Here’s the percentage of graduating professional students who attempted to negotiate their pay:
That’s a pretty big gap.
You’ve got skills, talent and a stellar résumé. Still, it’s common to choke during conversations about money. We’ve been there.
Here’s our guide to negotiating a pay worthy of your value, adapted in part from Julia Carpenter and Alex Laughlin’s Washington Post guide.
People get scared by the word “negotiation,” but it’s just a conversational skill.
“You listen, they listen,” says Rachel Kim, a senior career coach at SoFi. “Remember: At the end of the day, you know how to have a conversation.”
If you’ve never negotiated a salary before, Kim says to start practicing by negotiating other things in your life.
“Use smaller-scale opportunities to practice this skill of asking for what you want, and do it where it feels safer rather than on the job.”
Have a bottom, middle and high number in mind while you’re interviewing, so you’re not caught off-guard when an employer asks about your salary history or what you’re hoping to make.
You can also connect with people who’ve been in the position before and are now more senior. Ask them: “Given what you know about what I do, what is the range I should be looking at?”
Calculate your cost of living and know what you absolutely need to be making. What is that number?
What is the reasonable going rate for a similar position in your geographical location? What do you expect? Kim says about 90% of job offers are at this rate.
What would you be thrilled at?
“You’re going to have much more power [once you have an offer] because they are now invested in you,” says Linda Babcock, author of "Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want.”
In the early-to-middle stages of the process, you want to manage your risk, says Kim. Try not to give them a number.
Here’s a sample script that Kim suggested:
“I’m so excited for this opportunity to interview with you. I think you’ll hear from my stories of experiences and skill sets that I would add great value to your organization. But I think this is too early in the process to talk numbers. I don’t want to say anything that will be so off, and I’m looking forward to learning more about the responsibilities, and discussing my technical and cultural fit into your organization.”
If they keep pushing for a number, though, give them a reasonable to high number.
“If you need me to give you a number right away, from research, it looks like this is the range I’m seeing. Does this look right to you?”
Say thank you — but don’t accept immediately.
Give yourself a day or two to form a strategy for how you’re going to handle the negotiation.
Here’s a sample script that Babcock suggested:
“This is a really exciting opportunity. I want some time to think about it, and can we discuss the specifics of the offer in a couple of days once I’ve had some time to reflect upon it?”
The conversation: do it in person or on the phone, if possible. You can start like this:
“I’m really excited about the job. I think I’m a great fit [for all those reasons that you have]”
Know your bargaining position.
What you say next, according to Babcock, depends on it.
So if you’re in a weaker bargaining position (you would take the salary offered), you want to use a little bit softer language.
- “Say something like: ‘I’m really excited about this offer. Is it possible for you to increase the salary to Y?’ It’s a bit of a softer approach because, of course, if they say, ‘No, we can’t do that,’ you’re going to go ahead and accept the offer as it is.
If you’re in a stronger position, you can say:
- “Based on the other offers that I have/my current position, I’m going to need you to increase that salary to Z in order to accept the job. Is that possible?”
You told them a salary at the beginning, but now you’re regretful and wish you said a higher number.
“When you’re at the offer stage, that’s when you can go back and say, ‘I know this is initially the number we discussed, but given what I’m learning about this position and [list what you’ll bring to the table], I’m wondering if there’s room to move my salary up by this percent,’” says Kim. “I don’t think it hurts to ask one more time.”
You may be thinking, “I’m so lucky to have this job.”