It’s always hard to talk about salaries. Especially when the conversation is happening with a stranger who is the gatekeeper between you and your dream job. Before going straight into the conversation, here’s what you need to consider.
Don’t Learn the Hard Way
During my first job, I was able to go through a temporary placement agency to get an accounting assistant position at an advertising agency. The advertising agency chose to hire me full-time.
The advertising agency was paying an extra fee to the placement agency, so when I went full-time with them, they offered to negotiate my salary a bit higher. I had never even thought about my pay. I was just happy to have a job that I liked.
I went into the salary negotiation meeting and pretty much agreed to anything they suggested. A few months later, I was talking with a newly hired production assistant. She had the same experience and education and was in a similar role and level in the org chart as me.
When we were going to lunch one day, we drove in her car, which was parked in our office building parking garage. I told her I had to park in a paid lot several blocks away since it cost so much to park in the building’s garage.
She said that the ad agency was paying for her parking. She had negotiated that when she was hired. I was kicking myself for not having thought through the salary negotiation process more. I definitely learned my lesson!
Do Your Research
There is no substitute for preparation before a salary negotiation. A small number of people might get lucky and stumble through the interview and job offer successfully. But, most of us really need to do the background investigation to survive a salary negotiation.
According to several sources (U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale, etc.), men do out-pace women in job pay for similar roles, organizations, experience, and background.
However, the difference is small, around 2-4%, until the early to mid-30s. College-educated women are often having children in their 30s which can reduce the median salary benchmark (and thus, increase the salary gender differential) as we look at workers in their 40s and 50s.
There is more to the equation than just perceived sexism. Linda Babcock (Women Don’t Ask) suggests that some of the salary differential can be attributed to fewer women asking to negotiate. She found that 7% of the women negotiated versus 57% of the men.
You often have to ask for the higher salary. Hiring managers may be prepared for a negotiation but won’t make the higher offer unless you request it. Think about how many extra years you would need to work to make up for the difference in salary you could potentially have.
No matter what your age, it still in an important investment to research salaries and be prepared for negotiation. Two of the better resources available are PayScale and Glassdoor. Both sites help you to determine average pay for different job titles in your geographic area.
I looked up an Accounting Assistant in Dallas, Texas on Glassdoor. Glassdoor gave me an average salary and a range. Additionally, it showed the regional salary compared to the national average and salaries of related job titles. There are options to filter based on industry, company size, and years of experience. This would give you a good estimate to bring to the salary negotiation with you.
It is critical to find an average of your role in a similar company in your city or region. You cannot base your value on salaries in New York if you are looking for a job in Kansas and vice versa.
Also, don’t overlook your special expertise or skills. If you can bring additional duties or cross-training to the table, be sure and mention that in your salary negotiation. Be confident and explain the reasons for your worth to the company in quantifiable terms.
Leverage your previous salary and your prior standing
In your research process, don’t forget to note all of your awards, credentials, and certifications. Make sure you know how you have improved your department, division, cost center, and organization quantifiably.
Did sales rise under your oversight by 28%? Was there a 10% reduction in call escalations during your tenure?
Did you attend training or participate in continuing education to learn a new skill or advance in your career? You want to include all of the training and certifications that could help to boost your worth to the company. For example, Microsoft Office skills are important to the success of many organizations. That extra Microsoft Excel Expert certification you have could be what is needed to help them improve the skill level for the project team you are joining.
If you have performed well in your last position, emphasize this. Don’t be shy, but also don’t over-exaggerate or be obnoxious about it. Use your prior position and salary to push for a higher salary in the new job or position. Remember that salary negotiation can happen when you advance in your current organization, not just when you change jobs.
The other part of your investigation should be company focused. This may take more time, depending on whether you are moving to a different position at your current company versus if you are taking a post at a new company.
You may find some of this information in the job description or on the organization’s website. Look at the position through the company’s eyes. See what the position is worth to them.
Here are some questions to ask:
- How vital and crucial is it for them to fill the position with a qualified applicant?
- What are the organization’s policies on salary negotiation?
- Do they have a range for the offer?
- Can they approve a higher starting salary depending on experience, education, or skill level?
- What is the demand for employees in the position? What is the supply available of qualified applicants?
Practice, Practice, Practice
So, you’ve done your research. What’s next? Have someone (at least two to three times) simulate a practice negotiation session with you. If you can get different people to work with you, that is best.
See some styles of negotiating with different personalities. Here are some tips for your negotiating:
- Focus on how your skills/abilities can help the organization.
- Confidently express yourself.
- Always remain calm.
- Don’t get defensive.
- Practice what you would say if you receive a “No” answer to the salary negotiation.
- Have your desired salary in mind but figure out your low-end salary range. What would you accept if the employer offers a middle-of-the-road compromise?
- Be careful about who you practice with if you are staying at your current organization.
Talk to other women and men in similar roles. Through networking sites like LinkedIn and face-to-face organizational groups (like networking events), we have many more options for meeting people in our field. Seek out trusted mentors or even people further along their career journey than you.
Find out what was successful for them. When I was talking with a mentor in my field, her best advice to me was to remember to negotiate the job benefits and perks, too. She said that the salary is important, but the extras can make a big difference in morale, such as getting more vacation days, etc.
To prepare for a successful salary negotiation, doing your research is critical.
- Line out your skills, talents, experience, etc. on paper.
- Investigate the position’s salary and salary range for your city/region.
- Practice your negotiation with a trusted friend or colleague.
- Talk with others in your field and listen to their advice and tips. Different techniques may work in one industry better than others.
- Remember that your investment in this preparation process is worth it!