By Penelope Trunk
Don’t be afraid to negotiate your salary. Once you get an offer, you know you’re the top candidate. So have some confidence. Recognize that the people who have the most successful careers are those who are not afraid of negotiating. The best way to get yourself into that category is to force yourself to ask for more money even if it’s difficult.
In fact, even if you don’t get more money, you will feel good having asked for it. There is a lot to be said for being a person who always asks. Not asking is a bad habit. If you shut yourself down in this instance, you’re probably doing it in other places in your life, too. But if you take a chance to ask for more here, you will be more comfortable doing it once you get the job.
Here’s a four-step process for doing well in salary negotiations. This is adapted from my book, Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success.
Step 1: Don’t disclose your pay requirements during the interview process. The first person to provide numbers establishes the range. If you give a number first, the interviewer will either tell you you’re in the same ballpark as him, or you’re too high.
If you ask for less than the interviewer was considering, you’ll probably get it — and never find out you might have earned more. So interviewers always want you to disclose your requirements first. (Do not try to remedy this situation by giving an unreasonably high number because then you will sound unreasonable, and who wants to work with someone like that?)
Step 2: Get the whole offer in writing before you ask for more. Here’s why (and you should remember this for when the tables are turned): Let’s say the job pays a salary and a performance bonus, but you don’t know about the bonus part. If you do not get a written offer specifying the pay elements before you start negotiating, then you might negotiate a higher base salary but lose a portion of your bonus. That’s because the bonus gives your hiring manager some “wiggle room.” She can take it off the table before you know you’re supposed to receive it. (Then she can report back to her boss and say, “I saved us $5,000.”) Get the full offer in writing so you know what you have to work with during your bargaining.
Step 3: Go home and form a plan. To know what to ask for in negotiations, you MUST know the pay range for your position. Check out salary surveys online and in trade journals. Find the top of the salary range and ask for that. Show the hiring manager your research and remind her why you are worth the top of the range.
Step 4: Know yourself.
Each person is compensated in different ways — and not always monetarily. For instance, if you love what you do, you may not mind earning less than your neighbor with the same degree. Likewise, if you have a shorter commute.
Friends can advise you, but you are the one in the job, and you must decide if you want it, regardless of the size of your paycheck. No salary survey can tell you that. Decide what’s important to you and what trade-offs you’ll make pay-wise, but be honest with yourself. Don’t give up being paid more because you hate negotiating. Self-knowledge, good negotiation skills — and a little chutzpah — will help ensure you earn what you deserve starting with your next job.