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How to Read the Hiring Manager’s Mind During a Salary Negotiation

Topics: Negotiation

Making it to the salary negotiation phase of the interview process is good news — good, stressful news. Data collected for PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide show that talking about money is so nerve-racking, many people opt to skip it. In fact, 57 percent of respondents said they’d never negotiated salary in their current field.

salary negotiation
Image Credit: RichVintage/Getty Images

Not asking can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career. Salary negotiation pays off: 75 percent of those who ask, get some sort of a salary bump.

Of course, if you’re reading this, you’re probably already convinced that salary negotiation is in your best interests. What you want to know is how to get the salary you deserve — without alienating your negotiating partner across the table. Wouldn’t it be great if you could just read the hiring manager’s mind? Well, you sort of can. Here’s what you need to know, going into the meeting.

  1. Figure out what you’re worth.

Before you try to jump into the mind of the hiring manager, you need to do some research on what you should be earning. PayScale’s Salary Survey can help you figure out what you should be making based on your qualifications and experience.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Once you have your salary range in mind, you’ll know what to aim for during your negotiation. You’ll also be able to negotiate with confidence.

  1. Know that hiring managers are nervous, too.

Hiring managers are human, and they get nervous. This may be your dream job, but you’re also their dream candidate, or they wouldn’t have made the offer. Many candidates make the mistake of assuming that the negotiation is one-sided and that they’re at the mercy of the employer/hiring manager — but that’s not actually the truth.

Hiring managers are also hoping they don’t mess things up, because they don’t know if you have another offer on the table. The company could lose out on an ideal candidate because they couldn’t offer you a fair compensation package. Instead of seeing a salary negotiation as you asking for money, consider it as a meeting for you and the employer to come to an agreement on how to make this deal work for everyone involved.

  1. Get to know the person sitting across from you.

One of the most beneficial things you can do before your negotiation is to know your negotiating partner, because, “[c]ompanies don’t negotiate; people do,” says Deepak Malhorta in Harvard Business Review. Therefore, “before you can influence the person sitting opposite you, you have to understand her.”

Go beyond the person’s name and job title. Do some research on who the professional sitting across from you. You don’t have to go all stalker-mode on the person, but you should do some research online to figure out basic information such as alma mater, hobbies, work experience, and whether you both have anything in common. A simple search on LinkedIn and other social media sites should turn up enough information to give you a decent portrait.

  1. Read the hiring manager’s body language.

You can tell a lot about what the other person is thinking or feeling simply by observing body language during the meeting. Is the hiring manager making eye contact and taking notes during your negotiation, or is he preoccupied with his phone or looking off into the distance while you’re talking?

For instance, if the hiring manager is attentive to what you’re saying and actively participates in the conversation, you know he thinks you’re worth the fight. However, if he seems distant and shoots down everything you say, then you may be wasting your time in the negotiation and with that employer. If a prospective employer isn’t willing to negotiate a fair salary, then you should consider whether you want to work for a company that doesn’t see your value from the get-go.

  1. Understand that hiring managers have needs (and constraints), too.

Unfortunately, hiring managers have budgets, so they might not be able to meet you at your desired number. If you love the job, and their offer is reasonable but not spectacular, consider negotiating for something other than money.

As the saying goes, money doesn’t buy happiness — but maybe more vacation or a flexible schedule will. Money shouldn’t be your only focus when entering a negotiation, because there are other ways than money that you can be compensated (like these five). Plus, the hiring manager will probably have more room to negotiating other aspects of your compensation package, if she already has a tight budget to work with.

Last, but not least, be sure to check out PayScale’s Salary Negotiation Guide to spruce up on your negotiation tactics so that you can enter your meeting with the confidence and reassurance you need to negotiate like a pro.

Tell Us What You Think

Have something to add to the list? Share your mind-reading secrets with our community on Twitter, or leave your comment below.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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