If you find yourself feeling queasy at the thought of negotiating your salary, you aren’t alone. Research from Salary.com reveals that around one-fifth of candidates don’t counter the first number on the table after they receive a job offer. In fact, a poll by the Society of Human Resource Management found that nearly 80 percent of those surveyed expressed that they didn’t like to discuss money or negotiate employment terms.
Female candidates are even more affected by this apprehension. According to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of “Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide,” 2.5 times more women than men feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating. Babcock and Laschever also found that while 46 percent of men report “always” negotiating their salary, only 30 percent of women do so.
That’s a shame, because you might be leaving a lot of money on the table. “The worst thing that can happen when you push for more is that they say ‘no,'” says Anne Devereux, chief strategy officer at Lantern and founder of Parlay House. “But if you do it with grace, they will respect your courage and persistence — and if you don’t ask, you will never know what could have been.”
To avoid the remorse of bypassing this crucial last step of your job search, here are four strategies for successful salary negotiation:
1. Ground your request in facts. Anyone can ask for a higher starting salary once he or she gets up the nerve to do so. But if you want to increase your chances of a positive outcome, it helps to go into the negotiation armed with plenty of research. Fatimah Gilliam, CEO of The Azara Group, suggests that candidates ask people in the company and in other companies that do similar things about salary bands; look up information about the average salary for the given position; and find out the company’s and the department’s profits during the year. “By grounding the negotiation in objective measures, the employee will have a significant advantage,” she says.
2. Present your value. Even if you’ve done you’re due diligence in researching salary levels for the position, you might not get what you’re worth unless you can prove that you’re worth it. “In serious salary negotiations, it is all about value proposition,” says Fred Coon, CEO of Stewart, Cooper & Coon Inc. and author of “Ready Aim Hired.” “If the company believes your value to be in multiples of your cost, you will have negotiating room. The higher your perceived value, the stronger your negotiating position.” Coon adds that if the employer doesn’t think you have greater than expected value, you will not negotiate more than a token handout.
To convince the hiring manager that your documented, numerical contributions far exceed your total financial package cost, he says you must describe the size of the problems you solve. “This is the heart of your ability to ask for more money,” Coon says. “They can hire anyone for routine tasks, but they mostly judge your value by the level of difficulty of problems you solve. They pay well for those who exceed expectations for performance.”
3. Put someone else in your shoes. Hesitant to ask for more for yourself? Devereux says it can help to approach the negotiation as though you are advocating for someone you love. “Women notoriously protect those they care about but are less likely to fight as hard for themselves,” she explains. “If you can pull your own personal emotions and self-scrutiny out of the picture, you will push for the highest possible result for yourself.” This strategy can work just as well for men who shy away from the negotiation table.
4. Ask — and then stop talking. While it may be stressful to wait for an answer after you’ve made your pitch for a higher salary, staying quiet and confident as you wait can be more effective than nervously chattering on or following up too soon. “Don’t keep talking after your ask,” advises Rania Anderson, author of “Undeterred: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies” and founder of TheWayWomenWork.com. “Less is more. Don’t fill in the silence. Let the manager do that.”
Michelle Joseph, founder and CEO of the Chicago-based consulting firm PeopleFoundry, agrees. “Once you put out a number you think is fair, wait,” she says. “If you’re too eager to hear back and bug them with other offers, this makes you look weak. Don’t let statements like ‘well maybe they didn’t get my email’ or ‘I should go a little lower’ enter your mind.”
If you put these strategies to work at the negotiating stage, you’ll have a better chance of earning what you’re worth from the get-go — which can make a big difference over the course of your career. “The data shows in the vast majority of cases people who negotiate for a higher salary get one, male or female,” Anderson says. “The odds are high that if you ask, you’ll get.”