15 tips for negotiating a salary

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Talking about salary with a potential or current employer can be intimidating. While 81% of employees surveyed by Glassdoor in 2019 believed they deserved a raise, 40% accepted their initial salary offer and did not negotiate in their current or most recent job. Rather than wallow in low wages, leverage these tips to overcome the sweaty palms and self-doubt that come with salary negotiation.

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Know your market value

Before entering negotiations, objectively assess your market value. Research how much others in your position make at your company or in your city. Plug your qualifications into an online salary estimator to calculate how much you should be compensated or browse median salaries on the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics site. If you notice a gap between the standard and your current pay grade or offer, you know you need to negotiate a new number.

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Build a case

Beyond knowing your value in the general market, gage your value at previous or current employers too. As Glassdoor suggests, "build a case." New hires, harken back to accomplishments from previous positions. Long-time employees, do the same for your current job. Knowing why you deserve a raise empowers you to better negotiate. Similarly, preparing valid explanations for vulnerable areas of your resume or employment history may ease nerves too.

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Be confident and practice your pitch

Grow familiar with your pitch. Recite it in front of the mirror or play out the negotiations with a good friend. While more men and women are negotiating salaries, a 2019 Glassdoor survey found that just 59% of women and 70% of men were confident in their ability to do so. Research points to fear of backlash, not women lacking self-confidence, as the reason for this "confidence gap." Studies show women are self-confident in the workplace. What they lack, however, is confidence that their workplace will respect their requests.

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Pick the right time

As a new hire, salary discussion is bound to crop up. However, for all other employees, it is up to you to mention salary negotiations with a manager. Before requesting a meeting, consider the financial situation of the company at large and how close you are to the next salary review cycle. According to PayScale, the three best times to re-negotiate your salary are: when you undertake a new responsibility or important assignment, jump to a new project after successfully wrapping up another, or a few months before an annual review.

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Have a desired salary range, not a single number

Having an ideal salary in mind is fine. However, it is unreasonable to dismiss all offers that fail to match that specific number. Instead, know the lowest figure you can accept in good conscience. Keep this honest range to yourself and out of the negotiation room.

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If asked, share a modified salary range

If asked for a desired salary by an employer, use your ideal salary - not your rock-bottom number - as the lower end of your range. A 2015 Columbia Business School study found so-called bolstering ranges frequently led to better settlements for the offer-maker without negatively impacting their relationship with the other party. Common knowledge may warn against making the first offer in negotiations. However, being the first to toss out a salary figure allows you to anchor negotiations and steer talks in your favor.

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Know your state's regulations on salary history questions

Presently, 17 states and 20 localities have adopted laws or regulations prohibiting employers from requesting salary history information from job applicants. Basing employee salary on their wage history perpetuates a cycle of pay discrimination in the workplace. In instances where such questions are legal, Glassdoor recommends you redirect the conversation and focus on what you want to be paid now, not what you have been in the past.

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Listen and ask questions

Negotiations are not one-sided. Listen to the other party and respond to their assertions with questions. Ask how they reached the figure they have offered, how employees are evaluated, how that impacts raises or promotions and whether there are available benefits.

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Don't forget job perks

You can gain more from a job than just a salary. If told, "sorry, there is no room for negotiation," consider bargaining for other job perks. Ask for available tuition reimbursement, training, professional development certifications or mentoring. While these perks will not result in immediate cash flow, they will be profitable in the long-term. To make up for a lacking paycheck, you may also negotiate vacation days, remote work or your weekly schedule.

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If the answer is 'not now,' ask when

The top rationale for denying a raise, according to a 2018 PayScale study, is budgetary constraints. If the company cannot afford to offer a raise or higher salary at the moment, ask your manager if this monetary shortfall is a long-term problem and if you may revisit a salary increase another time.

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Be gracious

Putting yourself out there causes an inward rush of anxiety, frustration and nerves. Remain steady, professional and persuasive throughout the conversation. In everything, show gratitude. Glassdoor recommends you be gracious and keep the conversation positive. Be understanding of all reasonable circumstances and appreciate the opportunity to advocate on your own behalf. Thank the other party for their time and mutual understanding.

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Ask for the offer in writing before signing

After negotiations are done, ask that all the agreed-upon benefits and salary be documented on paper. Phone or conference room conversations are lovely, but any offer not cemented on paper may be subject to change.

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Take your time

Decisions on job choice are not meant to be made in a matter of minutes. If needed, take time to evaluate the offer placed on the table. Ask for 24 to 48 hours to think through your decision. Don't be afraid to walk away from a job offer if it falls short of what you hoped.

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If it all goes well, remember to prove you deserved the investment

If you leave negotiations with the salary you desired, remember your responsibilities will increase. Even if the higher pay grade is not accompanied by a promotion, you will need to prove your boss correct in increasing your pay grade.

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If negotiations don't end how you hope, consider why

If disappointed by the result of negotiations, PayScale recommends tracing your steps, diagnosing what went wrong and using those lessons when you negotiate again. If asking for a raise with a current employer, meet with a manager to map your career goals. Together, craft a plan that increases your responsibility and ultimately lands you a salary-raising promotion. In the meantime, consider running a cash-earning side-job. 

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