In the next 10 minutes, I’m going to show you how to negotiate hourly pay to get the highest possible rate.
This is based on years of experience working as a recruiter.
Whether you’re entering a salary negotiation for a new role or trying to negotiate a higher hourly wage in your current job, these salary negotiation tips will help you get more money.
Never ask for a range when negotiating your hourly pay. If you say, “I’m hoping for $18 to $20 per hour,” the employer will just hear the bottom number.
They’ll be thinking, “Okay, we can make a job offer at $18 an hour and finalize this salary discussion right now.”
This isn’t because employers are evil or have bad intentions. It’s just human nature to think like this when you hear a range. They’ll make the salary offer at the bottom of your range, so instead, name a specific number.
That’s the first key to a successful negotiation.
When asking for a specific hourly pay, you want to request a number that’s realistic but also somewhat high in the range of normal salaries for the role.
This leaves you some wiggle room, so if an employer comes back with a lower counter offer, you’ll still have a good compensation package overall.
If you’re not sure what the typical hourly pay is for this job title, you need to do some market research into average salaries.
Look up the average hourly wage for your specific job title in your city.
You can do this with a salary calculator on a site like Glassdoor.
That way, if you receive an offer that’s below market average, you can point to the research you’ve done and make a reasonable counter offer.
But if you don’t know what similar jobs pay, you’re going to struggle in the negotiation process.
I recommend taking this research step early on in the job interview process, even before you begin to negotiate salary.
That way, you’re ready any time the employer wants to talk salary or asks you for your desired salary. You never know when you’ll face this question or when the salary negotiation will begin, so you should prepare early in your job search.
Any time you negotiate a higher hourly wage, you should back up your request with convincing reasons.
And the best way to justify asking for more money is to focus on business-related reasons, not personal reasons.
You can get a higher job offer by talking about the following:
You can also mention market factors regarding hourly rate, including:
And it’s best to avoid personal reasons when you begin negotiating hourly rate.
Don’t talk about the price of gas, student loans, your long commute, etc. That’s not going to be as compelling.
Sometimes, asking questions can help you get a higher salary.
This is one of those salary negotiation tips that is counter-intuitive, but letting the hiring manager speak can boost your job offer just as much as when you speak/negotiate for a higher hourly wage.
Here are examples of open-ended questions that can move the conversation forward, help you overcome objections, and uncover important info when negotiating salary/hourly pay:
Asking a question like, “Is there any flexibility in your offer?” is a powerful tactic when negotiating salary, because it prompts the employer to negotiate against themselves.
Instead of making a specific counter offer, you’re essentially asking the employer for the best starting salary they can offer (but with more pleasant phrasing).
And even if the employer can’t increase the hourly wage for the position, they may offer a signing bonus, more vacation time, a chance to earn a raise after a probationary period, etc.
And by asking, you’ve found out the best an employer can do! That’s a win. That’s one of your main goals in a job negotiation. You won’t always get the exact salary you ask for, but it’s a successful conversation if you find out the best hourly pay that the employer can offer you.
Your goal in a negotiation is to get what’s fair.
Find out what the employer can offer, decide if that’s fair for you based on the job and your skill set, and then make a decision.
Your goal isn’t to bully or trick an employer into paying far more than the job is worth.
That’s just going to ruin your relationship with companies/hiring managers, and even if they decide you’re the person they want to hire, you’ll be starting on the wrong foot.
In fact, I’d argue that you don’t want to be working at an employer that offers their employees far above what the position should earn.
How likely are they to stay in business with an approach like that?
So think of the negotiation as a conversation to come to a fair agreement.
Remember this if you face some tough salary questions or feel uncomfortable. You’re simply trying to reach a fair compromise that’s great for you and the company.
If you stay calm and approach your negotiation with this goal in mind, you’ll get a fair hourly rate and also start your new job in great standing with the company.
Whether you’re getting the first offer or reviewing a counter offer, it’s okay to ask questions and clarify anything needed.
Job seekers should never rush to respond to an offer before understanding all of the details.
So make sure you fully understand the position’s pay, benefits, the job description and work expected of you, how your performance will be measured, and how performance reviews work, too.
