How to negotiate smarter, not harder
Negotiating is daunting. You want to be sure you get the most out of your job offer, but you may either be scared to ask for what you want or not know exactly what to ask for. Conversations around money are always awkward, period. And when you’re in the heat of negotiation, you might cave and accept anything you’re offered, just to be done with it. But if you’re not asking for more, you’re shortchanging yourself— literally. Here are a few things to know when entering into any negotiation, so you can walk away with everything you deserve and then some.
1. Know your worth, and then add tax
First and foremost, it’s important to remember the immense value you’ll add to a company and to go after what you want. Not speaking up in a negotiation is quite literally leaving money on the table. If it helps, make a list for yourself of the various wins in your career and the good feedback you’ve gotten as a direct report, partner, or leader along the way. This not only serves as a personal reminder to fight for what you deserve, but it’s also a list you can reference and refer to as you negotiate with the people trying to hire you. Citing your accomplishments and positive reviews is a way to let others know what a high-caliber candidate they’re getting. And they’ll likely compensate you in kind.
2. Connect early and connect often
A rule of thumb to remember: companies don’t negotiate—people do. When you go out of your way to empathize with the person across the table and create a bond of connection with them, you’ll get a lot further, faster. Make sure to humanize all of your interactions and find ways to connect with the person you’re negotiating with on a deeper level than just numbers and offer letters. Follow up on something personal they said in the last conversation, or go out of your way to ask them details about their life and what they love about the company you’re trying to join. Try to understand what that person’s motivation is for their role in the company and come up with ways to let them know you’re there to add value to their position in any way you can.
3. Never say your number first
An easy way to lowball yourself is by being the first to offer up a salary expectation in any given negotiation. The company may be willing and able to pay thousands above and beyond what you might think the role is worth. In most negotiations, the hiring manager or recruiter will start by asking you what you’re looking for in terms of compensation. That is to say: they want you to name a dollar figure first. A graceful way to throw it back to them is to say, “I definitely have a number in mind, but I’m sure your team is working within a specific salary band, and I would love to know what the range is for this specific role.” Even if the number they toss out is lower than you were hoping for, you can reply with, “My rate is actually closer to X, but I’m sure we can figure something out. I’d love to keep talking because this is such a great opportunity.” In many cases, they’ll do what they can to meet you where you need to be. And if not, there are other forms of compensation you can seek.
4. Look for the extras
Some salary caps are locked and that’s that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t come out of the deal with more than you were initially offered. Flexible start dates, vacation days, and signing bonuses are all ways to up the ante on your offer. For example, jobs in the fashion industry might come with a clothing allowance. Tech companies, among others, often offer an education budget—which means you could pick up new skills on the company dime and come out with more bullet points for your resume. Find out what the possibilities are, from stock options to additional sick days—and remember, some of these perks are worth just as much to your quality of life as actual money.
Remember what you’re worth
The bottom line is, it’s rare that a company will show you their entire hand when they give you an initial offer. Often, there’s at least a small bump in salary or a range of perks they’re saving as a means to negotiate with. And don’t forget, if you’ve gotten to the job offer point in the hiring conversation, they’re interested in you and will find ways to land you as an employee. Once you remember what you’re worth to them as a long-term hire, you can step up and fight for exactly what you need to be happy and satisfied at your new job.