How To Negotiate the Salary You Deserve

Image by Katie Harp on Unsplash

Image by Katie Harp on Unsplash

By Lynn Juve - Contributor*

Negotiating a salary is terrifying. As if it weren't scary enough, there's a current trend in the hiring world that makes it even more frightening: usually, during phone-recruiting screens, companies want to know your salary expectations upfront.

In my opinion, this shouldn't be the case. If companies truly wanted to save money, retain the most employees, and attract people who genuinely want to do good work, they would simply publish the salary with the job posting, or at the very least, they'd begin by stating a salary range for the role. But that's the name of the current game we have to play. The good news is, with the right knowledge and tools, you can give yourself a huge leg up! Here's how.

As a Job Search Strategist, one question I hear a lot is, "Why should I get the ball rolling?" In other words, "Why do I have to go first?" Truth is, a lot of companies are banking on the possibility that you'll lowball yourself. For example, if you request 70k and the range for that position is between 80k and 100k, they instantly know you'd accept the post for a mere 80k or even worse, the 70k you asked for. So lesson number one is: do not lowball yourself.

Keep in mind that going first can be used to your advantage, in fact, there's science to prove these benefits. The concept is called "anchoring," and it refers to the fact that when you say a high number, the person listening automatically associates your value with that number.

I first heard about this idea from salary negotiation expert Lewis C. Lin, and then again at a talk by Psychologist and Harvard Professor, Mahzarin Banaji. She shared an interesting experiment where subjects were told to choose an arbitrary number and then asked to guess the value of a soccer ball they were immediately shown. Those who chose a larger number, to begin with, guessed a much more significant amount for the price of the ball. Here's another way to grasp the idea of numbers and value association: would you buy a face cream for three dollars? My guess is probably not, because you'd most likely associate low price with low quality. A similar dynamic goes into salary negotiation; when you give a high number, you're more likely to get a high offer.

I know from experience in the field, that placing a high value on yourself works, and negotiation is expected. Many hiring professionals believe rockstar candidates will negotiate, so when you do, they can't help but think you're a rockstar candidate! Beyond impacting your paycheck, which is terrific news, I've seen this earn candidates added respect at work and more opportunities in the future.

Now that you know having the first say isn't truly bad news, let's move on to actual numbers. How do you define the magic number you're going to stick with? The first thing I tell clients is: when you do your job search, even if you aren't applying online, look up the job description on sites like Indeed, Glassdoor or Payscale. Frequently you'll find estimated salaries on there. Remember that these are self-reported amounts, so you should use them for yourself, don't ever quote them to hiring professionals.

Another essential source is people. Don't be afraid to ask around what others in your field are being paid, knowing how salaries compare from company to company can be very useful.

Once you're set on a number, say it out loud and negotiate. It's natural to consider the cons of negotiating, fear is common when women have to advocate for ourselves, but I believe you should do it anyway. Think about it like this: you're about to "put a ring on it," so to speak, and the way salary negotiation is handled is a perfect way to understand and evaluate company culture. Do you really want to sign on with a company that won't let you defend your value? Probably not. You deserve what you're worth, and my message to you is: don't be afraid to ask for it.

*Lynn Juve is a Job Search Strategist working with clients one on one. She holds workshops on salary negotiation and interviewing, as well as resume and LinkedIn profile creation. Lynn specializes in job seekers who are pivoting, coming back from a career break or job hunting in the US for the first time. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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