Negotiating can get a bad rap. For many people it’s synonymous with confrontation or that one-dimensional, zero-sum game where by definition if one person wins, the other person loses.
This outdated mindset may help explain the tendency for many people not to bother trying. Consider survey results released this week by Jobvite, a recruitment software firm, showing only 35% of men and just 26% of women negotiate for higher salaries among over 1,500 job seekers queried. Yet about 85% of those who tried were rewarded with higher pay, according to the survey.
Why the disconnect? Some job-seekers likely suffer from a problem of perception and may benefit from reframing how they regard negotiating in the first place, says Rachel Bitte, chief people officer with Jobvite.
“It doesn’t have to be confrontational,” Bitte says, who especially urges women, still lagging behind men in their greater reluctance to negotiate, to consider some new habits while on the job hunt to improve their odds for successful negotiations.
Here are her top three tips:
Do Your Homework. As I’ve written about before, preparing for a fruitful negotiation requires effort. Your best bet for strengthening your negotiating position is gathering competing offers, (or improving your BATNA — Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement). Gather as much data on comparable job salaries as possible.
Good sources include anything from job listings to online resources such as salary.com or Glassdoor. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples — an offer from a tech giant like Google will look different from a riskier startup, she reminds, adding that she and her fellow Silicon Valley peers joke about their bathrooms wallpapered with stock options that never materialized into a windfall.
“Really know what the market is in your job and industry and location,” Bitte says. “Have lots of data sources — not just your roommate — they’re going to ask you, ‘How did you come up with that, Rachel?’”
All of this preparation will ready you should an interviewer ask about salary history allowing you to rephrase into, “Here’s my expectations for this role,” as Bitte says.
Know Your Top Priorities. What’s most important to you will likely change at different life stages. What’s key in your 20s (like paying off those student loans) could look very different from your 30s and 40s (when you may not be as game for a job where you travel 50% of the time).
Get a good grasp on expectations — yours and theirs — from travel to flexibility with hours along with all the regular benefits. And if you don’t have a solid understanding or don’t feel ready to negotiate on the spot, don’t be afraid to ask for more time. “It’s ok to at least take a night,” Bitte says.
Don’t Overlook Your Current Employer. Your best opportunity may be at your current company — perhaps in a different role. Bitte urges people to really focus on: what do you want to do? What do you want to learn? If you’re having those conversations with an outside recruiter, try having them within the company too. “Are you also having that conversation with your own managers,” Bitte asks.
Bitte recently encouraged a friend employed in public health to talk with her boss about her need to secure a higher-paying salary even if it meant applying to a different institution. As the jobs lean heavily on grants, she doubted there was any room to seek higher pay at her current job, but was surprised when her manager asked her to give them a chance to match any outside offers.
“She felt like there was never any room so why would she ask,” Bitte says.
Reluctant negotiators should also remember that the entire process, if it is respectful and cooperative, will tell you a lot about the organization and the managers. “It is meant to be a partnership,” she says.