How to ace a salary negotiation, in 15 steps
Salary negotiation is nerve-wracking.
It's not something we do on a daily, or even monthly, basis — but it's a critical skill to develop if you want to get ahead financially.
For one professional, 28-year-old Claudia Telles, it meant a $30,000 salary leap.
Next time you head into a salary negotiation, consider these tips from Telles and other experts in order to get the raise you deserve.
Know the range for the position you're applying for
Start by looking at the salary range for someone with your level of experience and skills and in your industry or company, Telles recommends. She used Glassdoor and PayScale to find out that the range for her position maxed out at $75,000, the amount she would eventually ask for.
You can also use your network. "Connect with business colleagues and friends and ask them what's appropriate," career coach Ted Leonhardt tells Business Insider.
Know what you're worth
You need to know your number before walking into a salary negotiation.
As negotiation expert Kim Keating writes in "Lean In For Graduates," it's important to do your homework on the company you're interested in — but it's equally important to do your homework on you.
Knowing what you're worth will keep you from asking for too little or far too much. While you don't want to request too low a salary and leave money on the table, you also don't want to name a number that is well above what the employer had in mind and risk knocking yourself out of the running.
Have a bottom line in mind
"Never go into a negotiation without knowing your 'below this I walk' number," Leonhardt tells Business Insider.
As tempting as it may be to accept anything, stick with your walk-away number, no matter how desperate you are to land the job.
View the average millennial's salary across all 50 states:
Practice, practice, practice
Most of the work should happen before you head into the interview, Telles emphasizes.
In addition to looking up salary ranges, studying the company, and preparing your facts and figures, you want to do mock interviews — over and over and over again. This could mean having a friend or family member ask you probable interview questions or it could mean practicing in front of the mirror.
Practice and preparation minimizes the risk of fumbling through the conversation when the big day comes. "By the time of the interview, I'd done 50 or so practice rounds and it just came out effortlessly," Telles says.
Strike a 'power pose' before entering the meeting
According to research from Harvard Business School Professor Amy Cuddy, adopting a "power pose" — legs widely spaced and hands on hips — can actually alter body chemistry, making you feel more powerful and willing to take (and stick to) risks.
It boosts testosterone, which increases confidence, and it also reduces the stress hormone cortisol. Just what you need before a negotiation.
Give a salary range, not a target
"For years, people have been taught to ask for a specific number — rather than offering a range — when negotiating salary," writes Business Insider's Jacquelyn Smith. "But new research from Columbia Business School challenges that conventional wisdom."
By offering a range instead of an exact number, you open up room for discussion and you come across as more"reasonable," the study found.
As long as the lower end of the range is what you really want, this strategy is the best way to get what you want in a negotiation.
Open with something personal
As LinkedIn Influencer and author of "Give and Take" Adam Grant wrote on LinkedIn, "In one experiment, Stanford and Kellogg students negotiated over email. When they only exchanged their names and email addresses, they reached deals less than 40% of the time. When they shared information that was irrelevant to the negotiation, schmoozing about their hobbies or hometowns, 59% reached agreement."
By opening with something personal, "you send a signal that you're trustworthy, and your counterparts will be motivated to reciprocate, matching your disclosure with one of their own," Grants explains.
Don't disclose your previous or current salary
This is one of the most costly mistakes you can make, Telles tells Business Insider.
Revealing your salary history not only hurts your odds of negotiating a substantial raise on the spot, it has the potential to negatively affect your income for your entire career.
"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?" writes Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of consulting firm Human Workplace, in a post on LinkedIn. "We've gotten used to the idea that the question 'What were you earning before?' from a prospective employer is perfectly reasonable. It's not, of course. Your personal finances are your business."
Always counter-offer, but don't do it more than once
Companies expect for you to come back with a counter offer, but don't go back to the negotiation table more than once.
As Eddie R. Koller III, managing director at technology and media recruiting firm Howard-Sloan-Koller Group, told Business Insider: "Once it gets really drawn out, it gets frustrating for both sides."
To ensure starting the new job on a positive note, stick to one counter offer.
Don't back down from your offer
If you've done your due diligence and stated your case effectively, there's no need to back down if you don't hear back right away. Plus, no company wants a pushover.
After requesting $75,000, Telles didn't hear back from her company for six days. "I was worried," she remembers. "I kept thinking, 'Are they going to take the offer back?' But I didn't back out and say, 'Actually, never mind, I'll take the job regardless.' I didn't do that. And if they're really going to back down on an offer just because I negotiated, there's other stuff going on in the company that I'm probably not interested in. It would have been a good warning sign."
Avoid the words, 'No,' 'bottom line,' and 'This is my final/last offer'
You have to be willing to be flexible — these words scream the opposite and could be a quick way to close the door on the offer at hand.
"If you say any of these things, and the demand is not met by the employer, the negotiation will be over and you'll have to be prepared to walk away," noted Ryan Kahn, career coach and author of "Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad."
Avoid the words 'I think,' 'sorry,' and 'maybe'
You don't want to be perceived as uncertain — you want to be perceived as confident, and this could mean changing your word choice or delivery.
Unsure of how you sound? Try Telles's strategy: "I recorded myself to see how my body language was and how my voice sounded." This way you can scan for "uncertain words" and ensure you're not speaking to quickly or slowly.
Be prepared to prove your value
You want to emphasize what the company will gain by hiring you.
"I was really able to showcase that I knew what was going on and could do the job effectively," Telles explains. "I told them that for the type of work that needs to get done — and will get done — this is the type of salary that would be appropriate."
If you come prepared to highlight your skills, experience, qualifications, and accomplishments, you can justify what you're asking for.
Negotiate more than your salary
Your salary isn't the only thing on the table, Telles notes. You can also negotiate for benefits, such as additional vacation days, the opportunity to enroll in professional-development courses, or the ability to telecommute one day a week.
This is a particularly good option if the employer can't meet your requested salary. Also, keep in mind that if you don't get the amount you originally wanted, you can ask for a job-performance review after three, six, or nine months and then re-negotiate for a raise after proving yourself.
Remember that an extra $5,000 doesn't mean much to the company, but it could mean a lot to you
Simply put, negotiating is intimidating and uncomfortable for most of us. "You're scared to death and wondering if they're going to pull the offer away," Telles says, "But honestly, that's the least of their problems. Remember that it takes a long time and costs the company a lot of money to find a great candidate to fill the position — they've already invested a lot in you and expect for you to negotiate."
As personal finance expert Ramit Sethi says of salary negotiation, "$5,000 or $10,000 means nothing to a company, but it means everything to you."