You don’t have much to lose if you negotiate a salary offer when you receive one – the worst that can happen is that you’ll hear a “no.” Don’t be scared away from negotiating your salary by the fear of cracking under the pressure of tough questions.
Being prepared to answer both the really difficult questions and the benign ones will give you confidence and ease when you enter your next salary negotiation. Here are some of the most important ones to prepare for:
1. “Why should you be paid higher than what was offered?”
This is the most important question to be armed with an answer for. You need discreet, tangible evidence that can display why you should be paid higher. This can be because of factors directly relevant to the job, like your educational background or your expertise in a certain arena. It can also be because of exterior factors, like college debt or medical bills. Back your answer up with hard facts and research. Make your partner on the other side of the negotiating table understand exactly why you deserve a higher starting point.
[Related: 25 Cities Where Pay Goes Furthest]
2. “How did you choose this amount?”
Don’t just ask for a higher pay rate at random – have the research prepared for exactly why you need that extra amount. Start your research off with a tool like Glassdoor’s salary search, to find out what other people in the industry, and even at your own company, are making in similar positions. Even better, reach out to people within the company to find out what they make. You might get a more positive response than you’d think – according to a recent Harvard Business Review survey, 27% of respondents said that they would divulge salary information if asked. This will give you a general range to negotiate in. Next, use information about your qualifications, expertise, and general fit for the company towards why you should be paid in the upper level of that range.
[Related: How to Deal With a Bad Boss]
3. “If we can’t give you a higher salary, are there other benefits that you’d be willing to take in place?”
Getting a pay bump is great, but you could end up with an even more attractive offer in the end if you’re savvy about how you negotiate your benefits package. Identify which benefits are most important to you before going into the negotiation, and be able to give reasons why they matter. These benefits could be stock options, 401(k) contributions, more paid vacation time, upgraded health insurance, reimbursement for tuition or other training program expenses, or even a signing bonus, just to name a few. Also consider perks that are not directly related to compensation, like the option to telecommute or work with flextime.
[Related: The Best and Worst Industries for Benefits]
4. “Is anyone else offering you a higher salary?”
This can be a tough one, because it can knock out a potential point of leverage for you during the negotiation. If no one else is offering you something higher, it’s best to be up front about it, and not try to be vague. Move on to basing your argument on different grounds. If you are being offered a higher salary somewhere else, this is a tool to use wisely. This piece of information should not be the sole basis for negotiation – you want to prove to them why you deserve a higher salary because of more tangible factors, like that you have a unique expertise, or that the salary they’re offering is lower than average in the field.