7 Tips for Negotiating the Salary You Want

UPDATED: June 3, 2016
PUBLISHED: February 25, 2015

You nailed the interview and now you’re ready to talk salary. Are you a smooth talker, someone who relishes the art of negotiation? Or do you dread the mere thought of it, as someone who cringes at confrontation? If you landed on this article, chances are it’s the latter and you need a few quick pointers.

Here are 7 tips to help you succeed in your next salary negotiation, to make both the process and the outcome positive:

1. Don’t be afraid to give the first number.

You might have heard that in a negotiation, the person who speaks first loses. That’s not necessarily the case.

Throwing out the first salary number sets an anchor point. Don’t aim too low—because you will probably have to come down. You are setting expectations, or requirements, so the other side won’t start significantly lower than what you had in mind.

If you think the position is worth $75,000 and you suggest a salary of $82,000, then whomever you’re negotiating with will know not to start at $50,000. By making the first offer, you will get them closer to your anchor number—the number you would be willing to accept—right from the start.

2. Do your research.

For tip #1 to be effective, you have to be reasonably sure the number you begin with is accurate. And not just the high-end wage range for large companies in metropolitan markets.

You need to do your research to find out the median market wages for employees in your specific location, working for the size of company with whom you are negotiating. You should also know what someone of your experience and background is worth. Never go into any negotiation without sufficient information.

3. Listen.

No one ever learned anything while talking. To be an effective negotiator, you must be an exceptional listener.

Too many times people go into a negotiation with all the answers, so they don’t spend enough time paying attention to what the other side is saying. And you might find yourself negotiating for something irrelevant. Listening is key.

4. Clarify.

Once you’ve done a good job of listening, the next step is to clarify the other party’s request. It’s OK to say, “Just to make sure I understand, this is what you’re looking for, correct?”

And never assume you know what the other person wants. Go into negotiations with an open mind and be ready to alter your stance if new information becomes available during your discussion.

5. Problem-solve for a win-win.

Work with the other party to find a resolution to any areas of disagreement. This will allow both of you to walk away feeling like you’ve gotten something you wanted.
In a salary negotiation, a hiring manager might hope to get you, the candidate, for $5,000 less than the industry average. The company may “win” by saving a few thousand dollars, but this can backfire because the candidate may take the offer as a loss, yet continue to search even after taking the job. A good negotiator looks for a win for everyone involved.

6. Ask for action

in clear and simple terms so there are no misunderstandings. For example, the hiring manager might ask, “If I agree to your salary request, will you accept the job offer?”

Both sides should strive for immediate closure when agreeing to each other’s terms.

7. Negotiate more than just salary.

Don’t forget benefits, paid time off and variable compensation. Topics also up for discussion: working remotely, merited advancement opportunities, responsibilities and—depending on the organization—stock options.

Before you talk salary, you’ve got to get the job. Check out 12 interview do’s and don’ts.

Frank Dadah is a managing director in WinterWyman’s Accounting, Finance & Administrative Contract Staffing division. He has been with the firm since 2001 and specializes in contract and contract-to-permanent placement of accounting and finance professionals in the New York and New Jersey area.