On a cold November evening, I sat at the desk in my bedroom and stared anxiously out the window.
Days before, I had officially been offered a job I wanted but, the salary was below my expectation.
The company wanted a decision ASAP.
Of course, I searched Google for tips to negotiate my salary. However, while the advice on the web was helpful, it was impersonal, and I still felt uncertain about navigating my negotiation.
I ultimately wished I could talk to someone who had negotiated their salary a hundred times before. Someone who could answer my questions; walk me through how a negotiation typically went, and honestly, I wanted help finding the words to ask for (and get) the salary I expected.
Feeling desperate, I sent an email to Rob Hines – the Executive Director at the time of my alma mater’s career center.
Rob responded to my email within hours. He arranged a phone call. During that call, he helped me prepare a conversation that got me $10,000 more annually than initially offered.
According to a LinkedIn February 2021 survey, 40% of women have never negotiated their salary when accepting a new job (while 76% of men have), and almost half (49%) haven’t negotiated with their company while employed there (while 71% of men have).
Those numbers aren’t great.
I asked Rob for permission to share what we discussed in that phone call so that more women could have access to this knowledge. He agreed.
In addition, I asked Andrew McCaskill, LinkedIn’s Sr. Director of Global Communications and Career Expert to contribute more insight and tips to the conversation. He jumped on board.
This guide to negotiating your salary is part personal account, and part expert advice. It’s packed with formulaic steps you can follow to get negotiating, links to support you further, and words you can use to have a successful conversation – all tried, tested, and true.
Preparing to Negotiate
Step 1: Find out what other people in similar roles are being paid
I learned from Rob, that the conversation that is going to get you more money is one that is grounded in facts. You need to know what the current rates are for your role in your industry and geographic location.
“Know what the low end of the industry is getting, what the middle of the industry is getting, and what the most experienced person in your job is getting. That will tell you the salary range that you should be getting or that you should be aiming within,” says Rob.
If you know somebody that’s working in your industry, and you can reach out to them and ask what they’re making, Rob says to bite the bullet and do it. “If they’re willing to tell you, it works towards your advantage”.
If you don’t have the luxury of asking someone, you can also look for the information on websites like Glassdoor.com, ziprecruiter.com, or indeed.com.
I pieced together the industry salary range for my role by entering my job title, industry, and then setting the location on Zip Recruiter and Indeed. Job postings that came up in my search listed compensations. Wading through these posts I found on average, that the lowest wage for my role was around 52,000 a year, the mid-range salary was around 86,000, and the highest salary I saw was about 102,000 a year.
Andrew says that LinkedIn Salary is also a great resource to learn more about salaries specific to your job.
“You can view what members earn on average for a specific role and city, broken down by base salary, total compensation, and additional compensation like bonuses. You can also dive into insights at a company level.”
I tested LinkedIn Salary after Andrew shared the resource, and it was in line with what I saw on Zip Recruiter and Indeed. I liked the addition of being able to see if someone had reported additional compensations as part of their package like shares in the company.
Step 2: Note down your accomplishments & accolades
In addition to knowing the industry salary range, Andrew says it’s important to have personal data about your performance.
He advises going to a salary negotiation with proof points as to why you deserve a pay bump, “like an increase in company sales tied to your work, or any outstanding praise or projects you completed that year, etc.”
Step 3: Check your mindset
Another tip that Rob shared was about checking your mindset. “I always tell people to be completely mercenary i.e out for your interest.”
Rob encourages going into a negotiation thinking aggressively, but also with the mindset that you’re going to take the job while you look for another job if they don’t meet you halfway.
“Ironically, it’s so much easier to move from one job to another job. I don’t know what it is, but it seems to persist.”
When it comes to mindset, Andrew says, “For anyone asking for a raise, being denied can be hard on many levels, so knowing what you’ll do if you get a “no” or “not right now” is critical to determine before going into the conversation and will help you to move forward during the negotiation process.”
How to bring up the subject
Step 4: Decide on in-person or via email
Personally, I don’t love having these conversations in IRL. But I wondered if sending an email would do me a disservice. I shared that with Rob.
“If you’re not comfortable, or if you feel it’s a little confrontational, it’s quite alright to write a super diplomatic email,” he says.
