We’ve had a couple of articles on negotiation recently where we have discussed the importance of becoming a good negotiator, some basic strategies and some intermediate ones. Negotiating can be uncomfortable, and you might want to avoid it as much as you can, but there are a few times in your career where negotiating well can make a huge difference in your life, and a few hours of preparation followed by a few minutes of uncomfortable conversation can bring you HUGE benefits: Salary Negotiations!
Here are the main things you need to know know:
1. Understand Why You Must Negotiate:
Over the course of your career, not negotiating salary can cost you a cool half a million bucks! Yeah, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s necessary. You can make $1,000 a minute or more during those negotiations… They expect you to negotiate! Surveys have found 84% of employers expect you to negotiation. If you don’t, you’re leaving money on the table.
2. The Other Side is Experienced in Negotiations; They Do It Every Day:
Whether you’re negotiating with HR or directly with a hiring manager, one thing is for sure, they negotiate job offers a lot more often than you do, so you have to be as best prepared and practiced as you can.
3. There's Only One Best Time To Negotiate:
The best time to negotiate salary is BEFORE you accept the new job. Chances are you will never see a major raise once you’re already in the job, unless it comes with a major promotion to a different position. You have a small chance of negotiating a better raise during your annual review, but for the most part, the damage is done, and you won’t be able to get more than 5-8% even after negotiating. The time to get the money you deserve is before you accept the job to begin with.
4. Know Your Value In The Market:
Start at Salary.com, then move on to CareerBliss.com, PayScale.com, and GlassDoor.com. Get a good feel for what this job should pay in your area of the country and for somebody with your skill set. The best use of your time before getting an offer is doing as much research as you can and understanding your value.
5. Activate Your Network:
Search your LinkedIn for connections that work (or used to work) at that company. Can they help you better understand the pay bands and other intricacies of compensations in the company? Don’t directly ask them how much the job pays, or how much they think you can get, but rather ask them if they’d be willing to chat with you for 30 minutes to discuss their experience at the company. Towards the end of the chat bring up the pay question. Keep it kind of general, and see how much they share.
6. Know Your BATNA:
If you’re not prepared to walk away, you WILL lose. In order to be prepared to walk away, you must know what your BATNA (Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement) is. If you’re currently employed it’s pretty easy, your BATNA is your current salary. But if you’re not, do you have any other offers on the table? Are you currently receiving unemployment or a severance from your last role? Could you drive Uber or any other temporary job if needed? Truly understanding your best alternative will help you negotiate from a position of strength. After you’ve done your research you should know your BATNA, your salary goal, and your bottom line number.
7. Focus on the Value You Bring:
This is one of the most important lessons in salary negotiation, nobody cares about what you need. Don’t make an argument for more money based on your five children, your big mortgage, or your beach home! Focus entirely on the experience, passion, education, and history of success you bring, and how all of this will help the company and the department be successful.
If you grew sales by X at your previous job or lowered costs by Y, make sure you use specific numbers to quantify just how much value you will be bringing to this new company.
8. If You're a New Grad:
As a new graduate, you don’t have a lot of experience to bring to the table, instead emphasize your high energy, enthusiasm, solid work ethic, and your commitment to work in insurance (you wouldn’t be reading InsNerds otherwise). Keep in mind that at the entry level the biggest risk an insurance company is taking is that you’re not committed to the industry and will end up leaving. If you can show true commitment to an insurance career, you take that risk off of the table. If you’re an RMI major, you do hold some cards, keep in mind that RMI majors are in high demand, and you only fill 10-15% of our hiring needs each year, so you have some negotiating power because there’s just not many of you.
9. NEVER mention money until the end
Your job during the job interview process is to sell the company on hiring you, not telling them how much they need to pay you. Do not fall into the trap of being the first to mention salary. The first interview is generally more of a get to know you. The second interview tends to dig in more into actual behavioral questions. Under no circumstance should you bring up money in those interviews. In fact, you should never be the one bringing up money, wait until the very end, and let them bring it up first. Preferably, you want to get to the point where they make you an offer before money is ever brought up.
There is a solid chance that they’ll bring it up before you, and when they do, DO NOT GIVE THEM A NUMBER. Give them an answer that makes it clear you’ve done your research, know your value, and won’t be the first one to share your number. Here are some options on what you can say:
“I’m going to be one of your top performers, I’m confident we can find a number we’re both comfortable with in the range of what you pay your high performers.”
If they keep asking:
“I’m much more interested in doing [x] type of work at [y] company than the size of the initial offer. I’m sure we can find a number we’re both comfortable with once you’re sure I’m the person you want for the job.”
If they insist:
“I will consider any reasonable offer.”
“You’re in a much better position to assess how much I’m worth to your company in this role than I am.”
This last one is your final answer, if they keep asking just keep repeating it (or spinning it) over and over until they move on.
(Most of the suggested phrases above come from the Smith-Wenkle negotiation method)
10. Thank Them For The Offer, and Politely Make Your Case:
Once you do get an offer, whether it’s fantastic, decent or unacceptable, you should start by reacting in the exact same way, by thanking them.
“Thank you so much for the offer. I’m very excited that you feel I’m a good match for your company and looking forward to considering your offer.”
If the offer was lower than you want, make a case for the value you’re bringing, explain the research you did ahead of time, and how you are absolutely worth X in the market. “I’ve done a lot of research on what this type of position pays for people with my experience and my education, and I was expecting something closer to X.” Then wait to give them a chance to raise their offer.
If the offer was acceptable, and even if it was as high as you wanted it to be, always ask for between 5-8% more to make sure you’re not leaving money on the table. Chances are they were prepared to negotiate up to 10% more. Asking for more than 10% is much more risky. Be aware that the moment you make this counter-offer, the ball is now on their court. They could back out and just decline, but they’ve gone this far, chances are very good they will give you an offer that’s at least slightly better. Worst case scenario, they will probably just reiterate that that is the best offer they can make. In that case, if it is above your minimum, go ahead and take it, otherwise respectfully decline.
11. If They Absolutely Won't Budge on Pay, Ask For Better Benefits:
Sometimes they truly can’t move on pay because of budget constraints. In that case, sometimes you can make the offer acceptable by asking for extra vacation time, a flexible schedule or any other perk that can sweeten the deal without causing the employer too much (or at least coming from a separate budget).
12. Until It's In Writing, There Is No Offer!
Once you accept the offer, do not make the mistake of considering it final, and cancelling all your other interviews until you get a written offer. Tony had a verbal offer explode in his face in dramatic fashion, and it’s not fun.