Negotiating for a raise

By Kathleen Wells, Ph.D.

Asking for a raise or negotiating salary should be easy-but it's not. Unless you are a sales or marketing professional who is used to selling yourself, asking for money can be downright uncomfortable. So here's what you do.

First, go into job interviews or raise negotiations armed with knowledge. Use the Internet, Chamber of Commerce or library and get the financial reports on the companies with whom you interview. Determine what salaries their executives command and what the person you would be replacing is earning.

The second part of preparing to negotiate is reviewing the primary skills the company is seeking compared to those you will bring to the company. In order to showcase these effectively, you need to practice developing what is known as a CAR statement. This is one particular Circumstance where you used a skill the company needs, the Action you took to resolve the problem and what the Results were.

Third, prepare your "pitch." This is used when the interviewer asks how much money you want. Whenever possible you want the company to name a figure first. It's rather like buying a car-she who speaks first, loses! Many of my clients handle this with a straightforward response like, "This appears to be a challenging position, and I'd certainly enjoy being part of your company. What range are you offering?" When they corner you or give you a range, go into your pitch. Briefly review why they are interested in you. For example, if they give you a range you might say, "Working for XYZ Company is definitely something I'd enjoy. I bring proven leadership and problem solving skills (all things you match to their needs!) to the position, so I would expect to be hired at the high end of that range."

When they won't name a figure, review why they are interested and say (based on your research), "I'd be willing to start at X dollars per year," then be ready to negotiate.

Nail down the salary before discussing benefits and stock options. For many companies benefits are pretty well set, but for others, everything is negotiable from the typical medical/dental plans to car phones, company cars, and a flexible schedule for child and family issues. Once you have a solid salary figure you are ready to discuss the other benefits. Do it in the same way as you did the salary. Show your enthusiasm for the company and the position, remind them of why they want you and what you are going to do for them, then tell them what you want in the way of a benefits package.

Remember all types of items are negotiable. *Judith Wilkerson was offered an excellent package with a new company in Los Angeles. Because she'd been taught to always negotiate, even though the package was generous, she asked for a few special benefits. "I reminded the hiring manager why they wanted me and what the benefits I would bring to the company meant in actual dollars saved. Then I told them the salary and benefits package was acceptable, but I needed assistance with relocating from Denver. They paid for all the normal moving expenses for my family, paid to move my two horses and took over the expense of maintaining my Denver home until it sold." Don't be afraid to ask. They will not retract an offer just because you did.

Many executives and salaried employees are now negotiating for salary plus overtime. When you are salaried, especially on the high end, many companies own you. If they say a project will require 60 to 80 hour weeks for the next four weeks they expect you to say, "Oh, boy." With families this is not a good thing. When you negotiate your salary, consider a base salary for a 40 to 45 hour week plus a set amount per hour for overtime. If that doesn't work, negotiate compensatory time and be sure you will have time to take it.

The final step in preparing to negotiate salary and benefit packages is to practice. Ask a family member or friend to interview you. Have them, at different times, throw in the question about how much money you want. Be ready to deflect the question until you have a solid offer. Practice asking for the salary you deserve. Practice telling them you are good at what you do and the benefits you will bring to the company. One woman, with whom I worked, went into her salary negotiations with a complete marketing plan she had taken the time to develop. The proposal showed she was enthused about the job, company and that she had done her research. She was hired at the top of the available salary range with excellent benefits.

ALWAYS let your enthusiasm, professionalism and integrity show. Managers can teach new employees their company policies or specific skills; they cannot make them enthusiastic or a good team player. Those are personal skills. Let them show.

Typically when you are offered a job at the higher levels, you will receive a written offer letter. Write a counter offer the same way you would present your argument in person.

Do not be timid about negotiating for the salary and benefits you deserve! The company will not withdraw an offer because you have asked for more. So, do your research, develop a pitch that matches the company's needs, and practice, practice, practice.

Also see:
Search the salary database
Understanding yoru signing bonus
Ask Career Coach Kathleen Wells your questions

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Kathleen Wells is the director of Coaches That Care and provides a full range of online career services. Contact her at

* Judith's name was changed due to a nondisclosure clause in her contract.