Then, think about the level of contribution you’re going to make to the company. Will you have a direct impact to the bottom line? If your answer is yes, you can add more to your value. Remember an employer brings you on because they believe you will help them earn more than what you cost, which is of course your salary. Think of it as your personal ROI.
Once you have this figured out, you’ll be able to calculate your own personal market value, and not just a calculated increase from what you most recently earned.
How and When to Answer the Salary Question
You want to avoid talking numbers until there is an offer on the table. Easier said than done, right? Here are some responses to “What salary are you looking for?”:
- I’m sure we can reach an agreement on salary if I am the right person for the job, so let’s explore if I am a good fit.
- Let’s hold off discussing salary until you know you want me. What else would you like to know about my expertise?
- I understand you want to know if you can afford me, but let’s figure out what I can produce, and if I am the right fit first.
If they insist on an answer you can say “I’m very uncomfortable talking about money at this point since I don’t want to get screened out because I was making too much or too little.”
And, if they still persist, you might say, “Could you give me the range you’re thinking about? I’ll tell you if we’re in the right ballpark.” Now, you are flipping the question back to the employer and you get them to go first.
Once you have your personal market value worked out and gotten rid of your fears, you’ll be able to approach the negotiation with confidence when you get the offer. Let’s talk about some tips on the best way to make that salary negotiation conversation run smoothly.
Negotiating Your Offer
Companies may differ in the way they present an offer. If you find yourself in a situation where the employer makes a verbal offer, the best thing to do is to repeat that number and then just pause. Be silent. You may be pleasantly surprised at what happens next. The employer could respond with something like “We are flexible, what did you have in mind?”
Then you can respond with something like, “May I share my ideal number with you? Let’s use it as a target, not a demand. Here it is.” And then you share your researched delighted number.
Act excited about the offer, but buy yourself some time by asking to have a meeting to discuss the terms. That will give you time to really assess all aspects of the offer, because it’s not just the salary that you may want to adjust.
Prepare for that meeting, and have at least three things you want to discuss. This way there are other things to compromise on if you don’t end up with exactly the salary you want. So when you walk into the meeting, stay positive and reiterate your excitement about the opportunity. Then tell them what you want to discuss. For example, salary, starting date and telecommuting options. Start with salary. You can say “What you offered is X, what I had in mind, based on my research is Y. Can you help me with this?”
The important thing to keep in mind with this meeting is to be collaborative. Even if they say they can’t budge on the salary, come back with something like “I appreciate you telling me that, let’s move on to discuss the start date.”
At the end of the meeting state your appreciation for what got accomplished, and then ask what the next steps are. Make sure you get the revised offer in writing and get them to agree on when you need to let them know your final decision. Or sometimes in the case of high-level executive position, you may have to go a couple rounds of negotiation meetings to hammer out details of your total compensation package. Either way, follow up in writing with a thank you outlining what you agreed, so both sides are totally clear.
Keep in mind companies asking for salary are using it as just another screening tool, and some might eliminate you for not revealing it. However, most employers want good talent to solve their problems, regardless of salary history. It’s much better to risk non-disclosure than box yourself in to being underpaid or screened out because you make too much or too little.
So, regardless if there is a law preventing an employer from asking your salary history or not, keep it confidential, and you’ll earn the pay you deserve.