Salary Negotiation Is a Game — I Tell My Clients To Use These 5 Tips To Win It

negotiation during an interview

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Lee Koles166
Founder, Career Strategist at CareerSequel
June 19, 2024 at 11:9PM UTC

Congratulations — you have a job offer! 

The phase that comes next — salary negotiation — is one that can startle even the most savvy job seekers. 

Only 39% of job candidates negotiate their pay, despite the fact that over 70% of hiring managers expect a negotiation. Think of all the dollars left on the table!

My clients understand that the job search is a game, and salary negotiation is when you get to claim your final victory. Here’s how to play.

1. Identify your top accomplishments. 

Come to the negotiation with proof that you are worth good money. Pick five of your most impressive accomplishments. Each should relate directly to a requirement from the job posting and you should have data to back it up. Note the problem, the solution you provided and the outcome. For instance: “I revamped a training program for an underperforming team, resulting in a 30% increase in sales.”

These concrete examples provide evidence of your worth and the financial impact you can have on the organization. 

2. Do some sleuthing. 

Determine the going rate for your targeted position. You can find this numerical range by reaching out to contacts in the industry, or looking online at sites such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Glassdoor or Indeed. LinkedIn also has a wealth of salary information. 

Research comparable companies — competitors, organizations within the same industry, and of similar size. Note that the location of the job will impact the number; for example, the cost of living is higher in Washington, DC than it is in Toledo, OH. Ensure that you’re comparing companies in similar demographic areas.  

You’ll end your research with a general salary range for your position.  

3. Get specific. 

Now, it’s time to identify your own personal range and number. 

Use the midpoint of the general salary range as the bottom of your personal range; this is the lowest salary you’ll accept. The highest point of the general salary range will serve as your high point.

For example, if the job you’re considering has a general salary range of $100K to $200K, the midpoint for that position is $150K. That means that your personal range will be 150K-200K. 

You should feel comfortable with any offer within that range. Identify a specific number. This is your target salary. 

4. Play dodgeball.

You’ve identified your target salary, but should you reveal it? The short answer is no. You’re in a better position for negotiation if you allow someone else to toss out the first number. 

The hiring manager feels this way, too, so be prepared to respond to questions about your salary expectations. You can say:

“I’m much more interested in doing (type of work) here at (name of company) than I am in the size of the initial offer.”

If pushed again, say:

“I will consider any reasonable offer.”

At this point, the hiring manager is likely to offer you a specific salary. If it’s lower than expected, you can say, “I did some salary research and found that this type of role in this city typically pays around $X.” 

5. Consider other perks.

What happens if the company isn’t willing to negotiate or if the salary offering is lower than expected?  

Fear not — the annual salary isn’t the only thing valuable in your job. There are other elements of a job offer that you can negotiate. Consider asking for more vacation time, a flexible schedule, bonuses and different terms of your benefits. 

These are just some of the perks companies can give you if they can’t budge on the actual salary. 

Your job search is a game. You’ve put in the work, now claim your final victory with your negotiation! 

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Dr. Lee Koles is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, Career Strategist and the founder of CareerSequel, where she helps job seekers find flexible, meaningful work that fits their life. She is host of the CareerSequel podcast. Connect with Dr. Koles on LinkedIn or apply to speak with her directly at https://www.careersequel.com

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for a salary negotiation? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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