9 Tips to Negotiate like a Pro

In last week’s GovFem article, I covered the basics of salary negotiation. But come on – you’re awesome! You’re not basic, and you don’t want your job offer to be basic either.

So how do you negotiate the terms of your offer like a true pro? Here are a few insider tips and tricks to help you land a stellar salary commiserate with your professional worth.


Tip #1: Don’t negotiate immediately. The moment that you hear you landed your dream job (or any job), you’re excited. You might not have expected the offer to come at all. Even if you did, you couldn’t predict when the recruiter would to give you the great news. Now is not the time to start negotiations, because you’re not as prepared as you could be.

Instead, thank them for the opportunity and ask for time to consider the offer. Then start your negotiation before the deadline they request a firm answer by.

Tip #2: Make a cheat sheet. Don’t just know what you want to say – write it down. Literally type up a script and have it with you when you discuss your salary. In addition to your word-for-word plan, write down all of your accomplishments, potential contributions, and the market research you’ve done to support your salary request. That way, if you get derailed from your original script (e.g. the hiring manager brings up a new consideration or asks for more detail), you’re prepared with additional prepped material. 

Tip #3: Throw out your number first. This isn’t always possible, especially if numbers aren’t discussed at all before you receive your job offer. However, if you have the opportunity to set salary expectations before the hiring agency makes a formal offer, do it. The number you provide will serve as the anchor for your negotiations, ultimately affecting the entire trajectory of your conversation.

Tip #4: Request a specific number. According to research from Columbia University, if you request a round number like $55,000 for your salary, the hiring manager is more likely to make bigger adjustments to that number. Instead, if you offer a specific number like $57,250, you’re more likely to reach a final offer number closer to what you desire. Why? While the study wasn’t conclusive, it’s likely because recruiters assume you’ve put more thought and more research into that specific number. Therefore, they are less likely to strongly challenge the request.

Tip #5: Ask questions. If you throw out your ideal number and your hiring manager flinches or even says no, don’t let that stop your conversation. To keep it going, ask open-ended questions that show you’re willing to compromise and also give you a better understanding of their hesitance.

Some suggestions from Victoria Pynchon include, “Seems like that took you by surprise. Tell me more…”; “What is the budget for this position based on?” or; “How can I help you move more in my direction?”

An even more direct question, offered by Arnie Fertig, the head coach of jobhuntercoach.com, is “You know, I’m excited about doing this job, and I’d love to work here. But I’m curious if you could explain the basis of why you’re offering X dollars?” 

Tip #6: Reframe the “former salary” question. We’ll dive into exactly how to do this in our next negotiations post. However, for now, be sure you know that your current salary shouldn’t be the driving force in your offer negotiations for a new job. If a recruiter or hiring manager asks what you currently make, tell them. But then quickly reframe the discussion to your potential earnings and value to their company.

Tip #7: Rank and explain your priorities. In a job offer negotiation, there are a lot of benefits on the table including vacation days, location, telework or flex working schedules, and others. Decide how important each potential benefit is in relation to others, and produce a list of priorities. Verbally, share that list with the recruiter.

If salary really is the most important consideration for you, explaining that it surmounts other considerations will show your fellow negotiator that they need to focus on upping that figure to secure your acceptance. If it’s not, this list of priorities will help guide them in where they can most meaningfully alter your original offer terms.

Tip #8: Embrace the “no”. This may be the most important tip for negotiations. Until you hit a “no” from your hiring manager, they probably have more to offer. So instead of fearing rejection, which will undermine your confidence as you negotiate, seek it. The “no” is usually a sign that you’ve made progress and a confirmation that you aren’t leaving additional benefits on the table.

Tip #9: Have a BATNA. This tip comes from a former FBI hostage-negotiator trainer. Once you have a clear understanding of your priorities, and how they are weighted against each other, make a Best Alternative to a Negotiation Agreement (BATNA) that combines different benefits in an equally pleasing but alternative arrangement. For instance, you asked for $70,000 and the standard amount of vacation days initially. But if PTO is nearly as important as salary to you, your BATNA may be $65,000 with 5 extra days of PTO.

Offering an alternative to your recruiter when they reject your first offer shows that you are open to compromise and keeps the conversation going. It may also make them feel like they have won part of the negotiation (which you want), even though you are equally happy with this second offer.

Do you have more pro tips for negotiating? Share them in the comments below!

Photo Credit: Flickr/Pictures of Money with purple filter applied

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