How to Negotiate So That You Don’t Regret What You Accept

This information is primarily for candidates who are about to negotiate a compensation package with a new employer. However, someone who is interested in earning more with a current employer may find it helpful too.

  1. What you’re currently earning always influences what an offer will look like. So, if you’re presently underpaid, it’s unlikely that you will see a dramatic increase that will put you in a different stratosphere. It happens about .005 % of the time. Note: this doesn’t need to be true if you live in a place where asking compensation history is illegal.
  2. There are always two numbers: the number you want and the number you’ll take. Always ask for the number you want. Hopefully, what will be offered will be higher than the number you’ll take, even if it isn’t the number you want.
  3. When you’re paid properly, you will spend more time working at the firm for a longer period. That benefits the firm. You won’t be distracted looking to leave because you’re dissatisfied with your compensation. So don’t accept a disappointing package.
  4. If you need to tell a hiring manager and/or a recruiter that accepting less than X will mean you won’t be satisfied, do it.
  5. Do not put your energy into explaining your compensation requirements. Be matter of fact.
  6. Practice discussing this matter with an imaginary person. It’s valuable to be able to say, in a relaxed manner, “I want a package of X with a base of Y. I have deferred comp of Z.” Then be quiet. And pay attention to your body language. No arms crossed in front of your chest or above your head. No foot tapping or leg shaking.
  7. When you talk money, don’t talk too much. Otherwise, it seems like you’re nervous. This is a game of sorts. Like poker. Be concise. Be relaxed.
  8. Expect to negotiate. It’s part of the process. Don’t cave in. You will feel better if you get what you want. Or if you make every effort to get what you want.
  9. No one wins in the long term if you accept less than what you want.
  10. It’s ok to walk away. Sometimes, they come back and you really get what you want. And if you don’t get what you want, why go?
  11. If it helps to imagine you’re negotiating on behalf of someone else, do that. If you have a family, remember you’re probably looking for more money to support them.
  12. You can always practice the conversation lots in advance.
  13. Avoid taking the first offer unless it’s exactly the number you requested. Or more than you requested.
  14. If someone really wants you, they have the money. And if you are firm, then that makes you more desirable to a potential employer because who wants to hire someone who doesn’t hold their ground.
  15. Be polite.
  16. Don’t rush to accept an offer. Say things like, “Let me get back to you tomorrow.” Or, “I need to discuss this with my spouse.”
  17. Ignore all studies that talk about compensation, especially the ones with lots of data. Most are full of lies or out of date and have little to no value.
  18. If you’re contacted by recruiters about roles, ask them to email the spec and include in the email the expected compensation range and ceiling. This should be kept in a file. Of course what’s ultimately paid may not resemble what the recruiter indicates is expected, but, still, it’s worthwhile to collect the information.
  19. If you work for a firm and want to see your compensation increase there are several things you need to do. Some include the following: a) make certain that what is asked of you is done properly, b) go above and beyond to demonstrate that your contribution to the firm is valuable, c) in a review with your boss, whether it’s annual or biannual, make sure that you’re clear on what you need to do better, d) ask for an increase in compensation long before numbers are determined, e) be prepared to explain why you think you earned that increase (if you need to give a list of projects, situations, matters that you were responsible for, that’s fine), f) avoid ultimatums, g) avoid being dramatic/emotional when discussing compensation.