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7 steps to negotiate a higher salary, from a 28-year-old who made a $30,000 leap
Seven months ago, Claudia Telles was making $41,000 a year working for a Chicago-based hospital.
Today, she’s at the same institution with a different role — she transitioned from the business-operations team on the academic side of things to being a quality specialist on the hospital side — and receiving a much higher annual salary: $72,000.
How did the 28-year-old make more than a $30,000 leap within the same company?
She played her cards flawlessly when the money conversation surfaced during the interview process. “Negotiation is nerve-racking, especially because you don’t do it every day, or even weekly or monthly,” she tells Business Insider. “But a five-minute conversation can be an extra $5,000 or $10,000 in your pocket.”
We asked Telles for her top tips when it comes to negotiating the compensation you deserve.
1. Do your research
Most of the work should happen before you head into the interview, Telles emphasizes.
Start by looking at the salary range for someone with your level of experience and skills and in your industry or company. She used Glassdoor and Payscale to find out that the range for her position maxed out at $75,000, the amount she would eventually ask for. Salary.com and Indeed.com also offer free compensation and benefits information.
This will help you understand what you’re worth and keep you from asking for too little or far too much. While you don’t want to request too low a salary and leave money on the table, you also don’t want to name a number that is well above what the employer had in mind and risk knocking yourself out of the running.
2. Emphasize what the company gains by hiring you
If you’ve done your homework on the company and the role they’re looking to fill, proving your value to the employer should be easy to execute.
While Telles, who has been at the same hospital for three years, didn’t need to research the actual company, she got a firm grasp on the job description and expectations of the new position she was applying for. “I was really able to showcase that I knew what was going on and could do the job effectively,” she explains. “I told them that for the type of work that needs to get done — and will get done — this is the type of salary that would be appropriate.”
If you come prepared to highlight your skills, experience, qualifications, and accomplishments, you can justify what you’re asking for.
3. Practice, practice, practice
As personal-finance expert Ramit Sethi says of salary negotiation, “Eighty percent of the work happens before you even enter the room.”
In addition to looking up salary ranges, studying the company, and preparing your facts and figures, you want to do mock interviews — over and over and over again. This could mean having a friend or family member ask you probable interview questions or it could mean practicing in front of the mirror.
“I recorded myself to see how my body language was and how my voice sounded,” Telles explains. “I practiced not looking up or to the side. I practiced not having ‘flying hands.’ I made sure I looked confident, that my back was straight, and my posture strong.”
As Ivanka Trump, CEO of Ivanka Trump Collection, writes on Motto, “The way in which you carry yourself, even when seated at a desk, matters. Regardless of how fast your heart may be beating, sit upright, make eye contact, and focus on breathing evenly.”
Practice and preparation minimizes the risk of fumbling through the conversation when the big day comes. “By the time of the interview, I’d done 50 or so practice rounds and it just came out effortlessly,” Telles says.
4. Don’t disclose your previous salary
“I never brought up my old salary,” Telles explains. Despite transitioning within the same company, she was working with a separate HR team than she did when she first applied three years ago. “And when HR asked, I mentioned it was a different position to my current role at the time and therefore irrelevant.” This step was crucial in making the substantial $30,000 leap.
As Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of consulting firm The Human Workplace, writes in a post on LinkedIn, “How are you ever going to increase your earnings if every time you change jobs, you get a tiny raise over what they paid you at the last place?”
Revealing your salary history has the potential to negatively affect your income for your entire career. There’s nothing wrong with politely but firmly declining to disclose it. One recruiter recommends using the line, “I’d be glad to help you assess what I’d be worth to your business by showing you what I can do for you, but my salary is personal and confidential, just as the salaries of your own employees are.”
5. Negotiate more than your salary
Your salary isn’t the only thing on the table. You can also negotiate for benefits, such as additional vacation days, the opportunity to enroll in professional-development courses, or the ability to telecommute one day a week.
This is a particularly good option if the employer can’t meet your requested salary. Also, keep in mind that if you don’t get the amount you originally wanted, you can ask for a job-performance review after three, six, or nine months and then renegotiate for a raise after proving yourself.
After Telles asked for $75,000, her company countered with $72,000. She accepted the $72,000, but also negotiated eight extra vacation days and time to complete a certification class, which was a 32-hour credit course and required four full Fridays away from work to complete.
6. Don’t back down from your offer
If you’ve done your due diligence and stated your case effectively, there’s no need to back down if you don’t hear back right away. Plus, no company wants a pushover.
After requesting $75,000, Telles didn’t hear back from her company for six days. “I was worried,” she remembers. “I kept thinking, ‘Are they going to take the offer back?’ But I didn’t back out and say, ‘Actually, never mind, I’ll take the job regardless.’ I didn’t do that. And if they’re really going to back down on an offer just because I negotiated, there’s other stuff going on in the company that I’m probably not interested in. It would have been a good warning sign.”
7. Remember that an extra $5,000 doesn’t mean much to the company, but means a lot to you
Simply put, negotiating is intimidating and uncomfortable for most of us. “You’re scared to death and wondering if they’re going to pull the offer away,” Telles says, “But honestly, that’s the least of their problems. Remember that it takes a long time and costs the company a lot of money to find a great candidate to fill the position — they’ve already invested a lot in you and expect for you to negotiate.”
As Sethi says, “$5,000 or $10,000 means nothing to a company, but it means everything to you.”