However, Andrew suggests, if possible, to book a time with your manager where you can talk live. “And clearly state that the objective of your meeting request is to present your case for a salary review.”
Andrew shares, that research shows that people who engage in small talk before negotiating are far more successful than those who don’t. Having the conversation live, gives you the chance to connect first, even if it’s just talking briefly about the weather or what you did over the weekend.
For those who may feel intimidated about having the conversation in person, Andrew shares that LinkedIn Learning offers great courses by experts that can help you prepare further to have this conversation, including Asking for a Raise, taught by Negotiation Consultant Lisa Gates, or Negotiating Your Compensation Package taught by Emilie Aries.
Step 5: Pick the right person to have the conversation with
In my case, HR had sent me an email offering me the job. They had attached the new contract and asked me to sign and return it.
I opted to counter via email, but Rob advised me not to counter directly with HR.
“I’m going let you in on a little secret,” Rob says, “if you have the option, choose to speak to the most senior person you have a rapport with who is in a decision-making position vs HR.”
Those decision-makers can have more of a positive influence on the outcome than HR who may be working within more standardized confines.
What to say when negotiating your salary
Step 6: Having the conversation
“Be very affirmative,” Rob says. If you’ve been working at the company, you can state that you’ve enjoyed the experience, and you want to stay. You can say that you see a future there and that you’re eager to contribute.
Andrew says you can also highlight how you plan to continue your strong work at the company.
Then bring up the issue. Here is also where you can talk about your accomplishments and accolades.
I talked about bringing almost 10 years of work experience, and my level of education in my negotiation. I also brought up my performance as an intern and I had proof, ready to show, that a senior colleague had commented that I was performing at a level beyond my title when I was an intern.
Then I stated what I felt would be an appropriate compensation within the salary range I had researched.
If you’re having the conversation in person, besides small talk Andrew says, “It’s also a good idea to start with a few open-ended diagnostic questions to help you get a sense of your negotiation partner’s agenda, their goals, and priorities for the meeting. As you do this, you can conversationally fold in your agenda, as well.”
Here are some examples of open-ended diagnostic questions: How did you arrive at that number? What are your constraints? What is the path to success or promotion? How did you come up with that idea?
Andrew furthers, “While discussions around salaries can be difficult, it’s extremely important to keep it professional. Take control, but stay calm and focused on the facts. Rather than discussing your personal needs, such as rising bills or the cost of living, focus on the evidence you’ve gathered to support your pay raise request.”
Over his career, Andrew has negotiated his salary at the point of hire and various points of employment. He sums up that the key to navigating a successful conversation for him was knowing the market value for the work he was doing, asking for clarity about pay bands and where his current salary sat in those pay bands, and being really clear about his accomplishments and additions to the work and culture.
Step 7: Dealing with negative reactions
If the decision-maker is taken back by the number you’ve pitched, Rob says you can offer another number you can live with on the understanding that you’d have a complete review in six months with the goal of getting to the original number. If you go this route, Rob says to be sure to get that promise for a review in writing.
Andrew says, “It’s important to keep in mind that, even if a raise is off the table, there could be other ways you might be able to improve upon your role. Stay calm, remember – the point of a negotiation is to have a dialogue.”
He mentions it’s also worth noting that a lateral move that helps you gain experience in a different function can be very valuable to your career. So, think through if moving sideways would help your career and better position you for more compensation faster.
On a broader scale, Andrew says it’s also key to have a good sense of the overall health and financial stability of the company.
“This can help you know, not just what to ask for, but when to ask for it. Asking for a raise is always about timing, and sometimes that means knowing when the timing isn’t right. Couching your salary requests in real insights – the company’s strong performance last quarter, for example – will help you make a strong case for an increase.”
Negotiating Other items
Rob’s final tip is about negotiating beyond salary. “You can ask for things like a $3,500 pension contribution or a $5,000 signing bonus.”
More flexible hours, a shorter workweek, or on-the-job-training opportunities to help you up-level your skills should be on the table too, Andrew adds.
Don’t forget to Practice
Andrew’s final piece of advice is about practicing. “I can’t overstate how important it is to rehearse,” he says. “Practice having this conversation with a mentor or partner multiple times. It will make you more comfortable and resolute in the presentation and negotiation.”