Do You Deserve More Money?

Here are 4 tips to get the compensation you want

By Julie Norwell

Compensation is a fundamental component of employment, but it’s one of the most difficult topics for workers to discuss with their employers. No surprise, perhaps, given that discussing money is traditionally a conversational taboo, along with politics and religion. Nevertheless, if you want to get paid what you deserve, developing a comfort level with this topic and having a good strategy will go a long way towards preparing yourself to ask for – and get – the compensation you want.

Enlisting the help of a career coach is a great way to get started. Their clientele gives them hands-on insight into what works and what doesn’t. A coach can suggest best practices and real practice to help you become more at ease with the process.

As for strategy, it’s important to keep in mind that, when it comes to negotiating money, there are two specific times to do it: during the hiring period and after you’re already employed. Each time calls for a different approach, and it pays (literally!) to learn the following tactics.

Lay the Groundwork During the Application Process

The first step to set yourself up well to negotiate money during the application process is to make the hiring manager believe that you are the perfect fit for the job. That means you omit everything from your resume that is outside the scope of the job description. Scratch all keywords that are unrelated to the company, the industry, and the role that the company needs you to do. Scratch even achievements that you are very proud of if they aren’t related to the job description, and leave only core competencies and skills. This will help ATS software identify you as a highly skilled person, flag you as being worth more money, and secure you more interviews.

How to Talk Money During the Interview Process

When you reach the interview process, pursue the same tactic as above through verbal articulation. Jot down in advance all of your successes that directly relate to the job posting, and discuss only those during your interview. Give examples of what you have done that relates to what the company wants you to do. Don’t bother to bring up anything else, even if you’re proud of it. Why? Discussing your experience beyond the job description might make the hiring manager think that you will negotiate any offer they might extend, which will result in a lowball initial offer.

You should absolutely negotiate, of course, and you want to ensure that the starting point is as high as possible before you do. Surprisingly, about half of all job applicants do NOT negotiate salary during the hiring process. Of those who do, most focus only on base pay, instead of considering the entire compensation package. People who don’t negotiate at all, or who don’t negotiate the compensation package as a whole, during the hiring process inevitably leave money on the table.

In general, if you’re asked what salary you want, try to duck giving a direct answer. Let the hiring manager name the first number. If pressed, offer a range, along with a disclaimer that you will consider a salary offer only in the context of a full compensation package, as well as the people you will work with and report to, and any other pertinent details. You don’t want to trap yourself into the low end of a range, and this disclaimer will give you greater freedom to negotiate.

Start Preparing to Ask for a Raise the Moment You’re Hired

The best way to get a pay raise after you’re employed, says Dan Resendes, chief consulting officer of The Barrett Group, is to accept a job offer with a request that you get your first evaluation in six months instead of in one year. You’ll look ambitious, and it enables you to ask for a raise twice in one year.

“Eighty percent of my clients get a 6-month evaluation when they ask for it,” says Resendes.

Next, ask your manager right away what her goals and objectives are. Find out what the performance indicators are and tell your manager that you plan to give her the best performance possible. In return you, you will ask to be compensated as well as possible. If this makes you feel apprehensive, remember that bosses are impressed by ambition, and asking for money demonstrates your interest in staying at the company.

Don’t wait until your evaluation to follow up and find out how you are doing against the goals you were given. Be proactive and have regular conversations once or twice per quarter to make sure that you’re on track and that the objectives haven’t changed, lest you fall victim to an evolving mission.

Track Your Successes

One unique stratagem that coaches at The Barrett Group counsel their clients to do is to buy a “dream book” when they start a new job. A dream book is a notebook in which you write down all your successes and the ways that you deserve gold stars for meeting your goals. Update the notebook each week. By the end of 10 months, it will be full of contributions you’ve made to the company that can inform the conversations you have with your boss about your performance and bolster your rationale for a pay raise request.

The most effective way to use the dream book is to invite your boss to coffee about a month before your evaluation takes place, the better to have her undivided attention. Tell her that you’ve been tracking your work performance since you were hired and present her with a report that will give her complete, accurate information of your contributions to the company that she can review at her leisure as she considers your upcoming raise.

Offering your boss such written evidence has three benefits:

  1. It supports your argument for deserving more money,
  2. It takes the onus off her to think of reasons, herself, why you deserve a raise when there may be other competing demands on her time, and
  3. It helps her defend to higher ups in the company her decision to give you more money if the need arises.

When you proactively target company goals, track your results, and regularly communicate your efforts and overall ambition to your boss, you strip away all the risks generally associated with asking for a pay raise. You make the best case possible that you deserve a raise. Most people are reactionary with their careers, but those who manage their careers in this way end up more successful, more satisfied, and better compensated.

General Dos & Don’ts

In addition to these four tactics, here are some general Dos and Don’ts to keep in mind as you plan your next raise request:

  • DO ask! You’re more likely to get a raise if you ask for it than if you don’t ask for it. Plus, you’ve got nothing to lose; people don’t get fired for asking for more money.
  • DO consider bonuses, benefits, perks, and other elements of the full compensation package in your negotiations, not just base pay.
  • DO your homework. Know what you’re worth, what you’ve done and what you need to do to set yourself up for success. Make sure that your work priorities are aligned with the company’s, and solicit feedback regularly from your boss.
  • DO your best to appear confident during all your conversations about money.
  • DO take stretch assignments that allow you to interact with people outside your silo. If your boss doesn’t treat you right, these additional contacts will enhance your leverage to secure a better situation.
  • DON’T talk aboutyour personal financial needs when negotiating your pay. Your rent hike isn’t your boss’s problem. Negotiations should always be performance-based conversations.
  • DON’T negotiate money through email! Men especially make this mistake, observes Resendes. If you are communicating via email, you can be sure that you’re up against a team of people whose best interests are hiring you at the lowest possible compensation you’ll accept. Instead pick up the phone so you can speak to one – and only one – person and hear his reactions to your comments.
  • DON’T negotiate pay before you have an offer in writing. Big mistake! If you don’t know what’s in the entire compensation package, you don’t have the full picture. The base salary may be low because of a big bonus, corporate housing, stock options, or any number of other reasons. Wait until you know all the details of an offer before you begin negotiating.
  • DON’T challenge your boss or get defensive if you don’t get the raise you want. Let it sit for a week and then, when you’re calm, circle back to ask what you could have done differently to get the raise you asked for. Use the experience as an opportunity for self-growth.
  • DON’T forget that if you don’t get paid what you deserve, you can always go elsewhere. It’s a jobseeker’s market, so take advantage!

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