if someone should bring up their personal financial situation or personal issues during a salary negotiation, Schuliger replied with a hearty, “Absolutely not, no employer cares about that.”

As tempting as it may be to try to convince someone why you need the money, at the end of the day, they’re paying you based on your skills and services. Your salary has nothing to do with the financial choices of your past or the current dollar amount in your bank account. 

Leave your personal problems at the door when entering a salary negotiation. Even if you feel like your employer may empathize with your situation, focusing instead on your skills and attributes that will help you deliver on the job will show them why you’re worth the salary that you’re requesting. A sob story just won’t. 

7. Prepare and practice before you negotiate salary

“Practice is important, but preparation is more important,” Schuliger says. “If you do the research and you have a range based on your value in the market, then it takes the emotions out and makes the negotiation more black and white.”

The old adage “practice makes perfect” can’t work unless you’re also prepared. Do your homework and then have a trusted friend or family member listen to your negotiation tactics. Let them give you feedback and work to fine-tune your negotiation skills before it’s time to do it for real. 

It’s also a good idea to practice the art of silence during conversation. Sometimes, awkward silence in a salary negotiation can become a tipping point when you ask for a higher number than offered. Be willing to wait, but go ahead and practice this tactic so you won’t be the one left feeling awkward. 

8. Know your negotiating power

One out-of-the-box suggestion Schulinger says can be used when approaching salary negotiations is called BANTA, or Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement. Using this approach can help you determine your negotiating power prior to discussing salary with an employer. 

“Our Get Hired BATNA scoring system is designed to give yourself a new way to evaluate this concept,” she says. “These are personal/subjective questions that are ranked Yes = 1, No = 0. You ask yourself 4 key questions to determine your power: Do you have another job offer? Are you currently employed? Would you consider taking time off? Is this job/company your top choice?

9. Understand that it’s not all about money when you negotiate salary

“Understand what your wants and needs are in the negotiation outside of money,” Schuliger says. “It is not just about money, you can negotiate time, stock, etc.”

Think about the intangibles that you could glean from working at this company, even if it means taking a lower salary than you might initially be aiming for. Do the perks and benefits make up for the dollar amount? That’s a personal call, but one to highly consider when you’re negotiating salary.

Have a few ideas in mind before you have the conversation and be able to toss them out if you hear a number lower than you’d like. 
Above all, Schuliger says to “Be patient and do not cave,” when you negotiate salary. “Hiring is just as difficult as landing a job, if you have the offer it means they want you.”