3 Tips for Negotiating a Higher Salary

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Companies are hiring, and willing to offer more money for the right candidates. But you'll have to convince them you're worth more, and there are right and wrong ways to do it.

Looking for a new job? More and more companies are hiring. The economy gained 243,000 jobs in January, bringing the unemployment rate to a three-year low of 8.3 percent, according to Bloomberg.

And a recent survey found out something interesting when it called 1,600 hiring executives: 38 percent were more willing to negotiate pay now than they were a year ago.

The study, by staffing firm Robert Half, asked a random sample of chief financial officers, “Compared to 12 months ago, are you more willing or less willing to negotiate salary with top job candidates?” The responses broke down like this…

  • Much more willing – 11 percent
  • Somewhat more willing – 27 percent
  • No change – 54 percent
  • Somewhat less willing – 4 percent
  • Much less willing – 1 percent
  • Doesn’t apply/not hiring – 3 percent

Of course, it’s important to approach negotiations the right way, and while Robert Half has some cute one-minute career blooper videos showing you what not to do, they also offer some advice on what you should do. Here’s a summary of what they’re saying…

1. Do your homework

Learn what you can about the company’s financial situation before you interview. If the company recently laid off employees or saw a substantial loss, there may be less wiggle room than if they’re going on a hiring spree or recently brought on new investors.

Also find out what people in similar positions in the area earn. How? By networking, asking recruiters, and looking at free salary guides from Robert Half, PayScale.com, or GlassDoor.com. Read the position description carefully and understand any differences between what the job title usually means and what it means at this particular company.

2. Be patient and honest

Let them bring up money, and be clear about the expectations attached to that figure.

If you hear nothing until the very end of the interview process, politely inquire about the salary range. If they ask you for a figure, you might say something like, “It depends on the job duties, but I’m sure we can come to an agreement.” And once you understand what they want, explain why you deserve more. Highlight the value you’d bring to the employer with specific achievements or skills – and refer to the pay grade research you’ve done.

Your current salary and competing offers may also give you some leverage, although some consider using the latter poor taste. But one thing is for sure: Don’t mislead hiring authorities about those numbers, because they can call your bluff and check ’em out. If you’re worried you’ll be locked in at the old figure, repeat how you’ve grown and why you’re worth more now.

3. Keep your options open

Think total compensation, not base pay. If you can’t negotiate a higher number on the latter, ask about other perks – like retirement plans, vacation time, tech toys (laptop, smartphone), and company car or gas allowance.

And if you can’t come to an agreement, don’t leave the hiring manager remembering you for the wrong reasons. Don’t be huffy, cross, or arrogant. It’s a small world, after all, so why burn a bridge? If you aren’t sure about the offer and want to discuss it with people you trust, ask for time to consider it – but be clear when you can give a final answer.

Negotiating can be an intimidating process, but it’s an important one. You’re setting a threshold not only for your current job but also potentially what you’ll make in the future. For most people, money isn’t the most important thing in the world, so don’t pass up an exciting opportunity to build skills or work with cool people based solely on the dollar figure.

Want to increase the pay at a job you already have? The process is pretty similar. Check out our story 3 Steps to Get the Raise You Deserve for details on what to do and what to avoid.

Stacy Johnson

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