Negotiating Your Salary

Most of us were not born to negotiate. However, if you don’t negotiate something in the interview process, you will forever wonder if you could have gotten more.

Most jobs do offer some room for negotiation which, of course, includes talking about the numbers but there is more to getting the best deal including: your timing, physical location (face-to-face or over the phone), using the strategically placed “six-second pause”, and how you respond to the initial offer.

Most employers will accept some level of negotiation as long as you approach it with tact and a sense of reason. Consider these important aspects of the interview when it comes to salary and benefits:

Never be first to ask money and benefit questions if possible. Practice patience. Questions such as “When will I be eligible for a vacation?” and “When do you give raises?” show self-centered thinking. Lead the conversation toward the job expectations not the salary expectations.

If you get asked, “What are your salary expectations?” early in the interview, be honest – tell the interviewer that you really don’t know enough about the job to discuss salary at this point – then ask a question that shows interest in the job responsibilities such as:

“I guess I really wasn’t prepared to discuss salary just yet. It would be helpful for me to know a little more about the responsibilities of the job. Tell me, how much of the job requires travel?” or “I would expect to be paid fair market value. What is the range of pay for the job?”

You want to help the interviewer focus away from the salary issue and back to the job. The goal is to not be the first one to state a dollar figure.

Always be prepared to discuss salary if you can’t escape the question. There are some interviewers who want to get the salary question on the table at the start of the interview. In such case, be prepared to discuss by knowing your bottom line and what the range of pay is for the job in your geographical region.

Understanding salary ranges and grade levels can also help to determine what the company may be willing to negotiate. Negotiate salary/commissions first, benefits second. Treat relocation as a separate issue. There are any number of online salary calculators to help you.

Salary discussions are not necessarily salary negotiations. You do not have power to negotiate until an offer has been made. And once the offer is made, you know they are interested in you and only you. Companies only make offers to candidates one at a time.

Once a job offer has been made, ask for time. Asking for time is an appropriate request for you to make. You need time to consider the offer, talk with family members or friends and consider other pending offers. Keep your options open but don’t play games. If a company makes you an offer while you are hoping to hear from another one, it’s okay to check and see where the first company stands by asking: “I wonder if you could give me a week or so to review my situation and make a careful decision.” If they choose not to give you the full week, they may at least give you a few extra days but be careful – the “hiring romance” can cool quickly if a company feels you aren’t serious or are playing games.

No matter the situation, you want to have enough time to make the right decision for both you, your situation and the company.

Where you are physically is important. Most salary discussions take place over the phone. Negotiating over the phone may give you an advantage because you can have all your facts and figures and options written in front of you. Being on the employer’s turf gives them a mental advantage. If you have to negotiate in person, keep your full attention on the person with whom you are negotiating. Watch and listen for verbal and physical cues that will tell you it is okay to continue or it is time to stop the conversation.

Don’t turn down an offer you are unhappy about immediately. If you are unhappy with the offer ask if it is open for negotiation. Most companies expect candidates to negotiate but be realistic about your expectations – base your negotiations on the market value of the current position – not on what your salary has been in the past.

Using the “six second pause” can be an effective tool to move the interviewer. If you have stated a number or the offer is lower than you need, simply be quiet for a few seconds. Most people get uncomfortable with silence during a conversation. Wait for the other person to respond . . . refrain from breaking the silence and answering your own question or start backtracking.

If you can’t negotiate them up now, negotiate for the future by asking for a performance review in six months instead of a year. You can even ask for a performance review every three months for the first year. Perhaps incremental raises will be more appealing.

Always play up your strengths and contribution you will make to the company. As you present your counter offer, begin by reminding the other person of how your expertise, experience and abilities will make a contribution to the company.

Try a different approach. Instead of negotiating on the amount of the salary, talk about the difference. For example, if the company’s offer is under where you want to be, you can say, “We are about $4,000 apart in where I would like for the salary to be, what do you think we can do about the difference?.” This gives the power back to the other person and demonstrates your willingness to make it a team effort. How you negotiate can help build trust with your future employer.

Always get an offer letter detailing the package. If you are still working, don’t quit your present job, move to a new location or spend dollars not yet earned until you have it in writing.

Joe Morrell is President of Morrell Management, a consulting company that provides Career Development Support, Leadership Development Training and Individual Performance Coaching

Joe Morrell

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