Whether we’re starting a new job or gunning for a promotion at our current one, we all know that we should be negotiating the salary.
Or do we?
A survey by Salary.com revealed that only 37% of people always negotiate their salaries—while an astonishing 18% never do. Even worse, 44% of respondents claim to have never brought up the subject of a raise during their performance reviews.
The biggest reason for not asking for more? Fear.
And we get it: Salary negotiation can be scary. But what’s even scarier is not doing it.
Here’s a good example: A famous study done by Linda Babcock for her book Women Don’t Ask revealed that only about 7% of women attempted to negotiate their first salary, while 57% of men did. Of those people who negotiated, they were able to increase their salary by over 7%.
That may not sound like much, but as Stanford negotiation professor Margaret A. Neale puts it: If you get a $100,000 salary and your co-worker negotiates up to $107,000, assuming you’re treated identically from then on, with the same raises and promotions, you’d have to work eight years longer to be as wealthy as them at retirement.
So, whether you’re male or female, in your first job or your fifth, it’s time to learn how to negotiate. And we’re here to help, with a roundup of expert tips and further reading to get you totally prepped.
1. Know Your Value
If you’re going to get the pay you deserve, it’s crucial to know the going rate for your position in your specific industry and in your geographic area. As I Will Teach You to Be Rich’s Ramit Sethi points out, if you walk into a salary negotiation without a number, you’re at the mercy of an experienced hiring manager who can simply control the conversation.
You can do this by doing an online search on sites such as Payscale or Glassdoor, or by asking others in your field (ideally both men and women, to avoid falling victim to the gender pay gap).
2. Know the (Exact) Number
According to researchers at Columbia Business School, you should ask for a very specific number—say, $64,750 rather than $65,000.
Turns out, when employees use a more precise number in their initial negotiation request, they are more likely to get a final offer closer to what they were hoping for. This is because the employer will assume you’ve done more extensive research into your market value to reach that specific number.
3. Be Willing to Walk Away
When considering your numbers, you should also come up with a “walk away point”—a final offer that’s so low that you have to turn it down. This could be based on financial need, market value, or simply what you need to feel good about the salary you’re bringing home.
Walking away from an offer will never be easy, but it’s important to know when to do it—and powerful to be able to say “no.”
4. Plan the Right Timing
Turns out, timing is everything. Most people wait until performance review season to ask for a salary adjustment, but by that time, your boss has probably already decided what raises will be doled out to the team.
Instead? “Start talking to your boss about getting a raise three to four months in advance,” writer and former human resources professional Suzanne Lucas of EvilHRLady.org told LearnVest. “That’s when they decide the budget.”
5. Power Up
Before you go into the negotiation, try Amy Cuddy’s tip of doing a “power pose”—in other words, going into the bathroom and standing tall with your hands on your hips, your chin and chest raised proud, and your feet firm on the ground. Doing so raises testosterone, which influences confidence and reduces the stress hormone cortisol.
6. Show What You Can Do
Before you start talking numbers, talk about what you’ve done and—more importantly—what you can do.
Remember that brag sheet? Now’s your chance to walk through your accomplishments with your manager. If possible, print a copy for your manager to look at while you summarize what you’ve achieved this year. You’ll want to specifically highlight times when you’ve gone above and beyond in your role, which will build the case that you deserve a raise. Then, be prepared with a few thoughts on what you’re excited to take on going forward—whether that’s freeing up some of your manager’s bandwidth by taking on an existing project, or proposing a new idea that you’re excited to own.
7. Try Thinking About Someone Else
Research from Columbia Business School shows that people—especially women—tend to do better when they negotiate for someone else, reports Stern.
“So, in preparing to negotiate, think about how what you’re asking for will impact those around you: It’s not just for you, but also for your family and your future. It’s even for your employer! After all, if you are happier with your position and compensation, you’re more likely to work hard and be successful.”
8. Put Your Number Out First
The anchor—or the first number put on the table—is the most important in negotiation, since it’s what the rest of the conversation is based off of. If it’s too low, you’ll end up with a lower final offer than you probably want.
You should always be the first person to mention a number so that you, not your counterpart, controls the anchor.
9. Use Stalling to Your Advantage
“When you hear the other person’s first offer, don’t say ‘OK.’ Say ‘Hmmm,’” recommends executive career coach Jack Chapman. “Give yourself some time, and in the seconds of silence, the other person is more likely to improve in some way.”
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Counter
If you ask for a higher salary and the employer says no? Doesn’t mean the conversation’s over.
Try this, says Thorman: “I understand where you’re coming from, and just want to reiterate my enthusiasm for the position and working with you and the team. I think my skills are perfectly suited for this position, and are worth $65,000.”
But don’t make threats. Again, you ideally want to work (or keep working) with this person, so it’s important to keep the conversation positive. “Whatever you do, don’t threaten to leave if you don’t get the raise,” Smith reports. “You also shouldn’t threaten your boss with other job offers, interviews, [or] recruiter conversations.”