I recently read an article in the NY Times about negotiating salaries, and it irked me. Author AC Shilton quotes Kim Churches, Chief Executive of the American Association of University Women, who states that when involved in salary negotiations “don’t be timid, but use the right inflection and wording choices”. This advice, is of course, in the section about women being more likely to be penalized when attempting to negotiate the salaries they desire. As a woman who has been both an employee, and an employer, this advice is like telling women that they should dress conservatively if they don’t want to get raped. Negotiating for a salary should not be about how you dress up the conversation, or about the right verbal innuendo, it should be about the facts. As a business owner, I don’t negotiate on fantasies, I negotiate on reality. I expect any employee–man or woman–coming to the bargaining table to be able to discuss the following 3 points.
1. Be clear about you have accomplished. I don’t pay for what you might do. I pay for what you can show me you have done. I base my compensation offers, whether in initial hiring negotiations or when it comes to raises, on the means my company has available to it, and what the market price is for the skills I am looking to acquire. Those two numbers are easy to identify and don’t involve much subjectivity. By putting them together, I try to make a fair and reasonable salary suggestion. When you make your ask, you should know what the market is paying for the experience and talents you possess. That is your starting point. Anything beyond that needs to have an explanation–and it should be concrete. If you can cite specific accomplishments you have made (at my company or any other) that aren’t figured into my offer number, then tell me about them, in detail. Help me to understand why they make you more valuable, and I’ll try to find a way to move my offer up. I am convinced by proof–sales attained, goals met, precise contributions made. The only language you need to worry about is being able to clearly articulate these accomplishments. Your inflection won’t get you a dime more or less.
2. Tell me how you have added/will add value to my company. When I begin my hiring process, I have a pretty good idea of the type of skills I need you to have in order to be successful at the position you are applying for. Two things are certain, however, I don’t have a crystal ball and I can always be taught something new. If you believe that you are able to add value to my company in a way I haven’t considered, now is the time to lay it on me. When I determine how much I can compensate you, I don’t pull the number out of the air. I do research, I consider what I am getting in exchange, and also what I can afford. Getting me to acknowledge your extras won’t happen because you talk nice or use industry jargon. I will pay attention to concise examples, clear explanations, and specific results. That you want more money may be the case, but it does not mean it is always feasible on my end. Help me give you what you desire by showing me that you will help me pay for that extra financial commitment by the way you wield your know-how for my company.
3. Describe what you have done/can do that is outside the job description that you are being considered for or are currently doing. This last point pertains more to you if you already work for my company and are looking for additional compensation. Do not, and I repeat, do not, tell me all the things you do for my company that are in your job description and for which you are already being paid. I will not now nor ever give you more money for something for which you are already remunerated. If you want more, demonstrate to me that you have done something that exceeds what you have been asked to do. Fill me in on the initiative you took to do something more than I expected. Make me understand that your contribution moved my company forward, and quantify that advance. Whether you are male or female makes no difference–if you can point out where you have given more of yourself than I required, I will listen at any time, and happily discuss making sure you are compensated for your efforts. Be aware, however, that I do not pay for the responsibilities you might take on, in the same way in which I would not pay you for possibly showing up on your first day.
Salary negotiations should not be feared, nor taken up with kid gloves. They should be forthright, honest, and occur when there is a real reason, rather than imagination at play. Dressing them up or down with intonation, subtlety or subordination is a waste of your mental space and my time.