By Lisa Quast, Contributor at Forbes…
Here’s the sad truth I’ve learned as a career coach: Women rarely negotiate their starting salary. Most of the women I’ve coached tell me they’ve never even considered negotiating their salary for a new job. As the majority of male business executives will confirm, being a good negotiator is a critical success factor for climbing the career ladder.
Unfortunately, many women are uncomfortable with the idea of negotiating. The good news: Even though some people have more natural ability when it comes to negotiating, anyone can learn the skill – all it takes is a little research and some practice.
I’ve watched women go from being terrified of negotiating to loving it. How? They changed their approach and started thinking about negotiating as a simple process to follow and as a thoughtful interaction with other people. When it comes to negotiating a starting salary, here are my eight recommendations:
Fully understand the job. Make sure you understand the responsibilities, requirements, and expectations for the position.
Educate yourself on the company. Ensure you’ve asked and understand how the company reviews employee performance as well as the process for pay raises and promotions (which is a good discussion to have with the HR person during the telephone screening interview).
Arm yourself with salary information. Spend adequate time conducting research to find out average salaries and salary ranges for similar jobs in your area, industry, and geography. There are many websites that provide salary information, including: salary.com, payscale.com, indeed.com, careeronestop.org, glassdoor.com, and jobsearchintelligence.com.
Know your strengths and differentiators. What makes you special and unique from everyone else? Conduct a personal SWOT analysis to understand your differentiators and the special skills or experiences that could make you a more valuable employee. Ensure you have these differentiators written down as this information can then be used as leverage to negotiate a higher starting salary with the hiring manager.
Decide on an appropriate salary range. Based on your research of similar jobs in your geography and industry, come up with what you think would be an appropriate salary range for the job. Your target salary should fall within this salary range.
Define your “walk-away” point. Now that you’ve determined your target salary and an appropriate salary range, think about the minimum salary you’re willing to accept and why you’d accept that amount. Then, consider the reasons why you’d be unwilling to accept a lower amount. Write these reasons down, as you may need to pull them out for your discussion with the hiring manager during the salary negotiation.
Practice your negotiation skills. Ask a friend or family member to play the role of a hiring manager who has offered you a salary that is lower than what you want. Then practice what you’ll say and how you’ll say it to persuade the hiring manager to increase their offer.
Keep in mind that it’s in the hiring manager’s best interest to carefully determine the salary offers they make to new employees. This is because he or she needs to make sure their compensation offers are internally and externally competitive and that they don’t offer too high or too low a salary, given the education, experience levels, and productivity of the employees currently working in the same or similar positions. At most companies, a lot of research and analysis goes into every salary offer, before the job offer is ever made.
That isn’t to say you shouldn’t negotiate for a higher salary – by all means, go for it if you believe you have good reasons for the request. This is especially true if you have specialized skills or training that are in short supply or worth more to the company.
Most hiring managers don’t automatically try to low-ball salary offers, but they will usually start with an amount that is lower than what they are willing to pay, because they assume the candidate will try to negotiate upward. So remember, negotiation is a skill you can hone. But, it’s up to you to get what you want and what you deserve.