5 ways to help you get the salary you want

Posted at 1:20 PM, Dec 04, 2016

Few moments in the career growth process are more satisfying than receiving a coveted job offer, though for many, the contentment is short-lived once the conversation turns to salary. The topic of money can be challenging and downright uncomfortable, but there are a few ways to rise above the awkwardness to secure the salary you feel you deserve. Here are five strategies to help you prepare for that moment.

1. Practice

While the average job applicant prepares for an interview, it’s easy to overlook what experts deem the more difficult portion of the hiring process: Salary negotiations.

“The best thing to do is practice, because it’s just like an interview; the more often you practice, the better off you’re going to be,” Lisa Andrews, Ph.D., a career services manager for the Certified Financial Planning Board of Standards, Inc., said. Andrews recommends going through a few scenarios, including “one where your offer is accepted right away and the handshake happens and everyone’s happy, one where the person pushes back on you and one where the person gives you a low offer and you really have to negotiate.”

“Practicing several scenarios over and over is definitely going to help you have a very successful negotiation because you will have already said the words out loud,” Andrews said. “When you do that and you hear yourself saying it, you’re going to become a more effective negotiator.”  

2. Research Your Worth

Nailing down your professional value is possible thanks to online recruiting and career databases. For example, in addition to location, services like Glassdoor can give job-seekers insight into compensation based on company, job title and experience level. If you crave specific salary parameters, it’s a good idea to put these types of online tools to work. Learning from your professional peers could help you gain insight during the negotiation process.

3. Use Social Science to Self-Advocate

Don’t allow the question of salary to catch you off guard. When asked what you’d like to earn, a Columbia Business School study suggests providing a “bolstering” range (i.e., your ideal salary as the minimum amount) to gain a competitive edge in the conversation. For example, if your ideal salary is $80,000, the co-authors of the study suggest proposing a small range of $80,000 to $85,00. This strategy allows you to bolster your potential earnings by placing your ideal income at the low end of the range.

Why is this method effective? According to Ames and Mason, it comes down to social norms. “… We posit a politeness effect: We believe that an unaccommodating counteroffer seems less polite in response to a range offer compared with a point offer, thereby leading to more conciliatory responses to range offers.”

Translation: Managers are likely to reward friendliness and flexibility in kind.

4. Gauge Your Flexibility 

When deciding how flexible you plan to be, it’s important to remember that negotiations may include more than base salary. You might also consider how health benefits, paid time off, flexible spending, stock options, 401K, bonuses and other perks factor into the equation. How do these variables impact your willingness to negotiate base pay? Are you prepared to make concessions in one area to benefit another? Ask yourself these questions as you calculate your salary requirements.

5. Set Aside Emotion

The days following a job offer can be full of conflicting emotions, including fear.

“People tend to be weary of salary negotiation because they think that it may somehow disqualify them for a position they were just offered,” Andrews said.

If this is how you’re feeling, you aren’t alone in your trepidations. A survey found that only 37% of employees always negotiate salary, while 18% avoid the topic entirely. Those who don’t negotiate salary may be forfeiting years of long-term earnings according to Margaret A. Neale, a Stanford University professor specializing in business negotiation.

“Suppose that at age 22 an equally qualified man and woman receive job offers for $25,000 a year,” Neale said. “The man negotiates and gets his offer raised to $30,000. The woman does not negotiate and accepts the job for $25,000. Even if each of them receives identical 3% raises every year throughout their careers, by the time they reach age 60 the gap between their salaries will have widened to more than $15,000 a year.”

In Neale’s example, failing to negotiate during the initial interview would cost the woman $361,171 over the course of 38 years; a sizable — and perhaps, unnecessary — sacrifice.

When your financial security is at stake, it’s a good idea to leave emotion at the door. Rely on your research and professional qualifications to communicate with enthusiasm instead.

[Editor’s Note: It’s important to remember that many employers review a version of your credit reports as part of the application, so it’s a good idea to know where yours stands. You can view a free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on]

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