We all know that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. But when it comes to negotiating our salaries, too many of us lose our voices.
Research shows that only about half of us try to persuade an employer to give us better pay when we’re finalising a new job offer. But failing to get the best deal can cost you a fortune over your lifetime of earning.
“Many job candidates don’t know what to ask for and end up leaving money on the table. You don’t have to be one of them,” says Lynn Taylor, an author and workplace expert. Try this guide to make sure you get what you deserve, in your current job or your next move.
Do your research and have plenty of data
As Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, puts it: “If you walk into a salary negotiation without a number, you’re at the mercy of an experienced hiring manager who will simply control the conversation.”
But if you pluck a figure out of the air, you’ll soon be found out. Instead, research salaries for comparable jobs by asking others in your field or talking to recruiters. Then you’ll be able to respond with specifics if an employer makes a lowball offer.
Don’t go for round numbers
You know when you look at something in a shop priced £9.99 and it somehow doesn’t seem as expensive as a tenner? A similar psychological trick seems to work on employers.
Research suggests that specific figures, like £34,500, rather than round numbers, like £35,000, generate a higher counter-offer from employers. “Precise numbers are these potent anchors,” says Malia F. Mason, Professor at Columbia Business School. In other words, they make it sound like you’ve done your homework.
Get the timing right
If you’re asking for a raise in a job you’ve been doing for a while, timing is everything. Psychologists told Forbes magazine that asking at the right time in the work week could make your boss more amenable.
Mondays are out, obviously. But Friday morning could be ideal, because of the “morning morality effect”, where we tend to make more ethical decisions early in the day. “It may make sense to take advantage of your boss’s morning morality (after the coffee, of course),” says psychologist Shannon Kolakowski.
Be clear on whether you can afford to walk away
Ultimately, your leverage consists in refusing to do the job for less than you’re worth. If the salary offer isn’t high enough, that might mean taking the scary step of politely declining and walking away. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all over, though.
“By walking away from a potential deal, you’ll learn how much the other party wants to work with you,” says Ted Leonhardt, a designer who coaches creative professionals in negotiation skills. Keep an ear out for that phone call to win you back.
Consider alternative benefits
Sometimes it’s clear that a company’s budget can’t stretch as far as you would like, but the job is too appealing to turn down. Then it’s time to get creative: are there other benefits that you can ask for to boost your compensation package?
A better job title, more time off, flexible hours or the opportunity to develop your career with an employer-funded college course can all be ways to sweeten the deal if money is tight.