Salary Negotiation Tips: Making Your Case for a Pay Raise

Bargain to close a pay disparity by researching a position’s value in your industry.


Q: I have been working at my present job for a year now. When I was hired I asked for more money but was told that at the beginning of the new year, when reviews were done, I would get the normal raise as long as I had earned it. I was also told that I would receive a better title with a higher salary at review time, which would make more of a difference in pay. I accepted the job “as is,” have done a good job and recently received my regular two-percent raise. I am waiting for the meeting in which I will receive a new title, and was told during my review that my pay would be increased to be commensurate with my new title. Doing some research in preparation, I found that the position generally pays about $15K more than I was initially told I would get.

While waiting for that meeting, another kicker comes into play. My co-worker moved on about four months ago, and I’ve been doing the job by myself since then. My new co-worker started the beginning of this month, and I just found out that he is making that same figure that I feel I should be making, which once again is $15K more than they want to pay me, and $25K more from what I’ve been making. My plan is to present the documentation from my research first as to what this title should pay, and if they balk at paying me that, to bring up the fact the my co-worker (we do basically the same job) makes that much. My question is how best to handle this situation.

A: It’s always a good idea to get salary and compensation promises down on a piece of paper somewhere or in an e-mail. When it comes to fulfilling promises, even people with good intentions sometimes forget what they promised, or perhaps a new manager is coming to take the old manager’s place and your promise leaves just as your manager leaves. Your plan on presenting the documentation first as to what the title should pay and then answering objections if they balk at that seems a little backwards.

I would suggest that you bring in the research, but that you start the negotiations with your ideal. “I’m glad I have the chance to talk with you about my performance and compensation. Once we’ve gone over my performance, I would like to spend a little time telling you what I think my ideal compensation should be and then take the discussion from there.” Then when it comes time to talk money, explain what your ideal number is (see marketplace value formula in chapter five of my book) and explain your justification for that number. The number should be bigger than what they’re thinking, even bigger than what their range is. Then you can let them off the hook a little bit, so to say, and say to them “I know you probably can’t reach my ideal number even if I’m worth it, but what can we do to get closer to that number?” Then it’ll be easier for you to negotiate from the top down rather than from the bottom up.