Negotiating a New Salary

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I got a great question from a reader and old friend the other day that I thought would be kinda cool to write about today because I think everyone has faced this and when they do they likely think, “Well shit. How do I not shoot myself in the foot here?”

But first, a quick shout out to my buddy for sending me this question (I’ll remove his name, just in case he really is far down the recruiting process and doesn’t want people to know). It’s an awesome question that I think many people can get value from. Here’s the question:

Hey Mark, I have a fun negotiating question for you… (apologies if you’ve written about this and I haven’t read it!) How would you handle this? You’re far along in the recruiting process with a company – they send you an email to ‘align on expectations’ and it says what’s your base salary and benefits, etc as well as your expectations in the new role?

Great question, right!?!

I’m going to build on my original response to him here and go a bit deeper than I did in my reply.

I generally advise to negotiate the job scope (description, travel requirements, leadership exposure, advancement opportunities, team makeup, autonomy, responsibilities, accountability, etc) before salary.

The reason I recommend this is because even though there’s a job description, the expectations for the job may be completely different than what’s in the description. And generally speaking, the job description usually sucks. It usually doesn’t say much about “how” the job is expected to be done. By determining the expectations of the hiring manager around the job itself, you can save yourself a lot of headaches in the future. It also gives you the opportunity to negotiate some intangible benefits as well. Like how much autonomy you’ll be given, whether you’ll have the ability to build the team you want, etc.

Now, if you’ve already sorted out the scope, then I’d recommend anchoring them quite high and double bracketing.

Someone right now is thinking, “Double bracketing sounds risky.” But in my experience, if you’re that far along in the recruiting process, it’s worth it.

For example, if market research shows people on average get paid 150K for the role, but you think you can get $160K, then a single bracket would be the delta between the two numbers and a double bracket would be double that. So, you would come in saying your salary expectations are $180K (a single bracket would be $170K).

“Wait, isn’t that asking for too much? Shouldn’t you be asking for what you’re realistically worth?”

No.

You should always ask for more than you expect to get. This is the golden rule of negotiating! “Always ask for more than you expect to get.” should be tattooed on the inside of your hands so you never forget. It seems so simple and yet so many people don’t do it.

So why should you always ask for more than you expect to get? There are many reasons and you can read about the here and here. But for now I want to focus on anchoring. By double bracketing you create an anchor in the mind of the party your negotiating with.

As a quick refresher, anchoring someone is to cause a cognitive bias in someone’s mind to rely heavily on an initial offer (to ‘anchor’ someone to your offer so you’re more likely to close closer to your offer). Studies have shown that they’re statistically more likely to close closer to your number than theirs (hence the name anchor – because you’re anchoring them to a number). Yes, this is real. The initial price offered for an object at the start of a negotiation sets a focal point for all following discussions. 

By doing this, not only are you creating an anchor, but you’re also giving yourself room to move in the negotiation. If you come in asking for what you think you’re worth and they counter with less, where do you go from there? Correct, less than what you think you’re worth. And if you get a job for less than you think you’re worth, how happy and excited do you think you’ll be in that job? I see so many negotiation ‘experts’ telling people that they should ask for what they believe they’re worth.  This is terrible advice! By asking for what you think you’re worth you paint yourself into a corner with no room to move. That’s why you always ask for more. 

So, if you’re faced with the enviable position of being far down the recruiting process, double bracket and anchor. You’ll close closer to your number, you give yourself room to move, and you’ll be happier in the long run (not to mention the extra cash you’ll get).