Negotiating your salary can be awkward and challenging — and actually getting the pay you want often seems impossible.
But it isn’t.
“A job interview can be stressful, especially when it comes time to talk about money,” says etiquette expert and “Poised for Success” author Jacqueline Whitmore. “However, you can get what you want and deserve — most job seekers just aren’t sure when and how to ask for it.”
To master the delicate dance that is a salary negotiation, you need to be able to push without offending the hiring manager or undercutting yourself.
Here’s how the pros do it:
Research the market.
To successfully negotiate your salary, negotiation expert Kim Keating writes in 'Lean In For Graduates,' you'll need to gather information to figure out what you're really worth. 'The time you invest can pay off in a big way. And I mean that literally,' she writes.
To protect yourself against accepting too little or asking for far too much, you can turn to sites like Glassdoor and Salary.com to determine the average compensation range for someone with your level of experience and skills and in your industry or company (or a comparable one, in terms of number of employees, revenue size, and location).
'At the end of the day, a candidate has a number in mind as to what they think they're worth,' says Eddie R. Koller III, managing director and partner at Howard-Sloan-Koller Group, a technology and media recruiting firm. 'But a company has limits to what they can spend.'
Set your goals in advance.
Once you know what you're worth, decide how much you would like to make and what's the lowest offer you'd be willing to accept.
'Without a plan, you allow the opposing party to define your goals instead of the other way around,' she writes on Motto.
Don't talk money until the interview process is over.
If you can delay discussing pay until there's an offer on the table, you should.
'Once they have decided that they have to have you, only then are you in the position to negotiate,' says Dan Martineau, president of Martineau Recruiting Technology, a firm specializing in IT executive positions.
If your interviewer tries to talk about salary early on, Martineau tells Business Insider that the best thing to do is to tell the interviewer you would like to defer a conversation about compensation until after the company has had a chance to evaluate whether you're the right fit for them.
Open with something personal.
As previously reported on Business Insider, in an experiment where Kellogg and Stanford students negotiated by email, those who shared unrelated personal details over the course of the negotiation -- hobbies, hometowns, etc. -- ended up getting significantly better results than those who kept things to name, email, and the dry monetary details.
Opening up a bit sends a signal that you're trustworthy, according to Grant, and it makes it more likely that they will reciprocate.
Don't ever disclose your current salary.
Revealing your salary history has the potential to negatively affect your income for your entire career.
'I would never, ever disclose my current salary or salary history to a prospective employer, even if it means ending the interview process,' writes recruiter and 'Ask the Headhunter' author, Nick Corcodilos. 'That is my advice to job hunters.'
If an interviewer asks what your current salary is, Corcodilos suggests politely but firmly declining to disclose your salary history by saying something along the lines of, 'I'd be glad to help you assess what I'd be worth to your business by showing you what I can do for you, but my salary is personal and confidential, just as the salaries of your own employees are.'
Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of consulting firm The Human Workplace, recommends in a post on LinkedIn answering the question indirectly by giving your target salary range instead.
'How are you ever going to increase your earnings if every time you change jobs, you get a tiny raise over what they paid you at the last place?' she asks.
Be prepared to prove your value ...
Don't be afraid to toot your own horn a little.
'Be prepared to prove your value to the employer,' says Whitmore. 'Have all of your facts and figures in order. Come prepared with a list of your qualifications, accomplishments (personal and professional), how you saved your last company money or increased your company's bottom line, and why you are the one best suited for the job.'
... but only provide a couple reasons for your request.
'When preparing to make a first offer, people often overcorrect,' writes Wharton professor Adam Grant. 'They're so concerned about justifying their positions that they marshal as many reasons as possible.'
Grant points to research that found skilled negotiators averaged fewer than two reasons per argument, compared with three reasons per argument from the non-experts.
He explains that more reasons can dilute an argument, especially if some are weaker than others. And presenting too many reasons can convey a lack of confidence, 'making clear that we're uncertain of the legitimacy of our offer. An effective first offer is best supported by one or two compelling reasons,' Grant says.
Be excited, but not desperate.
You should reiterate your excitement and stay positive, but don't be so excited that you seem desperate. You have no idea how many other candidates the hiring manager is interviewing so play it cool, says Martineau.
'Desperate is problematic. Eager is not. I want people who are eager and excited,' he says. 'It's only a good investment on my end if it's a good investment on your end.'
However, Koller says that showing the employer that you're excited about working for the company does make them more inclined to give you want you want.
