Coaching salary negotiations is a big part of my job. The job seekers that work with my company are looking to get the most money and benefits possible. At the same time, they don't want to be too pushy and risk having the offer fall through. There's only so far you can push an employer before they decide you aren't worth it. Which leads to the one tip nobody teaches you in school about salary negotiations...
Transparency = Trust
When going through the hiring process, the best thing you can do is be transparent about your earnings expectations. First, you should know your worth and be able to validate it. Second, you should know what you want to make and be able to validate that too. If at any time a company asks you, "What are you looking to make?" you should be ready to answer that without hesitation. The clearer, calmer, and more sincere you are in explaining what you want to make and why you feel it's justified, the more likely a company is going to want to give it to you. And, if they ask, "What are you currently making?" you should be able to state that with confidence too. Any hesitation or stalling when responding to salary questions immediately sends the message you're trying to game the system. Which puts the employer in "game-on" mode. As soon as you activate game-on mode, somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. And you can be sure, an employer doesn't want to lose.
That said, here's what to do instead....
Deliver With Kindness (And, Back It Up With Facts)
The secret to successful salary negotiations is to make the employer feel like a winner by wanting to give you the money and benefits you want. Keep in mind, they are the customer. Customers don't like to overpay. When they do, it's because they love the way the product or service makes them feel. The more you can make an employer excited and happy about hiring you, the easier it is for them to give you what you want. In your salary negotiations you should be extremely thankful for the offer, making sure to articulate the specific things that excite you about accepting the offer. Then, you should counter with what you want and how you financially can justify it. For example...
He Wanted 10% More Pay and Knew Just Where to Get It
A client of mine recently got an offer for a position with a very successful company in hyper-growth mode. However, the 401(k) plan was slightly less desirable than his last employer's. He wanted to ask for a 10 percent increase in the salary offered to help offset the 401(k) loss. In looking through the offer, he realized the company was willing to pay a large sum for his relocation. He knew he could do the relocation for less, so when he countered, he explained why he was hoping to get the salary increase as a way to save more for retirement and that he'd be willing to take less relocation expense to offset it. His logical approach, transparency of thought, and enthusiasm for the company made it easy for the company to agree.
P.S.: Salary Negotiation Hardball Usually Bites Back
For those who think salary negotiations should be intense and that fighting to earn as much as you can is vital, I caution you. As an HR and recruiting professional, I've seen this come back to bite many people. When things go wrong on the job, or the company experiences an economic setback, executive teams start to think about their money mistakes. Overpaying for talent is usually at the top of the list. Especially, if the talent isn't exceeding expectations. That's why I suggest all salary negotiations be done with positivity and transparency. Calm, collected, sincere discussions are the best way to ensure you're valued in both good and bad economic times.