If you've found yourself anxious at the thought of negotiating for a salary (or salary increase), you are not alone. Money has always been a taboo topic in our society, making it increasingly difficult for professionals to advocate for themselves during the hiring process.
The problem: our mindset. We tend to view salary negotiations as "playing hardball" or being difficult. In reality, it's a standard in our country and a process that human resource professionals expect to deal with daily.
Don't let your feelings get in the way of your earning potential: always negotiate. That said, begin with shifting your mindset about salary negotiations. This will vary depending on personality and experience, so review the following perspective shifts and see if any resonate:
Salary negotiations are simply business transactions
If you're comfortable in sales and business, but struggle with self-advocacy, try to remember that salary negotiations are no different from your everyday business transaction. If a company is hiring, they are looking for an investment. They believe that the right candidate will increase their profits, and ultimately make them more money than they will pay in salary. In this instance, you are the investment, the person who will bring value (and money) to their company; so, it's only fair that you should ask for a bigger percentage of that profit margin (the difference in what they will pay from what they will make).
This isn't selfish. It's a mutually beneficial business transaction. They receive a tremendous asset to the company (and increased profits), and you receive fair compensation for the value you will offer. To strengthen these conversations, be prepared to share ways in which you can add even more value than they anticipate.
It's all about relationships
The previous example also outlines how you can view these conversations as avenues towards relationship building. Ultimately, while you are hoping to receive your own benefits, there are contributions you intend to make as well. Think of salary negotiations as a tool for obtaining fair compensation for what you hope to bring to the organization—or the people the organization serves (if mission is something you value).
Negotiations as a tool for assessing company values
It's important to remember exactly what you want and deserve from an organization. Salary negotiations are a perfectly normal part of the hiring process—and there is a high likelihood that the same executives you are interviewing with were once in your position. So, if a company or hiring manager gives you grief about your negotiations—is that really a company that you would want to work for? What could this potentially tell you about how they value their employees? While interviewing, don't forget to assess and evaluate the company—just as they are assessing you as a candidate.
Showcase your skills
Salary negotiation is especially important if you're a candidate for a transactional role—like sales. If you're applying for a position, but appear too afraid to advocate for your own salary– how is leadership supposed to believe you will go after money on behalf of the company? This doesn't mean that you should view an interview as an audition per se, but simply look at salary negotiations as an opportunity to showcase your willingness to advocate boldly and confidently.
After tailoring your mindset to become more comfortable negotiating salary, focus on preparation.
Do your homework
First, make sure that there is some alignment between the position's target salary and your desired salary. Then, do market research to understand what range is reasonable for your experience and education, as well as the prospective job title—remembering to factor in location and industry. Finally, conduct research on the company and identify specific ways you would add (monetary) value if hired.
Beyond industry research, you must identify your own needs and wants. Take some time to think about what compensation (salary, benefits, growth potential, flexibility) is most important to you, and have a general idea of when you would be willing to walk away from an offer.
Know when to stop
When it comes to salary negotiations, a good rule of thumb is to stop countering after three offers. For example, let's say the company makes an offer, you counter with a higher salary, and then the company makes a third offer. At this point, only one more counter may be worthwhile. A soft way to phrase this counter: "I'm sorry, I can't do that, but if you can do this [insert final counter]—that would be great. If not, I understand."
Salary negotiation is crucial, because its benefits will compound and pay dividends over the entirety of your career. Every ceiling is a new floor—so starting strong is necessary for your long-term salary goals. The best part is, the worst thing somebody can say is "no".