Why You Need To Know Your Number Before You Go Into A Salary Negotiation


With ample focus and practice — and realistic goals — anyone can become a good negotiator.

At least that’s what negotiation expert Kim Keating claims in “Lean In For Graduates,” the latest edition of Sheryl Sandberg’s popular manifesto for working women. The new book, released earlier this month, targets recent graduates entering the job market. It includes the Facebook COO’s original text, as well as six additional essays by other career experts.

In Keating’s chapter, which focuses on salary negotiation, she offers four “simple steps” for helping you reach your compensation goals in your first job and beyond. Our favourite: Do your homework, on them and you.

She says in order to successfully negotiate your salary, you’ll need to gather information about both parties. “The time you invest can pay off in a big way. And I mean that literally.”

Keating suggests using Salary.com, GetRaised.com, and other websites that offer free compensation and benefits information to figure out what you’re really worth. You’ll want 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).

“Without a grasp of the market, you might name a figure that is well above what the employer had in mind and knock yourself out of the running,” she says. Or, you may request a salary that is far too low, which could make you seem less qualified or less valuable than you are. Plus, you could end up leaving money on the table.

Another thing to consider: How badly does the company need or want you? If the employer is interviewing dozens of other candidates just like you, you’ll have less bargaining power. But if you offer something nobody else does, they may be more willing to pay up, she explains.

You’ll also want to establish how much you would like to make, and how much would be enough.

“Define your ideal offer in terms of your financial goals for the next 12 to 18 months: What do you need to support yourself, pay off your student loans, help your family, or even take a vacation? Identifying your goals will motivate you,” she says.

And, finally, determine what Keating calls your “walk-away number” — the lowest offer you’d be willing to accept.

It may be tempting to accept anything if you’re desperate for a job. But it’s imperative that every job seeker — especially new and inexperienced ones — determine their walk-away number and stick to it.