Straight from the Lab

For the best chance at getting the compensation you want, follow these suggestions.

For many professionals starting a new job or advancing to a new position, the salary negotiation process can be one of the most stressful career steps. Salary negotiation requires a balance between the need for compensation and the excitement of a new relationship or a new position with the employer, creating a sense of uncertainty about when to be assertive and when to compromise.

How do you successfully maximize your opportunity before you start your new adventure? iDea Lab has seven tips for negotiating like a pro.

No. 1: Be Truthful at All Times

Honesty is always the best policy in a salary negotiation. Make sure your resume is completely accurate. Being completely truthful about your experience builds trust and credibility as you move into salary negotiation. If you inflate your past earnings, you could be called out on a lie if the HR department asks for a previous paystub or W-2.

No. 2: Know Your Number

If you’re asking for a salary increase, be prepared to explain why. Conduct research to see what comparable companies are paying for the type of work you do and share your findings at the negotiating table. Using reputable websites such as PayScale or Salary to justify your salary is a strategy that allows you to be assertive while also preserving the relationship. This research takes the negotiation from being based on your opinion and focuses it on published data.

No. 3: Evaluate the Negotiation Based on Your BATNA

Sometimes great interviews go bust when a candidate isn’t prepared to answer the more challenging questions that often get thrown their way. To excel at this stage, anticipate being asked things like, “Are we the only offer you’re considering?” or “If we make you an offer, will you accept it?” and answer with sincerity.

As Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton explain their book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, an important source of power in any negotiation is your best alternative to the negotiated agreement (BATNA). When you are asked difficult questions like the ones above, the employer may be trying to figure out if you have other good alternatives to taking their job. If you’ve already evaluated the negotiation based on your best alternative (e.g., your current job, other job offers on the table, etc.), then you will be able to get the best offer possible. Remember, you should never take an offer worse than your BATNA.

No. 4: Consider Benefits and Work-Life Balance

Salary is always important, but there’s more to consider. Perks such as tuition reimbursement, child care, professional development, insurance, job flexibility, and even extra days off can play an important role in the total compensation package.

Talk about these non-salaried benefits during your negotiation to ensure you have all of your bases covered.

No. 5: Avoid Promises and Brags

There’s a fine line between confidence and cockiness, and once you cross over, it’s hard to come back. The same holds true for hyperbole. When you’re negotiating, avoid telling the hiring manager things like, “I’ll pull all-nighters every day of the week if that’s what it takes!” or “I’m the best candidate you’ll ever see! Don’t even bother talking to anyone else!” The best approach is to talk about how you can contribute to the organization’s success. Be specific with your examples.

Also avoid phrasing your responses in the negative. If you don’t like the offer, it’s not appropriate to respond by saying, “I deserve much more than that.” Instead, have a counter offer prepared that’s supported with facts that demonstrate the value you delivered in previous positions.

No. 6: The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts

Negotiation is a give and take. You have to assert yourself to communicate what you want, but you also have to know what you’re willing to concede. Assume you won’t get everything you want, but if the total package is in line with your goals, then you’ve succeeded.

No. 7: Ask the Pros for Training

Even with all of your online research and reading negotiation how-tos, you still may need additional help navigating the salary conundrum. It might be a good idea to seek out professional guidance.

iDea lab provides individual consulting to share best practices for salary negotiation. Instructors meet with clients privately to provide a detailed analysis of their career and salary goals, and create a plan to help navigate the negotiation process.

Professionals can also opt to sign up for iDea lab’s four-hour training class, “Introduction to Negotiation.” This training covers three areas: distributive bargaining, game theory, and integrative bargaining.

Before you step inside your new office or see your new business cards, the terms of your agreement have been set. Start your new career with confidence on day one by ensuring you’re in the best position to negotiate your compensation package.

Learn more about iDea Lab courses, which are designed to develop your skills on your schedule.