Whether you’ve been with a company for years or are just accepting a new position, negotiating salary is a tricky prospect. But with a little preparation and the right mindset, you can make the experience far less nerve-wracking — and far more lucrative. Below are a few tips to prepare you to negotiate your salary.
Do your research.
Before starting negotiations, you should know the average salary range for the position. This will give you a solid starting point and show that you have the industry knowledge to back up your income requirement. Always take into account your experience, education, and skill level. If you’re fresh out of college with no experience in the workforce, you’ll likely be on the lower end of that salary range. If you’ve held a similar position for several years or are requesting a raise in your existing job, try to aim for the higher end.
Adjust your mindset.
Many people go into salary negotiations under the mistaken impression that they’re being greedy by requesting a higher salary. While it’s true that you should always be friendly and respectful during these discussions, you should also be assertive. Hiring managers expect you to negotiate, so know your worth and ask for it. You should never be so tied to the outcome of your negotiations that you’re unwilling to take risks. Go into the interview with the knowledge that negotiating your salary is a mutually beneficial partnership with the hiring manager. You aren’t asking for something you don’t deserve.
Practice your tactics.
Always have a strategy in place before you start negotiating. Many recommend that you never give the first number. If the hiring manager pressures you to name a number, try to deflect whenever possible. You can say things like, “What do you think the position is worth?” or refer to your research into the average salary range. Try to get the interviewer to give the first number (it may even be higher than what you were inclined to offer). If they are unwilling to budge on salary, you have other tools at your disposal. You can ask for more vacation days, a flexible bonus structure, relocation fees, or other benefits to compensate for an initially lower salary.
Regardless of the amount, you shouldn’t accept the first offer, especially if it’s lower than what you need or deserve. If necessary, ask for time to think over the offer. If the number is well below your market value, don't be afraid to turn it down. But chances are, if you do your research and determine what your skills and experience are worth, you can come out of the negotiations with a comfortable salary and a strong relationship with your employer.
The job search is often a frustrating process. And that frustration is increased when you keep landing interviews, but never hear the magic words “You’re hired.” It can be especially challenging to fail at the interview stage, because you aren’t able to receive feedback about what was right and what went wrong. The interview is the last stage—and once you’re off, you can’t go back for another curtain call.
There are many reasons why you might not be getting through at the interview stage. Some of them are beyond your control, such as the other qualified candidates you’re up against for the job. But there are some aspects you can control, and improving them will increase your chances of landing the job you want.
Here’s how you can rethink your interview strategy and adjust your approach to get from “don’t call us, we’ll call you” to “When can you start?”
See what the interviewer sees
One effective way to change your interviewing strategies is to change the way you view the interview itself. If you consider it a performance you’re giving (for an audience of one), this change in mindset can help you spot problems you didn’t realize you were having, and improve your delivery to make a better impression.
So how can you review your own performance? Mock interviews, either with a friend or a professional. They will not only give you more practice and help you sharpen your skills, but they’ll also give you the opportunity to assess your interviewing skills from a new perspective. Go through a mock interview and use a webcam or video camera to record the process. Then you can watch yourself with fresh eyes and pick up any inconsistencies or issues you didn’t notice while you were focused on answering questions.
Make it about the interviewer
If you’ve already gone through some less-than-successful interviews and tried to figure out where you went wrong, you probably already know that it’s important to do your homework. Prior to an interview, you should try to learn everything you can about the company and the specific position you’re going for, and work that into the conversation to demonstrate your genuine interest in this particular job.
But how much time do you spend talking about the actual person who’s giving the interview?
A job interview is often as much about a personal connection as a test for skills and qualifications. You can make a connection with your interviewer by being socially generous—steering the conversation toward the interviewer to make them feel smart and accomplished.
Avoid a straightforward question-and-answer session where you do most of the talking. Instead, ask the interviewer questions about themselves, their concerns and issues, their role at the company, and their goals. Get them talking, and respond with relevant points about your own interests and qualifications. If the interviewer feels that you’re genuinely interested in them as a person, your interview will be far more memorable.
Answer the questions you’re not asked
In some cases, there may be an elephant in the room that’s preventing you from having successful interviews. Aside from the obvious possibilities—sloppy appearance or inappropriate dress, bad first impressions, or obvious non-fit for the job—the most common “elephants” in an interview are current unemployment and long gaps in your resume.
Unless you’re entering the workforce for the first time, it’s important to be prepared to explain why you’re not employed, or why there are long periods of time between jobs on your resume. Be proactive in this regard, and bring it up before the interviewer asks (if they’re planning to ask at all). When you can offer a plausible explanation, you’ll put the interviewer at ease and the remainder of the interview will be smoother.
Ask your own (smart) questions
Just about every employer will ask you whether you have any questions for them at the end of the interview—but don’t save your questions until the end. Asking questions at an interview is a very effective way to demonstrate your interest in a particular company. It shows that you’re not only knowledgeable about the organization and the position, but you’ll also be able to make valuable contributions to the company when you’re hired.
Take the time to come up with a list of intelligent questions that you can ask throughout the interview. Save a few for the end, because you should never answer “Do you have any questions for me?” with “No.” And once your final questions have been answered, close the interview by asking whether there are any gaps you haven’t addressed and how you can follow up or move forward.
Show the interviewer that you’re interested, engaged, and valuable as an employee, and you’ll soon find yourself happily employed with your interviewing days behind you.