Understand whether you’re only paid an hourly wage or whether you will receive any additional annual bonuses, performance bonuses, signing bonuses, etc.
Understand when you’ll be first eligible for a raise. Maybe an employer has little to no wiggle room in their offer but they’ll conduct a performance review in six months.
That’s not as good as getting more cash now, but it’s still a helpful step to ensuring you’re fairly compensated.
So take all of the above into consideration and if you aren’t clear on any of these points, ask questions.
It’s okay if you can’t agree on a starting salary in a single meeting or phone conversation.
Many job seekers don’t realize this.
Don’t be afraid to ask a potential employer for 24 hours to consider what you’ve discussed.
Just tell the hiring manager that you appreciate the offer and are excited, but you always like to discuss important decisions with your family.
Then, ask if it would be alright if you get back to them in 24 hours (or slightly more).
There’s no risk of losing out on this potential new job by asking for time to consider the offer, since you’re asking the hiring manager directly if it’s okay to get back to them in a certain timeframe.
You’ll hear immediately if they agree (which they always should; this is a completely reasonable request in the hiring process).
Many candidates feel pressure to respond immediately any time an employer offers them the role, but you can always take the final offer and review the details at home, in a more relaxed environment.
I know this is easier said than done, but you’re going to have more leverage and more confidence in any pay negotiation if you’ve got offers for multiple jobs.
This will allow you to negotiate with less anxiety, sell your value, and ask for the exact amount you want to take this position.
Whereas, if you’ve got one single job offer, you’ll be more timid when negotiating, since you’ll be worried about what to do if the employer offers too little.
So my advice is: don’t stop applying to positions until you’ve accepted a job offer in writing.
This is the advice I’d give a close friend if they asked me how to approach their job hunt.
This approach is going to boost your confidence not only in negotiating salary… but also in your job interviews.
Your interactions with employers will fundamentally change when you have multiple interviews and multiple potential offers coming in.
You won’t be afraid to ask for what you want. And you won’t feel pressured to accept a job offer that you don’t feel is fair.
You don’t want to spend your negotiation shuffling through dozens of papers or staring down at documents, but bringing one single page of notes can be helpful to job seekers looking to negotiate well.
And if you’re negotiating your hourly pay on the phone, then the hiring manager can’t even see you, so take full advantage.
Prepare notes, perhaps with a pen and highlighter, to be able to quickly see the key points you want to mention.
Your notes for negotiating can include the following (but not limited to):
This is an optional step in terms of how to negotiate hourly pay in-person, but many job seekers will find it helpful.
And if you’re going to be negotiating via a phone conversation, it’s a mistake to not have some basic notes prepared.
Just be sure you aren’t loudly shuffling papers during the phone conversation. Have your papers organized so you can quickly and easily (and quietly!) refer to them.
Each note you write is a data point or idea that you don’t have to remember. This frees your brain to focus on negotiating well and listening well instead of remembering numbers and other details.
Keep a pen handy during a phone salary negotiation, too, to write any key numbers or details shared by the hiring manager.
I mentioned salary research earlier, but I want to highlight its importance again before wrapping up this list.
If you are about to negotiate hourly pay and don’t have a clear understanding of ALL of the following, then you’re not prepared:
In a negotiation, your level of research shows. As soon as you start talking, a hiring manager will see whether you’re a person who is prepared for this discussion or whether you want more money but can’t explain why.
And they may ask some tough questions in response to your requested wage increase, such as, “How did you come up with that number?” or “Why do you feel that this specific number is warranted?”
Your best shot at getting a higher salary is to show the manager that you’re well prepared and confident in your request, and that you can back it up with facts and logic.
It’s normal and acceptable to negotiate your hourly pay with employers.
Go into the negotiation with confidence (and solid research), be polite but direct/firm, and find out what the manager can offer.
If you get a wage that’s fair for both sides and/or find out the best an employer can offer you, then you’ve had a successful negotiation.
Finally, remember that you don’t need to rush to decide about a job offer on the spot.
If the manager makes a counter offer or suggests a pay increase that’s lower than you wanted, you can ask for 24-48 hours to consider the details before you respond.
If you follow the tips above, you’ll give yourself the best chance to negotiate a higher hourly wage, whether you’re starting a new position or asking for more money in your current role.
Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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