(MoneyWatch) Successful salary negotiation can seem like it is part strategy, part luck. In some ways, the latter is true -- you're lucky if both sides' numbers are within the same range. But a smart strategy, planned in advance, will always help you. That should involve some crucial keywords that you can use to guide you through the process. Here are three "magic words" to keep in mind the next time you're negotiating for higher pay.
This term of art in salary-speak refers to the number you decide, before you go in, that's just not acceptable to you. "In an interview situation, you may get in there and agree to a salary that's too low because you're excited to finally be employed," explained Jack Chapman, a salary coach and author of "Negotiating Your Salary, How To Make $1000 A Minute." That doesn't mean you'll outright refuse an offer that's in your "no-go" range, but you'll know your options, such as thanking the employer but moving on or freelancing to reach your necessary salary. "Knowing this number will give you a level of confidence that will work its way into the negotiation," Chapman said.
You need to research industry salaries before the interview so you know what you're worth. "Find out if your company publishes salary ranges for your position, and get a general sense of what the market pays for your job by exploring online and through executive recruiters and professional associations," said Linda Descano, president and CEO of Citi's Women & Co., a financial resource for women. You need to know your market value to avoid throwing out a lowball number. "You're more likely to meet with success if you ask for compensation that fits within your company's existing practices and policies," she said.
It seems obvious, but many job candidates simply never ask for what they want, even if they think they deserve it. Do it -- and be specific. "Know how much more you want to earn and in what form -- generally salary, bonus or equity -- then ask for it," Descano said. "Also, think about what you would like if you can't be paid more, such as additional training, flex time or a company car." If negotiations stall but you take the job, or you're already at the company and don't get the bump you want, set up another time to talk in the near future. "Ask why and set a date to review your situation in the next few months -- then [if necessary] ask again," she said.