How to Start the Conversation: Salary Negotiation Scripts
They say a journey begins with a single step. Well, a salary negotiation begins with a single sentence. But for many people, that first sentence is the most difficult part of negotiation. If you need a little inspiration or instruction for how to talk to a recruiter, your boss, an HR manager or anybody else about negotiating your salary, then this article is for you. Find the script that fits you best, then take a deep breath and start the negotiation conversation.
NEW JOB OFFERS
When somebody offers you a job, they are saying "I like you! I really, really like you." That's exciting! But not so exciting that you should accept the offer on the spot. In fact, you should always ask for a few days to review the offer (and to do a happy dance in your living room). Once you have the formal offer, with all of the compensation details, in writing, take the PayScale survey to find out how their offer really stacks up.
If the pay is less than what you're worth…
"Thank you so much for this offer! I am really excited about the role and the work that [company name] is doing, and would love to join the team. However, according to my research, the typical salary range for somebody with my qualifications in this role is [$$$]. Would you be able to match that figure?"
If you have a competing offer with a higher salary…
"Thank you so much for the offer! I am really excited about the company and the role. However, as you know, I have been talking to other employers and do have another offer. If you're able to move the pay to [insert your number], I'd be eager to accept."
Note: Disclosing the name of the company is totally optional – but a savvy negotiator may try to force it out of you. You also don't have to name the exact offer you've received from another company, but do remember this: never, ever lie about a competing offer.
If the salary they've offered matches or slightly exceeds the salary you researched, but you think there is room to negotiate…
"I'm very excited about the offer and think that we are very close to an agreement. However, I would like to talk about compensation. Since I not only fulfill the listed qualifications of the job, like [name some of the job requirements], but I also have [list some of the unique characteristics that make you extra qualified for the role], I’d like to see the base salary at [the number you researched] ."
Note: Want more information? Check out what else Jim Hopkinson, aka, the Salary Tutor, has to say about this script.
If you want to negotiate benefits…
"Thank you so much! This role is really exciting, and the salary looks great. I would like to follow up on a couple of details though. How flexible are you with [name the benefit]? The written job offer included [details about the benefit], but I would like to request [the level of benefits you want].
Note: If you are negotiating a benefit to match a current benefit level or one that a competing employer offers, feel free to share that data.
Salary negotiation for a job you already have requires a slightly different approach than negotiating salary for a new job. You want to maintain a good relationship with your boss and other decision-makers at your company, but also leverage your insider information as you strategize. Remember that negotiations at a job you already have are a longer game than negotiating a new job offer – we recommend sending an email or a calendar invite letting him or her know that you want to talk about compensation.
If you just found out you are being underpaid in your current role…
"I'd like to talk about compensation. I've been doing some research, and it looks like the typical pay for somebody with my experience and qualifications for this role is between [x] and [y], but I'm currently being paid [z]. Based on my performance this past year, I’d like to talk about increasing my salary."
If you want to negotiate a raise when you are already earning a typical salary, but think you deserve more…
"I'd like to have a discussion about my current compensation. Based on my research, I'm currently earning a typical salary for an average performer in my role, but, considering everything I've accomplished in the past year, I think it makes sense for me to be a bit higher in the range. I would like to be earning [your desired salary]?"
Note: Always back up an ask like this with documented proof of your successes, like metrics on your personal goals, a library of congratulatory emails and compliments from partners and influencers in your organization, etc. And be willing to offer to take on additional responsibilities in exchange for additional pay.
Conversations about salary are often intimidating, but take a deep breath – you can do it! And remember, when you are basing your negotiations on reliable data, like the kind you find at PayScale.com, you're just having a conversation about math. Who's afraid of a little data?
About the Author
Aubrey Bach is the Senior Editorial Manager at PayScale.com and writes for PayScale about salary, pay equity, higher education and career strategy. She leads salary negotiation workshops around the country. She is a recovering Diet Coke addict who grew up on the mean streets of Orange County, California, but since coming to Seattle in 2007 has embraced everything the city has to offer (except, of course, the weather).