The GetFive Blog

The Four-Step Process of Negotiating the Salary You Want

Young businesswoman at the interview

The majority of American workers say they’re not getting paid as much as they want. That was the unsurprising finding of a 2014 CareerBuilder’s survey [1]. Of course, if GetFive had conducted that survey, we would have also asked the 65 percent who said they weren’t making enough if they’d negotiated their salary when they first accepted their jobs.

We’re willing to bet a majority of those disappointed folks would have said they hadn’t, while most of the happy 35 percent probably did. It’s a fundamental truth in life that if you ask for something your chances of getting what you want are much better than they would be if you don’t ask. So asking for a better salary should be automatic – unless a potential employer is offering far more than the market value and your level of experience should dictate for a job, in which case you should be asking yourself why the employer is so very eager (possibly desperate) to hire someone.

Some of the most capable professionals balk at salary negotiations. Their reasons are many and varied, from a fear of rejection, to withdrawal of an employment offer, concerns over appearing greedy or confusion over how to begin the dialogue. Yet the best time to establish the salary you want is from the outset of the job. It’s much harder to negotiate raises than salary.

Negotiating a salary doesn’t have to be intimidating if you break the process into these four steps:

  1. Negotiate the job – A job that’s too low level for your skills and experience is going to pay less. If that’s the case, don’t waste time negotiating the salary, try to upgrade the job. Ask the employer to work with you to expand the scope of the job and responsibilities until it’s a better fit for you – and still valuable for the company.
  2. Stay the course – It can take multiple meetings and interviews to land a job – especially if it’s high level – and salary may not even come up until well into the discussions. Hang in there. Ensure each meeting shows progress, and that your interview follow up consistently communicates the value you will bring to the job.
  3. Listen to the offer – By the time a hiring manager offers you the position, you’ve (hopefully) done your job of convincing him or her that there’s no better candidate than you. If you’ve successfully sold the company on yourself, the manager will try to sell you on the company, and that creates a natural opening to begin talking about salary.
  4. Negotiate the whole package – When you’re out of work, your first instinct may be to accept whatever is offered without negotiations. But if you settle for a compensation package that doesn’t meet your needs, you won’t be satisfied in the long run and could find yourself looking for another job in the not-too-distant future.

Keep these negotiation tactics in mind:

  • Learn the industry’s going rate for the job and what the company pays.
  • Know your must-haves, would-like-to-haves and can-live-withouts.
  • Negotiate point by point – base pay first, then those easily palatable to the employer, then the ones that could cause conflict.
  • Remember both you and the hiring manager want you to take the job – you are on the same side.
  • Let the employer make the first bid so you have a starting point for your counter negotiations.

Finally, throughout your negotiations be reasonable and professional. Remember the finance axiom: Sometimes the bulls win, sometimes the bears win, but the pigs never win.


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