Guest Blog written by Angie Callen, Career Benders, Inc.

According to a 2018 survey conducted by staffing giant Robert Half, Inc, only 55% of job seekers negotiated their salaries, a contrast to the 70% of hiring managers who expected to entertain some back-and-forth.

What’s more, there’s a larger uncomfortable reality within that statistic. That same study revealed that only 45% of women (compared to 68% of men) played the bargaining game.

The same Robert Half study talks about how we, as candidates or employees, are never invited to negotiate our salary. Sure salary negotiation is implied, but it’s really up to us to create the conversation. But, let’s face it, the salary negotiation conversation is never comfortable.

Not only does a successful salary negotiation put more bucks in your pocket at the end of the month, but it also builds your personal-professional value for the long run. Additionally, it provides a larger base for incremental increases, and helps you build larger growth, faster when future salary negotiations come into play.

For instance, if you’re in a role where you expect to get a 4% cost of living increase each year (this was very common in my corporate engineering days), 4% on an additional $10,000 salary is $400. The following year, you’re not getting While that seems a piddly amount to get excited about, if you compound that out over your entire career and combine it with larger merit increases and bigger jumps in salary, it starts to mean something. Imagine if you just took that extra $400 and socked it into retirement?

Let’s do some math. Say you’re in a role where you expect to get 4% cost of living increase each year (this was very common in my corporate engineering days). If your starting salary is $100,000, then year two the adjustment will take you to $104,000. Hey! That’s a couple hundred more a month in your pocket (or in your retirement account, hint hint).

However, if you negotiated another $10,000 onto that salary and started at $110,000, then that 4% increase gets you a whopping additional $400 and gets you to $114,400.

While that seems a piddly amount to get excited about, think about how that compounds over your entire career. If all you ever got was a 4% cost-of-living increase each year, after 20 years, those two salaries would look like this:

$219,112.31 versus $241,023,55

Yep, that measly little 4% per year adds up, and that initial salary negation compounded itself into a 20% larger salary had you not advocated to earn your work. We’re not even taking into account larger merit and promotional increases, so I think you can see how these numbers become more and more lucrative when larger percentages come into play.

The bottom line: negotiation pays off now and in the long run. 

Steps to Improve Salary Negotiation

If you’d like to earn your worth and get top dollar in your next salary negotiation sans the sweaty palms and heart that wants to beat out of your chest, follow these simple recommendations:

1 – Time it right

The best time to negotiate salary is at the time of a job offer. There’s an open door to negotiate at this point, since the hiring team expects to get a counter. Based on Forbes, 70% of hiring managers expect salary and benefit negotiations. Don’t hesitate and do what is expected

2 – Determine your leverage

Asking for more money because “it’s what people do” isn’t leverage. You need a sound reason for the request. I like researching competitive salaries and market trends in the geography and in the industry to get an idea of the going rate. Assuming you’re experienced in the role, there’s an easy logic to ask to be aligned with the standard.

If you’re making a career change, shift, pivot, or leveling-up, using the, “pay me what everyone else makes” is a little harder to sell, so you’ll need to consider more creative ways of negotiation. If you are considering a career change right now, Career Benders specializes in helping clients identify their leverage by rooting and pivoting functional skillsets and subject matter expertise.

3 – Get creative

Creative salary negotiation means using more than just dollars to negotiate. Yes, money is important, but when the wiggle room either doesn’t exist or has no solid foundation around the ask, consider requesting additional PTO, flexible work schedule, equity (great if you’re in a start-up), tuition reimbursement, training, wellness benefits, and additional fringe benefits or perks that can make you feel like you’re getting something additional.

4 – Keep the door open for future salary negotiations

If you’re negotiating your benefits and salary for a new role, give yourself a nice and comfortable opening for re-evaluation. I typically recommend asking for a compensation review at six months after the hire. This gives you the backcheck to say “hey, remember that 6-month review we talked about when I was hired? It’s time!” versus the uncomfortable knock-on-the-boss’s-door-out-of-nowhere salary conversation that no one wants to start.

5 – Be flexible

The term “negotiate” literally means to bring about discussion. Therefore, what you’re doing with a salary negotiation is discussing the possibilities not demanding your expectations. Know where you have leverage to push and when to stop.

As much as more money now becomes even more money in the long run, it’s also not worth the risk of looking like an *ss and jeopardizing the great relationship you’ve build with your new employer during the interview process.

Be grateful for the wins you to get, whether it was money, time off, start-date, benefits, or another element of the package, your new employer showing some flexibility is an olive branch. Instead of waging war, be appreciative of the give-and-take…

And then go to work proving to them you were worth the bigger ask, so when you go into that six-month salary review you so strategically requested (in step 4 above), there’s no argument around the fact that you deserve every penny they’re willing to offer!

Salary Negotiations: How to Ask

Once you’ve got the above outlined in your head, it’s time to deliver the counter. I’m a big fan of doing salary negotiations in response to the (likely emailed) written offer because it gives the recipient your request in writing. She then knows exactly what you’re asking and can take that to the powers that be.

Bonus: it’s also a little less icky and a lot easier to craft a well-thought-out pitch in writing versus dropping that bomb in a phone call to the recruiter.

That said, don’t go overboard; keep your asks to two per email. Start with the largest ask. For instance, if you want to ask for more money, an extra week of PTO, and a different start date, save the start date for the last round of communication.

Here’s a salary negotiation script of how I’d approach the above ask:

“Thank you so much for this offer! I’m really excited to join the team.

Before I formally accept, I’d like to know if there’s wiggle room on the salary. Based on some research, it looks like the current market standard for this position at this level is $X to $Y. Considering my experience in the industry, I think it’s fair to ask to be within that range, so I’d request my starting salary be [somewhere between $X and $Y.]

Additionally, I know it’s company standard policy to start new staff at two weeks of PTO. Because I’ve been at my current job for 5 years, I’m accustomed to three weeks. I’ve found it’s an amount of time I really do need to maintain my mental health. Is it possible to come on board with three weeks of PTO?

Thank you so much for considering!”

See, how casual yet professional that is? Obviously, they’ll come back with their counter which you will likely accept (otherwise, you’re getting into greedy territory), at which point you can say:

“This all sounds great! I’ll go ahead and sign the offer letter, but I had one last question. Would it be possible to push my start date to A, B, C? I’d like to take a breather before coming on board.”

Easy and done. And since – somewhere in there – you also asked for that six-month salary review, you’ll be able to pick that conversation up easily once you’ve shown your true value to the team! There’s more on what you can discuss in this 6-month review – like Career Growth.

Moral of the story?

Candidates who negotiate their salary are typically more respected and highly valued by their managers, so you’ve set yourself up for success in many ways. As long as you’re able to own up to the value you’ve requested and prove your worth through performance, the ask will pay off big time.

Angie Callen is the Founder and Principal of Career Benders, Inc., a privately held company focusing on inspiring confident professionals through life-centric coaching for business and career. If you need help with an upcoming job search, resume project, business challenge, or…salary negotiation, schedule a free strategy session with us. Follow Angie and Career Benders on LinkedIn.