A reader writes:
I just went back over your archive for salaries and read all the posts regarding initial salary negotiation. I’ve also read a bunch of stuff about women not negotiating at all when hired — or appearing to seem too aggressive when they do ask. I am willing to negotiate for a salary increase during the hiring process, but I’m nervous about saying the right thing.
Could you suggest a couple of phrases that have seemed really good in your experience for asking for more money in salary negotiations? I’m assuming that anything I say should address things like “I’ve received increasing responsibilities since my initial hire at my last job,” “I’ve received excellent performance reviews,” “I’ve spoken at X and Y national conferences and have been well-received,” “You can see from my record I’ve excelled in A and B tasks,” etc. But I just can’t think of a good turn of phrase to condense all of this into something that politely and firmly says “I have a proven record of being awesome at what I do and I think I’m worth more money.” Your help would be appreciated in this!
Actually, those aren’t quite the phrases you want to use. Those are the sorts of things that should have come out during the interview process itself (and believe me, no one is going to pay you more for having been well-received at conferences). By the time you get to salary negotiations, they should already think you’re great and at this stage you’re just working out the exact dollar amount you’re worth.
As for how to do that, I recently received a letter that does a really good job of explaining precisely what to say, so I’ll let this reader take it from here:
Thanks in part to your advice, in two weeks I’ll be starting a new job that I couldn’t be more excited about. The people seem beyond lovely, the responsibilities are exactly in line with my skills and interest, and there is definite growth potential.
I did have a hard time finding a lot of information on the internet on what precisely a successful salary negotiation should look like, and so I thought I would offer my experience in case it helped your readers. I have a background in sales, so that definitely helped me, but the basics of this are not that hard to adapt.
My to-be manager called, extended an offer, and I expressed how genuinely excited I was to hear the news, but also said that I hoped the salary would be higher. I suggested I would review HR’s official offer and call back. I think this accomplished a few things: I established that I’m enthusiastic about working there, and warned them that I would be negotiating salary without having to jump into it right there on the phone–in a hot car, with a barking dog–when neither of us were overly prepared to have that discussion.
In any event, after HR emailed me the official offer, I called my to-be manager with a few questions and then jumped into the salary negotiation part. Here’s what I said: “As I suggested during our last conversation, I was hoping the salary would be higher. I’m really excited about the prospect of working for your company, so I’m willing to be flexible, but the number I had in mind was $XX. I think I’m worth this because of A, B, and C value I will bring to the company.”
It’s important to adapt this to your own style, but a few things: Don’t make $XX the number you are actually aiming for. Negotiations very often wind up as a compromise, so I offered a number that placed my goal as that midpoint. (i.e. If they offer you $25K and you want $50K then you ask for $75K, although obviously these numbers are exaggerated.) Also, as you’ve said before, you’re not negotiating because you have a high mortgage or love buying designer shoes. You want to offer (in my opinion a brief) statement about your *value* for them.
After you make your counter offer, STOP TALKING. Even if you are nervous, bite your tongue. You might feel uncomfortable because you really want this job and want them to see you as a “nice person” or “team player.” Negotiating does not make you a mean person or selfish; stop talking at this point. In this case, my to-be manager expressed some hesitation, but said he’d talk to upper management. When he got back to me at the end of the day, their counter offer was exactly the mid-point I was aiming for, plus a few additional perks I had not even asked for!
Anyway, please don’t feel obligated to post this, but I’m sending along the story in case it helps those who’ve never negotiated have a bit more confidence about what it can look like before taking the plunge.
Me again. This is all excellent advice, but I especially want to emphasize the STOP TALKING point. It’s really hard to do, but it’s key.
Thank you to this reader for providing such an awesome template for how this works.
Update: More great advice in the comments. If you don’t normally read them, make sure you do this time.