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Tips for effective salary negotiation.

October 27, 2021   Christine Wilson

Did you know, only 37% of people always negotiate their salaries?


When it comes to salary, advocating for yourself can be hard. Not only can talking about money be awkward, but putting yourself in a vulnerable position by asking for more is never comfortable, even when you know it’s what you deserve.


In this issue of the Pulse, we explore some salary negotiation strategies that may help you confidently ask for what you deserve, whether you’re new to a position or seeking a raise.


Be prepared.


If you’re going to negotiate for a better salary, you have to be prepared and honest about why you deserve it. An important piece of this is knowing the value you bring to a given role, industry, and geographic area. You should also be prepared with a figure. If you walk into a negotiation without a number in mind, you’re asking someone else to set that price.


Likewise, organize your thoughts and points. Make notes if it helps. Treat this negotiation with the care and diligence you would treat another work assignment.


If you’re asking for a raise, you also want to be honest with yourself and evaluate if you deserve one. Have you been at your job for a year? Have you taken on new responsibilities or additional projects? Have you been exceeding expectations? If you can confidently answer yes, you’re in a better position to ask for a salary increase.


Pick a number towards the top of your range.


When you research the salary range you think best suits the value you bring the company, you’re going to want to choose a number towards the higher end to use as your asking point. Why? First of all, if you’ve done your research, you should assume that this is an appropriate ask. On top of that, your employer will likely negotiate down, so you’re going to want a reasonable amount of wiggle room.


Columbia Business School also recommends asking for a specific number, rather than rounding it. For example, ask for $64,750 as opposed to $65,000. Columbia found employees who use a more precise number are more likely to get a final offer closer to their initial ask, because the employer will assume they’ve done more extensive research to reach that specific number.


When speaking with a recruiter, keep your number to yourself.


If you’ve been talking to a recruiter, they will likely ask about your salary expectations. It’s better to keep that number to yourself.


Instead of offering your expectations, ask the recruiter for the range they’re budgeted to give for the role. If you’re unsure of how to phrase this, Niya Dragova, co-founder of Candor, suggests asking like this:


“Can you tell me the salary band for this level? Happy to let you know if it’s within my range, and we can discuss specific numbers later when I’ve met the team.”


Sometimes, recruiters will put the pressure on you to reveal what number they’re looking for. They might even say they’ll be able to make it happen for you. Don’t give into this pressure. Especially if they’re working for a larger corporation – think, over 5,000 employees – the recruiter may have no say in your salary at all. They will likely have to bring your number to a committee, and providing your number too early could hurt your chances of getting more on your offer later.


During interviews, gather intel.


While answering the interviewer’s questions, be prepared with some questions of your own. You want these questions to give you insight into what they are looking for from you as an employee, and how you can bring value.


Consider the following questions, or a version of them that is applicable for your circumstances:



  • What’s the biggest priority for the team right now?

  • Why is the role open?

  • What do you think is the biggest challenge for someone stepping into this work?


If you know you can bring additional value based on what they’re looking for regarding these questions, this good be good negotiating leverage later.


Don’t be afraid of ‘no.’


A salary negotiation starts with the word ‘no.’ While it would be nice if you were given the first number you asked for, expect to negotiate and bargain a bit. A ‘no’ on your first ask is not necessarily a sign of your worth, but rather a sign of the employer’s ability and budget.


When faced with a no, don’t shut down. Keep the conversation going and find a number that will work for both of you.


Consider the organization.


If you’re looking at a big corporation with seemingly endless funds, it’s easy to want to negotiate a bit harder for your initial ask. However, when dealing with a smaller company, startup, or nonprofit, it’s very likely they may not have the budget to negotiate much higher than their offer.


In that case, you have to consider the pros and cons of settling for less than you wanted, and also the value that position can potentially bring you – and whether there is room to grow.


In conclusion…


Not enough people negotiate for their initial salary. It can be hard to ask for more money, even after years at a company. If you are prepared, strategic, and fair, it is worth taking a shot and advocating for yourself.