Treats, Not Tricks: 6 Tips for a Successful Salary Negotiation

Treats, Not Tricks: 6 Tips for a Successful Salary Negotiation
Hoping to improve what you take home this season? MOAA has advice for those negotiating a starting compensation package or looking for more from their current employer. (iStock/Getty Images Plus)

In some countries, it is customary on the evening before All Saints’ Day for children (and sometimes adults) to travel from house to house in costumes, asking for goodies with the phrase “trick or treat.”


For employees seeking extra goodies from employers in 2021, it was mostly just “trick”: Even though salary increases were consistent with the previous 10 years, they couldn’t keep pace with inflation. But there could be a treat incoming, as recent projections from The Conference Board, a large business membership and research association, show salary increases rebounding with average pay raises in 2022 likely to be higher than in 2021 and returning to pre-pandemic rates.


This change provides some leverage for transitioning servicemembers to negotiate a slightly higher salary with a future employer. Likewise, with end-of-year performance reviews rapidly approaching for military spouses and veterans already in their second careers, it may be the ideal time to seek a pay raise.    


Most employers want to fairly compensate you for both recruitment and retention purposes, but it is up to you to articulate your value effectively to fully attain the compensation levels you desire. Just like finding the perfect costume to demonstrate that you are candy-worthy, here are a half-dozen pointers to ensure when it comes to negotiating for your overall compensation, you come home with the “treat” you’re after:


1. Knowledge is power. Do your research. A great place to start is with your personal and professional network. Ask questions like “What would someone with this level of education, this many years of demonstrated performance in the field, and these core knowledge, skills, and abilities be able to command in your organization?”


2. Wait for an offer. If job searching, try to deflect monetary discussion until your prospective employer brings up a number. The more contacts, interviews, and interest they show, the stronger your negotiation position. Bringing up salary too early may work against you if they think money is your primary personal motivator.


[RELATED: Beyond Jargon: Learning ‘Civilianese’ Is Key to a Successful Job Search]


3. If you’re seeking a pay increase in your current position, get on the calendar. The last thing you want is your boss to be checking their clock because they have other things on their mind. Make sure you tell them in advance that you would like to discuss your role and current salary, so they can be prepared.    


4. Support your argument. You also need to be prepared: Come in with a real number and back it up with evidence such as positive results, personal accolades and achievements, and relevant support material for what you can deliver going forward to directly contribute to the bottom line.


5. Do it in person. Being able to read body language and tone of voice is critical. If in-person isn’t an option, a video meeting will work. But don’t discuss or negotiate via email – it may come across as a list of demands.


6. Be professional. Whether dealing with your boss, future boss, hiring manager, or human resources department, try to make the salary discussion as conversational as possible. It is a balancing act to be confident, yet remain humble. Practice your pitch with a professional colleague or mentor, and be receptive to feedback.   


[RELATED: New Hiring Rule Eases Path to Federal Employment for Military Spouses]


Just like your Halloween travels, the best outcome results in smiles on both sides of the door – companies not only want to hire qualified individuals, they also want to retain them.


Want more career guidance for all seasons? Visit and learn more about how MOAA can help you.


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About the Author

Col. Brian D. Anderson, USAF (Ret)
Col. Brian D. Anderson, USAF (Ret)

Anderson joined the staff of MOAA's Career Transition Services Department in August 2011. He served 26 years in the U.S. Air Force in a wide range of command and staff assignments. Connect with him on LinkedIn.