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3 Things You Need to Know Before You Negotiate Salary

Topics: Negotiation
In a perfect world, you'd never have to learn how to negotiate salary. Companies would pay a fair market rate, and give reasonable cost-of-living and appropriate merit increases every year. In reality, well, things are a bit more complicated. Getting the salary you deserve takes research, courage, and a little bit of finesse – but most of all, it takes preparation. Here's what you need to figure out before you sit down to the negotiating table.

In a perfect world, you’d never have to learn how to negotiate salary. Companies would pay a fair market rate, and give reasonable cost-of-living and appropriate merit increases every year. In reality, well, things are a bit more complicated. Getting the salary you deserve takes research, courage, and a little bit of finesse – but most of all, it takes preparation. Here’s what you need to figure out before you sit down to the negotiating table.

gold bars 

(Photo Credit: New Old Stock)

1. How much similar jobs pay at similar companies, for candidates like you.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

The PayScale Salary Survey builds a free salary report based on your job title, education level, experience, skills, and geographic location. You can also research employers by looking them up in the Career Research Center, to see what current employees are earning.

2. What your industry norms are, in terms of salary negotiations.

Generally speaking, hiring managers expect candidates to negotiate. It’s also in your best interests to do so – not negotiating can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career. Raises are based on a percentage of your earnings, so where you start out affects your future salary.

With all rules, however, there are exceptions. Very rarely, you’ll hear a story about an offer being pulled when someone tried to negotiate. Most of the time, that means there’s something very wrong with the company, and you’re better off not working there.

But every so often you’ll hear a story like the one about the professor who tried to negotiate, only to lose the offer. In that case, the college claimed that the nature of her requests indicated she’d prefer to work at a research university. Who knows if that’s the real reason behind their decision, but it does show that how you negotiate is important.

3. For women: the best strategy to copy with bias during the negotiating process.

Women are stuck between a rock and a hard place, when it comes to asking for more money. Behavior that would win a man accolades (and a fat check) is sometimes regarded as aggressive or unfeminine when a woman does it.

The answer is neither to ignore the situation or accept it, but to work within it. Bring as much data to the table as possible, but don’t stop there. Be prepared to ask diagnostic questions to determine what the interviewer values, so that you can demonstrate that you’ll bring that to the company. Finally, as McKinsey strategy consultant Vicki Slavina suggests at Forbes, “yoke [your] competencies to a communal concern,” and show how you can use your valuable skills to help your prospective team.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you negotiate? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
Read more from Jen

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