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The Art of Salary Negotiation: What to Say (and What Not to Say)

Negotiating salary can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not sure what to say (or what not to say). Here are a few tips to keep in mind when negotiating your salary:

Do your research

Before the negotiation, it’s important to have a good understanding of the industry standard for the role you’re applying for. Look at salary data from websites like Glassdoor or PayScale to get a sense of what others in your field are earning. This will give you a benchmark to use as you negotiate. Know where your salary needs to be: While some believe that all salaries should be equal, it’s likely that there are some discrepancies in pay based on skill set and experience level.

Emphasize your value

It’s not just about the salary you want, it’s also about the value you bring to the company. During the negotiation, highlight your skills, experience, and achievements that make you a valuable asset to the team. This can help the employer see the worth you bring to the table and be more willing to negotiate. Be concise and direct: While you may want to express your point of view in as many ways as possible, keep it simple and concise.

Lending color to your message will weigh it down, so stick to the facts, giving only enough details that are needed to make the argument. If they ask why you deserve a raise, say something like: “I’m looking for a fair pay rate commensurate with my skills and experience” or “I would like this increased compensation to reflect my accomplishments”. It’s best to have a list of questions at the ready: It’s important to ask if you get the impression from the employer that they’re not accurately valuing your skills and experience.

Don’t rush to give a number

If the employer asks you what salary you’re expecting, try to avoid giving a specific number right away. Instead, you can say something like, “I’m looking for a competitive salary that reflects my skills and experience. Could you share more about the budget for this role?” This gives you more time to think about your response and gather more information about the company’s budget.

Don’t be afraid to ask for more

It’s important to have a salary in mind that you’re comfortable with, but don’t be afraid to ask for more if you feel you’re worth it. Remember to stay professional and respectful during the negotiation, and be prepared to back up your request with concrete examples of your value to the company.

Keep it short

The best way to stay on track and make sure you don’t go over your allotted time is to keep your negotiation short. Always set a time limit in advance so you can stick to it, delegate some of the work that’s not in your scope of responsibility, and focus on the areas where you want to get a better salary. If you start with too many details, you may find them getting lost or forgotten as the negotiation progresses.

Know when to walk away

While it’s important to advocate for yourself, it’s also important to know when to walk away if the employer is unwilling to meet your salary expectations. If you feel like the offer is significantly below what you’re worth, it might be better to move on and look for an opportunity that values your skills and experience.

Know when to play defense

You can always try negotiating from a defensive perspective. For example, you might say, “I’m excited about this opportunity and the work I’ll be doing here. However, if your budget doesn’t allow for salary increases, I may need to consider other opportunities outside of your company.” Sometimes employers will try to drop their salary demands right away by stating something along the lines of, “I know this is above market rates, but I’m still at a tough budget. We’d love to pay you more if we could.” In this case, you have options, such as:

  • Identify what factors are creating the budget shortfall: For example, if the employer is having trouble hiring, they might indicate this as one of their reasons for needing to cut expenses. Perhaps they already overpaid their last hire and it’s causing them some financial hardships. Taking a step back can help you figure out where resources are being limited.
  • Counteroffer with something different: If you’re happy with the benefits package and other employment details but want to negotiate on salary because it’s below market rates for your role, then you could try offering something different as a counteroffer. For example, if it’s not a general company policy for salary to be negotiable and you don’t think the employer will budge, you could propose a lower salary commensurate with their budget. You might also ask for a signing bonus or different perks to sweeten the deal.

Salary negotiation can be intimidating, but by being prepared and knowing what to say (and what not to say), you can increase your chances of getting the salary you deserve. Good luck!