Even if you love what you do, the purpose of work is to make a living. And the salary you accept for your first job out of college will set the pace for your lifetime earnings. That’s why negotiation is so important, but many young people, especially women, are too intimidated to try.
Whether you’re looking for your first real job, or trying to land a new job, read on to learn the best tips and tricks for negotiating the highest possible salary.
1. Do your research.
Remember that library research workshop you had to attend in freshman composition? It may have seemed pointless at the time, but now you’ll need those skills. One of the most important ways to prepare for a salary negotiation is to conduct high-quality research.
Here’s what you need to know before you walk into the interview:
1. What’s the average salary offered by similar companies in your field?
2. How much should someone with your level of education and experience expect to earn?
3. And how does your geographic location impact pay? For example, average salaries should be higher in a city with an expensive cost of living like San Francisco.
Instead of a simple Google search, which could yield some dubious sources, research your career through the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Compiled by the US Department of Labor, you can expect the information there to be comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date.
Once you’ve done your homework, you want to sound informed during the interview. A great way to do this is to use exact figures when you name the salary you want. For example, saying $41,340 sounds more like an accurate statistic than $40,000. When hiring managers realize you’ve read up on the average salary for your position, they won’t try to get away with a low offer.
2. Don’t provide salary requirements in advance.
It’s the bane of every online job application. The “desired salary” field may be a little box, but it can be the most challenging part. So the next time you apply for a job, just skip over this part. If the computer won’t let you leave it blank, fill it with dashes or even zeros.
Salary negotiation is a normal part of the hiring process. Managers expect it, and it’s to your advantage to let the hiring manager throw out the first figure in negotiations. If you give them a figure in advance, you show your cards too soon.
3. Silence is powerful.
Don’t rush to respond as soon as the first offer is made. Stay quiet for a minute as if you’re thinking it over. Most people are uncomfortable with silence and rush to fill it. If you can be okay with saying nothing, you’ll hold the power in the conversation. The hiring manager may even offer a second, higher figure before you’ve said a word.
4. Remember that fringe benefits are on the table, too.
Most companies offer a benefits package of health insurance, vacation time, and other perks. While these benefits aren’t assigned numerical values, they’re still part of your overall compensation package, which means they’re up for negotiation just like your salary.
Before you show up for the interview, think about your priorities. If you can’t get the exact salary you want, would an extra week of vacation make up for it? Or perhaps you want to have the option of working remotely, even if such a compromise results in a lower-than-average salary. Use fringe benefits as pawns in your salary negotiation or as primary players themselves. It’s all on the table.
5. Practice makes perfect.
It’s normal to be nervous about negotiating. No one is perfect the first time. Just like anything else, the best way to increase your comfort level and sharpen your skills is to practice. If you’re still in school or a graduate who still lives nearby, take advantage of your college career center. Most schools extend these services to alumni as well as current students.
If the career center isn’t an option, ask an experienced relative or mentor for help. You could also write down some of the things you’d like to say and practice with a friend or even in the mirror. Get feedback on your eye contact, the volume of your voice, and any nervous ticks you exhibit such as hair twirling.
It may also be helpful to think of past experiences that required some degree of negotiation. For example, have you ever bought a car from a dealership? Dealers are notorious for haggling over price and trying to throw in extra expenses like warranties and service plans. If you learned how to beat the dealer at their own game, you’re already a seasoned negotiator.
6. Sell yourself and know when to walk away.
Beginning with your resume, your primary task during the hiring process is to present the best version of yourself. Don’t resort to fabrication, but do talk up all the unique traits and experiences you possess that make you the best person for the job.
As you sell your qualifications, keep in mind the needs of the company, the hiring manager, and your potential boss. For example, the company needs employees who provide more value than they take in terms of salary and benefits. The hiring manager needs to find the best person for the job and keep the salary within a range the company can afford. And the boss needs an employee who will be efficient, effective, and self-directed. Narrate your experience to show how you’ll meet all of these needs.
However, there will be times when a company really wants you, but won’t pay the fair salary you know you’re worth. Decide in advance what your threshold is and be ready to walk away if the hiring manager can’t or won’t meet it.
Now that you know how to negotiate, go out there and get the salary you deserve.