The largest salary increase you are likely to obtain in your career comes when you quit your job and go to work for another employer, but only if you avoid the minefield of mistakes people often make. Whether you are a Baby Boomer, a Xer, or a Millennial, just thinking about salary negotiations freaks people out.
The worst offenders who don’t even try to tackle salary negotiations are Baby Boomer women. Linda, 57, is a program manager who called to say, “I can’t do it! Robin, I am scared and downright afraid of trying to ask for more salary. What if they rescind the offer? I worry so much about this part of my job search. I got laid off because of COVID, and I need a job, so I should just be grateful for whatever salary they offer?” No, absolutely not. In my experience counseling during the last six months of COVID and throughout my career, I’ve helped thousands of job hunters secure a higher salary than was initially offered.
The first salary offer is not the employer’s best offer
Employers often start with a lower just to see if you will take it. The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) noted that throughout a person’s career, anyone who did not negotiate for a higher salary every time they started a new job would earn $500,000 to $1,000,000 LESS in lifetime income than an individual who was savvy when handling their salary compensation package.
The unemployed typically feel they sit in a difficult spot. They often need the job, and the employer knows it. Yet my career counseling clients who know their worth have been able to negotiate for a higher salary and better perks. All it takes is the right strategy and some self-confidence. The bottomline is that it pays to negotiate the salary offered. In just minutes, you can see $5,000 or $10,000 added to the offer.
Got an offer? Ready to negotiate?
Here are eight negotiation strategies to enable you to secure more $ in your next paycheck.
1. Know What Your Skills are Worth
Do some research to learn what you should expect to be paid for your years of experience, education, certifications, and any specialized training you possess. Try Payscale.com, which offers free salary surveys that provide detailed information to help you get an estimate on what you should be earning. You can also check the salaries employees report listed by company name on Glassdoor.com to determine the amount you should expect to receive.
2. Never Mention Money First
This is the cardinal rule of salary negotiation. NEVER BREAK IT! Whoever mentions money firsts loses. Never let it be you. If asked your current salary or what you expect to be paid, turn the question around and ask, “What is the range that this job pays?” Many job hunters are surprised the salary is much higher than what they were expecting. If you throw out a number and the employer thinks its too low, that hiring manager will devalue your skills and experience and sometimes exclude you from landing the job.
3. Stress Employer’s Needs
Begin your conversation with the hiring manager by reselling yourself. Reaffirm the reasons they want you, the skills you’ll bring, and how you’ll solve their problems. Mention your key strengths and experience plus stress how quickly you will be productive. In other words, give them reasons to pay you more.
4. Restate Your Interest
A reliable way to bridge this negotiation is to say, “I’m interested in the position. I was a little disappointed that the offer was lower than I expected, especially since I have this experience or these skills (note something specific) and will come up to speed quickly. Is there anything you can do?” Allow the employer to make the next move then.
5. Be Specific When It Counts
The employer may ask you what figure you have in mind. Know what you want and state it. Be willing to wait. The hiring manager may say they need to go back and ask their boss to get the additional dollars. If they want you, they will be your advocate and almost always come back with more than they originally offered. Patience here pays off. Do keep in mind that CASH remains king. Promised bonuses, raises, stock options, and reviews in a few months all have a way of never happening down the line. Every dollar you negotiate into the salary base now is more money you can spend on things you and your family want.
6. Negotiate the Perks
You can negotiate for more vacation time, extra monies to cover out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, etc. Vacation is easier for many employers to give out than cash. Nicely make your request, stating how much more time off you want. You can reveal your current vacation level and ask if they can meet it or at least offer more vacation than stated. Also, review the medical plan and the deductible and dependent costs. Many companies’ health plans offer lousy coverage with $5,000 to $10,000 annual deductibles. You can argue for a higher salary to compensate for switching medical plans because of these high deductibles. Many companies have been willing to add to salaries for this reason.
Think through the negotiation interview. Visualize a successful outcome. Then ask a friend to roleplay the conversation with you. Defend why you are worth more money and additional perks. Make sure you overcome any objections you might hear. Did you convince them? Listen to your partner’s feedback. This preparation will decrease your anxiety and increase your confidence and success.
8. Get an Employment Letter
This letter should outline all the terms of your employment, covering salary, signing bonuses, stock options, starting date, benefits, and particularly note anything different from the organization’s standard policies. Too many promises are made and quickly forgotten once you begin the job. Get the details in writing, so there are no misunderstandings later. People who have failed to do so have suffered when the promised extra week of vacation was “forgotten” once they started. A written agreement protects what you’ve negotiated for. These letters are prevalent, and it’s wise – and necessary – to obtain one.
This article was originally published in Forbes.com.