10 executive coaches share their tips for negotiating pay
Because nobody ever got a raise by shouting, “Show me the money!”
How many people do you know love their job so much that they’d do it for free? Unless you know a whole lot of independently wealthy people, chances are the answer is “not many.” For most of us, pay is (and always will be) a fundamental consideration of working life. As such, you need to know how to negotiate your salary.
Whether you're trying to get a higher starting pay or asking for a raise at your current job, your paycheck is a critical determining factor when deciding to take a new job and feeling valued in an existing position.
These 10 tips from executive coaches and other career experts can help you polish your negotiating skills and get the pay you deserve.
Know what you’re looking for
“Determine two thresholds: Your ‘slam dunk’ offer, which would make you immediately say yes, and your ‘basement’ offer, [which is] the bare minimum of what you need to work for the company. Everything that exists between your ‘slam dunk’ and your ‘basement’ is negotiable. But remember that a successful negotiation means you do not compromise beyond the point of a win-win.” —David B. Nast, business leadership coach and corporate trainer with Focal Point Coaching in Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Do your research
“Every gig has a fee range. Spend the time to discover it, then don't be afraid to ask for more than the top. If [an employer] is asking for your help, that means they think you’re worth it. Asking for top dollar confirms that you’re a top player.”—Ted Leonhardt, negotiation consultant in the Seattle area. (Pro tip: Check Monster's salary guide to find out what a person in your position in your city/area makes.)
Be honest about your salary needs
“Be upfront with your interviewer. A firm that is seeking to hire the best person for the job needs to understand what you are all about. In any kind of relationship scenario, if expectations do not measure up, both sides end up regretting the better opportunities that passed them by. So it’s better to state what you need salary-wise and let the chips fall where they may.” —Alex Twersky, co-founder at Resume Deli, a career management and coaching firm in Hoboken, New Jersey
Show how you can contribute to the bottom line
“Demonstrate your value through contributions you’ve made throughout your career, especially in your current role. This should emphasize experience and results you achieved driving revenue, savings, efficiency and productivity, with examples relevant to the organization or role. The employer will find concrete evidence of business growth is difficult for an employer to ignore.” —Lela Reynolds, senior career consultant with Resume Strategists in New York City
“In general when it comes to pay raises, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Some companies are great at recognizing standout employees and dole out raises whenever they can, but solid employees who may be flying under the radar should be asking for one, too. Be prepared to ask for a specific number, and quantify it in some way. Keep emotion out of it; just stick to the facts.” —Michele Mavi, director of internal recruiting and content development with Atrium Staffing in New York City
Make the first offer
“Don’t wait for [an employer] to mention a figure. Traditional advice says to never be the first to mention a salary target, in case they were planning to offer you more than your wildest dreams, but let’s be realistic—they’ll throw a low number out to see if you’ll take it, and once that small figure is on the table, it may be uncomfortable to go after anything substantially larger.” —Elizabeth Becker, client partner with PROTECH in Charlotte, North Carolina
But don’t make demands
“Know how to negotiate your salary the right way. When asking for a raise, it should never be presented as an ultimatum. You may get the extra money, but the opportunity cost could be steep if you jeopardize any or all of the goodwill you have accumulated. Set the stage for your request by expressing gratitude, then highlight your key accomplishments and contributions. When you’ve established that your boss agrees with you, then—and only then—do you tell him what you want.” —Roy Cohen, career counselor and executive coach in New York City
Play the long game
“You’re not always going to get the salary you want. When that happens, politely and respectfully ask your potential new boss—rather than the HR person—if you can sit down together to determine what specifically you need to do to earn the raise in the future. Work out deliverables that are as specific as possible, and pin down a time frame. Take notes, let your new boss see that you’re taking notes, and work up something in writing you can both agree to. Then report your progress regularly. Once you’ve met those goals, it will be very difficult for your boss not to grant your raise, or at least to fight for it on your behalf.” —Barry Maher, owner of Barry Maher & Associates in Corona, California
Don’t leave empty handed
“Most people only think about salary, but there are more items up for negotiation, such as a preferred work schedule, vacation accrual, external and internal training opportunities, and tuition reimbursement. If the company says they can't meet your salary requirements, ask them what [is needed] to earn that salary. If it's a financial issue on their end, you can still negotiate the other previously mentioned items. If it's an experience issue, or something else you can change in the short or long term, discuss what you will do to grow in these areas, as well as provide examples of how you've overcome challenging situations previously and how that applies to this company/role.”—Anu Mandapati, Founder and CEO at IMPACT Leadership for Women in Austin, Texas
Honor your worth
“Don’t undersell yourself. You are your own best ambassador, so aim for a competitive deal that you are happy with. Employers will respect this, especially if you are looking at a leadership role.” —Jonathan Astbury, associate partner at Newington International in London
Understanding how to negotiate your salary is one of the most important career lessons you'll learn. Want to know more ways to boost your worth? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you'll get career advice and job search tips sent directly to your inbox. From finding a job that will promote you to working on your professional development, Monster has the information you need to succeed.