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Salary negotiations are difficult in the best of circumstances. Throw in the fact that we’re navigating a turbulent moment in the job market (we’ve heard it being called ‘The Great Resignation’), and negotiations can feel even trickier.

You want to ensure you’re compensated for your responsibilities and, leverage the current moment so that you’re not leaving money on the table, but you also want to avoid alienating or offending your potential employers.

And while companies are scrambling for new talent, the downside is that you’re still competing against many other candidates. A Bankrate survey found that 55% of Americans plan to look for a new job this year, with one of the top 2 reasons being better pay.

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In this article, I’m going to share some data-driven, actionable tactics that you can use to properly navigate complex salary negotiations.

Understand your value and advocate for your worth

Whether it’s a casual discussion during initial interviews or a formal negotiation, preparation is key. You want to enter any type of salary negotiation with a confident mindset. You are your own advocate, so, it’s imperative to set expectations for yourself as well as your potential new employers. Hired reports show expectation gaps directly correlate with wage gaps. As such, start with the foundation of knowing your worth. 

When negotiating, remember, even incremental changes can make a significant difference in the long run. As a little food for thought, calculations show an employee who starts a job at $80K will earn $1.2M+ less throughout a 40-year career than a person who starts at $90K.

To combat uncertainty for appropriate salary levels, conduct your own research. Find similar roles (taking seniority into consideration) using digital resources like:

Validate your request with data and examples

The second part of requesting an appropriate salary is backing up your request with proof of your value. As a leader, you know that data and real-life examples are the best way to show ROI. That same principle applies to salary negotiations.

Articulate your qualifications with specific examples. Saying ‘85% of my team members met their quarterly and annual goals last year’ is much more convincing than, ‘I believe I’m an influential mentor and effective manager.

Ask yourself the following questions to prepare data-backed proof of your abilities: 

  • What in-demand skills do I possess? What examples show this?
  • What’s differentiated me from other managers and team leads in the past? 
  • What positive testimonials and feedback can I share? (Think performance reviews, emails from superiors, evaluations, etc.

Take a look at Hired’s 2021 State of Software Engineers report and the 2021 State of Tech Salaries report for even more insights into the top industry skills by market (as well as salary data).

Prepare alternative options

There will be times when a company can’t meet your requests, but you’re still interested in the role. To circumvent this issue, you need two lists: Your deal breakers and alternate requests. 

Designate the deal breakers

You haven’t gotten to where you are in your career by not knowing what you want. Make a list of your must-haves for any job, for example remote work, hybrid scheduling, flexible hours, robust health insurance, and most importantly, minimum salary requirements (you won’t directly share the last item though – more on that later).

These deal-breakers will help you know what you absolutely need from a new company and when to walk away.

Create a list of supplementary benefits

Often, companies can’t offer additional bumps in your salary but are open to alternative benefit packages. Develop a list of meaningful benefits or perks that directly equate to decreased expenses or increased value for you or your family.

For instance, a more comprehensive health plan that covers your dependents can significantly save money each month. Working remotely can decrease commuting costs and give you extra time in your day. Wellness reimbursements or a company cell phone can knock monthly expenses off your budget.

Another factor to consider is equity packages; Hired’s Salary Negotiation Guide provides an in-depth breakdown of how to weigh equity or stock options.

Avoid trigger phrases

Believe it or not, there is a list of phrases you should never utter (or type) during a salary negotiation. Sometimes it’s easier to prepare when you know what not to do, so avoid getting trapped in a bad situation by striking these expressions from your vocabulary:

‘The original offer works for me.

Even if you’re happy with the original offer, there’s always room for improvement. No HR or C-suite professional gives you their ceiling salary off-the-bat. At the very least, request time for consideration.

‘My current salary is…’

First, in many US states, this question is illegal. Second, what you’re currently making is irrelevant. This is a new role, with new responsibilities at a different company. Don’t pigeonhole yourself. Instead, offer your desired salary range based on your experience and value.

‘I don’t know.’ or ‘I’m not sure.’

If you don’t know your salary requirements, desired benefits, or ideal bonus structure, you’ll look incompetent. Moreover, the employer will then shape the conversation, and it will likely go in a direction that’s more favorable for them. Preparation is crucial.

‘I think…’ or ‘I feel…’ 

When speaking about your values, future requirements, or past performances, using these phrases will make it seem like your claims are up-for-debate. Conversely, declarative, specific statements will come across much more assured and confident. Remember, evidence is your best friend. 

‘The least I can accept is…’

When you give your floor salary, you’ll often walk away with it. Speak in ranges and always start a bit higher than the lowest amount you’re willing to accept.

‘That’s my final offer.’ 

Negotiations take time and dialogue. Ultimatums end the conversation. Perhaps you can’t get the ideal starting salary, but you might still be able to negotiate your alternative benefits. (For more on how to sidestep roadblocks in negotiations, check out Krist DePaul’s Harvard Business Review article.)

Negotiate yourself into your dream role and salary

Negotiations can be challenging and uncomfortable, but the experience is invaluable. You’re setting yourself up for financial success for years to come. In addition, your future employer will respect your business savvy and preparation, and understand what’s important to you as a team member. Just remember: Use these strategies, take time to prepare, and start your negotiations on the right foot.

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