Make the first offer.
As conventional wisdom goes, you should wait for the other party to make the initial offer in order to get more information to act on.
In reality, Grant says it's much better to make the first offer because you get to set the 'anchor,' the figure that affects the trajectory of the negotiation. As previously reported on Business Insider, people who make very high first offers end up with a much better result.
The first offer pulls the other person in its direction, and it's difficult to adjust the other way.
Emphasise what the company gains by hiring you.
Recent research suggests that, when negotiating, emphasising what you're giving the other person as opposed to what they're losing makes the other person more likely to concede.
Make sure you highlight what skills and experience you're offering the company and your potential boss first, and use that to justify what you're asking for.
Give a salary range rather than a target.
Offering a pay range instead of an exact number opens up room for discussion and shows the employer that you're flexible. A range also 'gives you a cushion,' says Martineau, in case your asking salary is too high.
'Most companies will meet you in your range, even if it's the bottom third of that range,' he says. 'Basically, if they want you, they don't want to send the wrong message by not meeting you in that range.'
Presenting a range gives people information about what you're actually asking for, and it makes you seem polite and reasonable -- which means you're less likely to get hit with a hard-line counteroffer.
Use odd, extremely precise numbers.
Using a weird, precise number makes sense during a negotiation. For example, instead of asking for $70,000, you're better off asking for $68,500.
Malia Mason, lead researcher in a study published in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, tells Business Insider that using a precise number instead of rounded numbers will give you a solid anchor. It also gives off the appearance that you've done your research.
Even when giving a range, you should use precise numbers.
Pay attention to your body language.
'The way in which you carry yourself, even when seated at a desk, matters,' Trump writes. She notes that most of our communication is nonverbal and that messages are often conveyed through our facial expressions, gestures, posture, and audible elements, like sighs.
Her suggestions: Don't fidget. Don't pick your nails or tap your foot. Don't sit on the edge of your seat because it could make you look overeager. Don't hunch over and drum your nails because it could communicate aggression or frustration. Don't cross your arms protectively because it could make you appear meek and intimidated.
'Regardless of how fast your heart may be beating, sit upright, make eye contact, and focus on breathing evenly,' Trump writes.
Mirror the other person's behaviour.
When people are getting along, they mimic one another -- mirroring each other's accents, speech patterns, facial expressions, and body language.
A Stanford-Northwestern-INSEAD study found that people who were coached to mimic their negotiation partner's behaviour not only negotiated a better deal, but expanded the pie for both people.
'Negotiators who mimicked the mannerisms of their opponents both secured better individual outcomes, and their dyads as a whole also performed better when mimicking occurred compared to when it did not,' the authors wrote.
Listen more than you speak.
'When people are uncomfortable, and many people are when they have to negotiate, they start rambling as a way to fill the vacuum of silence,' Trump writes.
'Some of the strongest negotiators I know just sit back and listen. The less they engage, the more likely the other person is to slip up and offer information they otherwise would have kept guarded,' she says.
Always counteroffer, but don't do it more than once.
Once you receive their offer, you are expected to make a counteroffer. No employer wants a pushover. However, Koller says that you should not go back to the negotiation table more than once because then 'it becomes annoying to the hiring manager.'
'Once it gets really drawn out, it gets frustrating for both sides,' and you don't want to start a new job off on the wrong foot, he says.
Consider your alternatives.
If the employer can't meet your requested salary, be prepared to negotiate for benefits, like additional vacation days or the ability to telecommute one day per week, Whitmore suggests.
'Salary isn't everything, and I think you should be open minded,' she says.
'If you don't get the amount you want, reply with, 'May I have a job performance review in six or nine months?' This will give you a window of time to prove yourself and then re-negotiate for a salary increase,' Whitmore suggests.
Give yourself time to think about their offer, Whitmore says. 'Try not to give a definite answer right away. Ask the employer, 'May I get back to you at the end of the week?'' Separation creates anticipation. This extra time will allow you to review your options with your family or other potential employers, she explains.
Keep a positive attitude.
'If you don't get the salary you think you deserve, don't share the news with everyone you know,' says Whitmore. 'News travels fast and your comments might come back to haunt you.' And never bad-mouth an employer on social networks, she adds.
'Don't take it personally. The timing may not be right or the economy may be partly to blame. Consider this: The hiring manager may even call you again in the future if a position in your price range opens up.'
Vivian Giang contributed to a previous version of this article.