Salary Negotiation Strategies for HR Professionals

By Robin Ryan September 28, 2022
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Salary Negotiation Strategies for HR Professionals

​The largest raises you'll ever get in your career typically come from quitting a job and joining a new employer, though not everyone wants to jump ship. Learning how to negotiate for a pay raise—whether you are job hunting or staying put—is critical if you hope to earn what you're worth in the market.

"The mistake many HR people make is not understanding their market value for the role they're pursuing. They think about their current salary without researching the salary range or adding in the current climate for hiring talent," said Denise Novosel, a vice president of recruiting in Oregon who has worked for two Fortune 500 companies in her career.

"For example, an HR person may have a lower salary because they've stayed too long where they are and are underpaid," she explained. "They fail to see that they only earned an annual merit increase, typically 2 percent to 3 percent. If your employer had to replace you and hire someone for the same job, they'd most likely have to offer a significantly higher salary." 

To be sure, learning how to negotiate pay may require seeking help from an expert. "The HR people who negotiate well usually have been coached," said Andre King, a recruiting manager with a Fortune 100 company outside Seattle. "Compensation is built around ranges, and a complex formula is used to determine what the range is for a particular position. Most HR people know this but forget that no company has an unlimited budget."

King added that the pandemic has changed how many employees view compensation. "Candidates are focused less on long-term loyalty and career trajectory and will jump from one organization to another," he said. "Many people want to secure the highest salary and do hardcore negotiations because they know they aren't staying long term. It's all about themselves."

As a result, focusing solely on money can be a career mistake. "People lose sight of why they invested their time in interviewing for a new position," King said. "Are they unhappy, is it a toxic culture, too much stress, do they hate the hours or is it a bad boss? Has the leadership changed or are they moving in a new direction? Those motivations sometimes get lost when it turns into just asking for the highest salary possible."

That said, if earning more money is your primary motivation, then it's important to research salary ranges by position in advance, and then prepare to explain why you're seeking a certain salary level. "Be clear on what you want to ask for and why," King advised. "Most people have something in mind, but you need to describe how you came up with that number. Be sure to explain the skills, strengths, experience and strong background you bring to the table to warrant that salary request."

Raises Are in the Air

Employee demands for higher pay seem to be widespread given the current rate of inflation. The CHRO at a midsize service organization shared her recent experience in which an employee's threat to leave led to a pay hike. "Our training manager came to me and said, 'I wasn't job hunting, but someone reached out to me, which led to an excellent job offer. I like working here and want to stay.' "

To keep the manager on board, the firm needed to increase her salary by $20,000 and promote her to the director level. "I didn't want to lose this valuable employee," the CHRO said, "so I went to the CEO and got him to agree to meet her terms." 

If your goal is to negotiate more money in your current job—or in a new position—follow these five strategies to increase your likelihood of success:

1. Know What Your Skills Are Worth

Conduct research to learn exactly what you should expect to be paid given your years of experience, education, location, certifications and any special training you have obtained. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Glassdoor and Payscale all offer free salary surveys that detail information to help you estimate what you should be earning.

2. Define What You Want

You need to have a number in mind based on your research before you start discussions. Also, decide at what salary level you're willing to walk away, or are there extra perks that would make up the difference for you? SHRM's 2022 Employee Benefits Survey reports that the top requested benefits include comprehensive health care, retirement accounts, professional career development and flexibility. More vacation time also is important to some people. Outline what perks matter to you most before you start negotiating. 

3. Try to Raise the Initial Offer

Many women don't recognize their total worth in the workplace and rarely demand it, compensation experts say, and the same is true for employees from different cultures. Unemployed job seekers tend to sell themselves short as well, even though they know that the first offer they receive usually can be improved upon.

Being prepared to have that critical conversation about money during the interview is the only way to obtain a higher salary, say recruiters. In other words, TRY. An immediate pay hike is your goal. Promised bonuses, stock options and performance reviews in a few months often never materialize. Write down the skills and capabilities the employer will get if it hires or promotes you. Role-play that conversation with a friend. Practice until you feel you can handle this discussion comfortably. 

4. Plan Out What to Say 

A solid way to bridge the negotiation is to say, "I'm really interested in the position (or promotion). However, I was a little disappointed that the salary offer was lower than I expected, especially since I have this experience or these skills (note something specific) and will come up to speed quickly." Then let the hiring manager make the next move. 

5. Be Specific When It Counts

The hiring manager may ask what amount you have in mind. Know what you want and state it, then be willing to wait for an answer. The manager may say they have to ask their boss for the additional dollars. If the manager wants you, they'll become your advocate and almost always come back with more than they originally offered. Patience here pays off. Don't forget to negotiate the perks, like more vacation or a flexible schedule. Practice your request, and you'll appear confident in your ability to get it.

Robin Ryan is the bestselling author of the how-to-interview book 60 Seconds & You're Hired (Penguin Books, 2016)along with seven other books. She has appeared on over 3,000 TV and radio shows, including "Oprah" and "Dr. Phil." She provides career counseling services, including resume writing, interview coaching and LinkedIn profile writing services to clients nationwide. Sign up for her free career newsletter at RobinRyan.com.

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