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The Top 7 Negotiation Skills You Need to Land a Great Job Offer

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First offers aren’t always the best offer, but many job seekers are scared to negotiate their salaries in fear of rejection. But the alternative isn’t pretty. Settling for an underpaying job will make you feel undervalued and threaten your job satisfaction in the long run.

Negotiation takes skill and confidence—neither of which you can simply obtain by reading an article online. But a good place to start is understanding what it takes to negotiate successfully, and practicing those skills in preparation. Here are seven negotiation skills that’ll help you not to settle for less at your next interview.


1. Active Listening

Use the STAR method to ace behavioral interviews

When you listen actively, you’re trying to understand the speaker’s words, not just hear them. You’re visibly participating in the conversation, even if you’re silent. This valuable skill allows you to spot critical negotiating points, even outside the negotiation room. You can take advantage of these negotiating points when responding with a counteroffer later.

Active listening takes focus and rapt attention—you’d have to free your mind of all distracting thoughts while the other party speaks. A good way to engage is repeating or rephrasing the key points as questions for the interviewer, and that does two things. First, it shows the other person that you’re paying attention and keeping up with all the details, and second, it helps you process the information you’re receiving.

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2. Emotional Intelligence

Yellow eggs showing multiple emotions in one basket

The ability to read the room and decode non-verbal cues is crucial to any negotiation. It’s important to be self-aware, empathetic, in touch with your emotions, and able to recognize the emotions of others.

This involves the ability to correctly interpret body language and other non-verbal cues, as well as responding calmly in high-pressure situations. For example, an emotionally intelligent person does not lose their cool even when they don’t get their way. It’s important to get comfortable with the possibility that your proposal will be rejected.

Instead, an emotionally intelligent person attempts to defuse tension and pivot their approach to the negotiation, possibly taking into account the other party’s needs and offering a compromise that benefits both parties.


Related: How to Build Your Emotional Intelligence

3. Rapport Building

Black Woman Interviewing other Women

The ability to establish rapport with the other party is a valuable and often overlooked negotiating skill. You’re most likely negotiating with a stranger, and the formal atmosphere of a standard interview is likely to tangle your nerves, which isn’t a good start for negotiation. You’ll do much better and appear more confident if you’re at ease and relaxed.

To establish rapport, finding common ground quickly. This can look like bonding over a sports club or a shared hobby (and this is why it’s super important to do in-depth research on the company and interviewer before you attend an interview).

Related: Sites to Learn How to Prepare for a Job Interview and Impress Bosses

Give compliments without being patronizing, and use non-confrontational body language, light humor, and genuine friendliness. By establishing a friendly atmosphere, rapport can help to defuse a potentially tense situation. When there is no tension, the chances of reaching an agreement are much higher.

4. Self Advocacy

Two people shaking hands.

At a negotiation, you are your own biggest advocate: everyone else in the room is probably focused on having their needs met. Understand that success lies where both your interests align, but don’t let that keep you from negotiating for what you deserve.

Keep the focus of the discussion on your potential significant contribution, both in terms of skill and effort. To emphasize your value, don’t be afraid to list your accomplishments in that role in a previous job.

Make it clear that you believe in the skills you’re offering (and don’t leave out the soft skills), and show the other stakeholders why letting you go would be a mistake.

Related: The Top Online Resources to Help You Build Confidence and Self Esteem

5. Flexibility

Negotiations fail when one or both parties involved are unwilling to be flexible. To avoid an impasse, you have to manage your expectations and leave room for compromise before you even start. You could set a lower limit that you won’t go past so that you can be sure you’re protecting your interests.

Trade-offs are common in negotiations, and it’s best to start with a flexible offer that emphasizes what you’re both giving up. This gesture will eliminate the adversarial nature of your negotiation right away, making it easier to find common ground. Flexibility is ripe in areas that are a low priority for you but critical to others. That way, the other party is more likely to cave in on issues that are important to you.

6. Persuasion

two women making hand gestures in a conversation

To achieve any goal in a negotiation, you’ll need to validate your position and communicate it in a way that your audience will understand. Draw a picture for them and show them why they should accept your proposal—and make sure you have evidence to back it up.

Prepare to provide data and references; here’s where your reputation will speak for you. If you’re negotiating higher pay based on your marketing abilities, for example, prepare to show how your contribution aided the success of marketing endeavors in your previous organizations.

It’s a good time to remind yourself to get your references in order before attending an interview.

Notify the people you listed as references on your resume, so they can answer any questions your current interviewer may have.

7. Patience

a woman on the phone taking notes

When it comes to negotiating, this is a critical but difficult skill to master. Effective negotiators have a reputation for having a lot of patience. If you abandon your position too quickly, you’ll end up shortchanging yourself. If you hold out too long, you may lose the opportunity. The master stroke is recognizing just how long to hold on to a position before agreeing to a compromise or looking elsewhere for better opportunities.

A little patience on your part could give you the upper hand in negotiations and give you more time to negotiate with the other party. The goal, as with anything, is to read the situation carefully and avoid appearing to be unduly time-wasting. Finally, don’t be afraid to say no if the terms don’t favor you, but always make it a point to walk away amicably.


How to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Negotiation skills will take a lot of practice, and as you see your skills in action, your confidence in them will grow.

Here are three ways to strengthen your negotiating skills:

  1. Look for opportunities to practice in your everyday life. Negotiation skills can be practiced in a variety of settings, not just at work. While booking hotels, shopping for everyday essentials, or even speaking with your children, you can practice negotiating your needs and making a suitable compromise with the other party. The goal is to get what you want while allowing the other party to get what they need.
  2. Role-play with friends. Gather a group of trusted friends and role-play various scenarios, such as asking for a raise or negotiating perks and benefits. Have your friend pose challenging questions, especially those that are likely to come up if the conversation was happening for real. Make sure to be serious and deliberate with your answers. If you can’t say these things to a friend, you won’t be able to say them to a hiring manager.
  3. Get a coach or mentor. If you’ve noticed that a colleague or manager you work with (or used to work with) is a great negotiator, you could ask them to help you improve your skills by walking you through how they approach negotiations. Ask them to give you pointers for upping your game, or even allow you to sit in on a meeting, if it’s appropriate. Or, you could also look for a coach who specializes in teaching negotiation skills.


Deal or No Deal?

Negotiation is a crucial skill—whether you are job hunting or not. These skills will come in handy in everyday interactions, and will even set you up for more advanced jobs that require negotiation skills.


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