Any situation that involves asking for more money can be awkward and unpleasant. But when it comes to salary negotiation, you should consider it one of life's necessary evils (like dentist trips or pesky insurance payments) that you just have to endure to prevent future regrets.
Why? Because employers have a tendency to low-ball their employees—it's in their best interest to start low so that if you choose to counteroffer, the numbers won't be too outrageous. Those who don't ask for more miss out on tons of money.
Salary talks might be uncomfortable, but realize that counteroffers and negotiations are just another routine process. There is no shame attached to asking for what you truly deserve. And with proper preparation, you can come out a stronger, more confident professional.
Check out these negotiation best practices to help make the conversation go as smoothly as possible:
1. Wait for the employer to make an offer. See if you can push or delay the salary discussion until after you've secured the position and proven yourself valuable to the company, says Liz Taylor, founder of the consulting company Etiquette Principles. "Think about it this way, if the employer wants you to work at their company then you are in a much better position of power to negotiate," she says.
Same goes for asking for a raise during your performance review. First, discuss your performance, and see if they'll be giving you the standard cost-of-living raise—then get into your killer negotiation mode as soon as the number is on the table. If you absolutely can't avoid revealing your desired salary range first, stick to your guns and state what you know you're worth. Be prepared to walk away if you have to.
2. Don't mention personal reasons why you need money. This reeks of desperation—not to mention the fact that discussing your personal issues is very unprofessional. "My wife just had twins, I just bought a new house. These are not justifications for salary increases," says certified executive coach Marsha Egan.
3. Be flexible. One way to achieve flexibility is to offer a range rather than a firm number. "If a company can't meet you at the magical number, be open to alternatives such as profit sharing, strong benefit platform, stock options, company car with expense allowance, etc. Some of these perks really add up quickly," Taylor says.
4. Give the employer hard evidence as a reference. Respect your employer's time by coming prepared with research and a hard copy of your salary request. This way, he won't have to take notes himself. Your research should include your market value (which you can research using salary calculators) as well as your (past or potential) quantifiable contribution to the company. Talk to other folks in your field about average ranges just to confirm your asking salary range is realistic. "Lean on someone in the HR field to do a salary survey for you to determine what similar positions are paying," Taylor says. "Knowing industry averages and market demand are crucial in your negotiations." Your goal should be to get at least the market rate based on your experience and your position.
5. Never interrupt, ever. Egan stresses this point—it might be tempting to interrupt in the heat of the moment but talking over your boss won't do you any favors.
6. Give them time to think about it. They might have to consult their uppers or do some more research themselves. Let them know that they don't have to respond to your counteroffer right away.
7. If you get shot down, don't show disappointment. Take it in stride, Egan says. "Follow it up with 'what can I do differently or more of to assure that I will receive the increase I seek next year?'" she says. "Take notes on all this, give your boss quarterly progress reports and do each one 110 percent."
8. End the conversation on a light, friendly note. Thank them for their time and ask about how they're doing in general. Small talk can go a long way after an intense conversation.
Ritika Trikha is a writer for CareerBliss, an online career community dedicated to helping people find happiness in the workplace. Check out CareerBliss for millions of job listings, company reviews, salary information, and a free career happiness assessment.