Because you’re worth it: Some tips for mastering salary negotiations 👸🏻

The initial inspiration to share my thoughts about mastering the salary negotiations came from my fun interview call with Erika from FemmePalette 👩🏻

I felt like I need to dig deeper and study this to formulate any opinion. Back in years, I met thousands of candidates who would be struggling with communicating their own compensation expectation or employees who would not ask for raise because they do not have confidence built out, and eventually, they did — but then they would lack data to efficiently back up their main message.

Whether it’s setting expectations as a candidate or asking for a raise as an employee, salary negotiations can be daunting. Even if you are confident of the value you bring to the organization, self-doubt can easily kick in. This is particularly true in younger, less experienced employees.

Where does this uncertainty come from? In some cases, it stems from outdated views of work and the relationship between employer and employee. Many employees still believe their role is to simply accept what they are offered and be grateful for the opportunity. In other cases, people lack the confidence to ask for more or don’t understand the rules of ‘the game’ and how they should play it.

Salary negotiations shouldn’t be something to fear or avoid. It is perfectly normal to have grown-up conversions about aligning your pay with the value you bring. In this blog post, I’ll try to answer some of the questions you may have about salary negotiations, hopefully giving you the confidence to have productive and fruitful conversations about your compensation when the right time comes.

Who should start negotiations, HR or me? 👀

If you believe you are due a raise, I would suggest you start. By being proactive, you significantly increase your chances of getting what you want.

The same goes for candidates during the interview process — by setting salary expectations early, you stand a better chance of getting what you want. In fact, studies show that when the candidate makes the first offer, the salary is, on average, 30% higher than if they don’t.

In senior positions, everyone expects negotiation. How do recruiters feel when a junior starts negotiating? 👶🏼

It can be tempting to think that salary negotiations are only for experienced employees in senior positions, but this isn’t the case. Anyone has the right to discuss their pay, even someone just starting their career.

It goes without saying, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Over the course of a career, the earning potential of those that ask for a salary increase will far outstrip those that don’t, as each raise is based on the previously negotiated salary.

When it comes to asking for a raise, it doesn’t matter how senior (or otherwise) your position is, if you think that your pay doesn’t reflect the value you bring, you are well within your right to start a dialogue with your manager or HR.

It’s exactly the same when negotiating your starting salary as a candidate. If you believe in your ability and potential to have a significant impact on the company, and you can back this belief up with evidence, it doesn’t matter how old or senior you are. What’s more, having the courage and conviction to negotiate your terms also sends out a clear signal. Top performers negotiate, average ones don’t.

People often say ‘do your homework’ before starting salary negotiations. What steps can I take to best prepare myself? 🤓

It’s true, the more preparation and research you do before any negotiation, the more likely you are to have a positive outcome. When asking for a raise, prepare to make your best pitch. What makes you a high performer? How does your work impact the business? What value do you bring? What are your responsibilities in relation to your job title?

You should avoid vague ideas here and instead focus on real-life examples. Use charts and figures to present ideas where appropriate. The more you can translate the work you do into numbers, the better. Try to quantify the amount of money you have saved the company or the amount you have generated. This will be easier in some positions than others, but taking a data-driven approach to back up your work should be possible for any role.

The same goes when discussing salary expectations during interviews. It’s all about doing the groundwork, understanding what the market benchmark is for the position you are applying for, and being prepared to back up your expectations with solid reasoning. The best way to do this is to give concrete examples of the value you brought to previous positions in other companies.

I can see from interviewing and negotiating from the opposite side of a table that employees and candidates are often poorly prepared. They rarely back up their demands with data that showcases their value. For example, someone once supported their request for a raise by showing me their monthly spending habits on clothes, food, restaurants — all of which have nothing to do with their performance or ability.

When is the best time to start negotiating? 1st interview, 2nd interview, job offer? 🧐

You should have a specific amount in mind from the start, but the negotiation can start once the job offer is on the table. Again, by specifying an amount, you are likely to get a better starting salary than if you say nothing or give only vague suggestions.

If I am asked right away at a preselection call what my salary expectations are, what should I do? 🤑

Just be honest, but understand that the amount you suggest could set the tone for the interviews to come. I always ask candidates what their expectations are, as this says a lot about their seniority level and how they view themselves. Then I can be flexible and modify the next rounds and align with the interviewing panel on the expectation.

For example, if the amount is going to be what we expect from a junior role, then the interviewers are likely to be more benevolent, and the interview will be less intense. For candidates asking for senior-level salaries, the interviewers will be more direct and demanding.

Should I include the benefits and perks that the company offers in my negotiation? 💌

Definitely. You should never consider your salary as the only reward for your work. It’s the whole package, including vacation, investment in your development, the professional doors that the company can open for you, and so on.

For example, at productboard, we are backed by top venture capital funds such as Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins, and we have access to other companies in their portfolio. Thanks to these crucial connections, we can work alongside the heads of design at amazing companies like Slack and Dropbox. This is a great selling point if we want to hire a senior designer.

We also offer stock options, and I’ve found that for some people, negotiating a competitive stock option grant is even more important than negotiating a salary. Again, this tells you a lot about the candidate and how they see their future at the company. Only a person who’s serious about making a long-term impact would negotiate a better stock options package.

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Tereza Machackova

Tereza Machackova

VC | Startups | Feminism | Tech | Leadership | Brain

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