4 Secrets for Success in Negotiating the Raise or Job of Your Dreams

January 19, 2022
Art of Negotiation Blog Photo

Negotiations are an exchange—each side comes to the table with something to offer the other. With research and reflection, you can step up with confidence.

4 Secrets for Success in Negotiating the Raise or Job of Your Dreams

During the back-and-forth of job negotiations, the salary offer or raise amount usually takes center stage. Hundreds of career how-to books, articles and podcasts dish out advice on increasing the dollar amount in your paycheck.

But much of this advice misses the point: To negotiate your salary, the key is to go into the meeting with something to offer, Chris Meyer, an associate professor at Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business who teaches negotiation and organizational behavior, said.Chris MeyerChris Meyer

“That is one of the mistakes that people make,” Meyer said. “They go in thinking they want this five percent raise. But it is an interdependent relationship. If I want a five percent raise, what am I giving the organization?”

Far from the cutthroat, high-stakes demands popularized in movies, negotiations are an exchange—each side comes to the meeting with something to offer the other.

“It is not about going in and convincing someone to give me something,” he said. “It has to be more about how I explain that in this interdependent relationship, this is how my outcome serves both of us.”

Meyer offers four tips for getting the most out of salary negotiations:

Do Your Research

When negotiating a salary or raise, you should have a very clear idea about the amount you think is appropriate. This quantifies the value you bring, Meyer said. Do your homework, and have specific metrics or benchmarking you can point to so you can advocate for that number, such as cost of living, the level of experience you bring to the job and published salary ranges for similar positions.

“A lot of people do not want to do this because they are afraid they are going to leave money on the table,” Meyer said. “But if you are well prepared and you understand why you are asking for that amount, you should be asking for an amount that is good for you.”

But do not share it too early, he warned. That may sour the deal. Get answers to your own questions first: if the job is a good fit for you, or what is going on in the organization. And keep in mind that with any salary range, the company hears the low number while the candidate hears the high one.

Still, if the company opens the door for you and asks how you see your salary there, “absolutely step through that door,” Meyer said. “You need to be ready, you need to be willing.”

Know Your Why

The key to a successful negotiation is knowing what you really want, Meyer said. For a raise, instead of focusing on the specifics of your ask—like five percent—ask yourself why you want a raise in the first place. For example, perhaps your why is that during the pandemic you added skills in successfully managing a team working remotely under stressful conditions.

In a negotiation, both sides are deciding how they are going to share their resources. Your boss wants to know what resources you bring to the table that justify paying you more.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Successfully making a case for yourself requires practice beforehand, Meyer said. It is helpful to realize that you likely negotiate a lot already—on the job, at home—and may not recognize it.

“When your boss asks for an update on a project, that is a negotiation,” Meyer said. “It is a conversation about how we are using resources, or if we need more. Afterwards, ask yourself: Did I present my case in a positive way? Did I communicate effectively? When we walked away, were both of us in a better spot?”

In a hiring situation, practice helps you prepare a response to questions that, from a strategic standpoint, you probably should not share, Meyer said. Sometimes potential employers will ask if you are interviewing elsewhere or what your current salary is. Practicing a response ahead of time will make you more confident when the question comes up.

“It is okay to very kindly say that is proprietary and not relevant to the conversation you are having,” Meyer said. “We have to be ready to answer those questions because they are going to be asked.”

Consider the Alternatives

There is no doubt a boost in income is nice, and often critical. But it is only one way to create a work situation you are happy with, Meyer said. With the upheaval of the pandemic, companies are more flexible than ever about negotiating job terms that used to be off limits.

Now is the time to ask yourself: What is it I hope to achieve with more income? What is my dream work situation? Is it just about how much I make?

“It is important to go into a negotiation with a very broad mindset, starting with ‘What do I really want?’” Meyer said. “Have an idea of what you are really looking for. I view this as a much bigger negotiation than merely the salary number. This is about my career, about how we work together.”

Companies are more open to creative yeses than they were before the pandemic forced them to do things differently. With a little soul searching, you might realize you have a specific lifestyle in mind. Is there a way to make that happen outside of the money? What if negotiating other factors—remote work, a sabbatical, time off to travel or be with family, an opportunity to lead a plum project—could buy you the lifestyle you want?

Meyer’s students have negotiated radically different work arrangements, from four out of five days working from home to a 100 percent remote arrangement with flexibility to travel. “People need to understand what is important to them in their work life so they can negotiate for those things. This is an opportunity for people to craft that job that makes sense for them.”

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