By Kathleen Sullivan
Salary negotiations are personal. Your professional self-esteem and value are on the line. How and what you negotiate for your salary is part of your on-going relationship with a potential or current employer and the basis for future compensation. Salary negotiations can take place at any point in the recruiting process and often begin as soon as you make contact with an employer. Any of these events can open a salary negotiation:
- When you fill out an application form or write a cover letter.
- During your initial call or phone screen with the employer.
- At formal interviews, either with HR or the hiring manager.
- During a scheduled salary negotiation.
- After a job offer has been made.
You must be able to negotiate skillfully and effectively to have a successful job search and reach your overall career goals. Here are three strategies with practical steps you can take to plan, conduct, and achieve salary winning negotiations.
Prepare ahead of time for salary negotiations: Research current salary information for the industry, company, role, and geographical location for every position before you apply. Gather salary insights and information from multiple sources including industry and trade surveys, job boards, salary web sites, recruiters, and networking with colleagues and insiders from a specific company. Be clear about your own financial needs and professionals salary goals for this immediate job and to position yourself for future compensation. Understand the employer’s requirements and restrictions. Employers will have to weigh their organizational compensation models and current market value as well as build a basis for future reward for the position. Be aware of the dynamics and timing of the negotiations. External forces such as a market downturn or internal factors like a less than expected profit from a prior financial quarter may impact an employer’s salary offer. Assess your strength as a candidate. How much does the company really need you? How rare are your skills in the marketplace? How long has the position been open? Establish your salary range for negotiations. Your salary range is based on the information you gathered and spans the lowest and highest figure you have determined to be fair for that position. You will use this salary range to negotiate, regardless of what you earned in the past.
Adopt a winning negotiating style: Who should bring up the topic of money first? Not you. There is nothing to be gained by introducing the topic of salary. You risk giving the employer information to eliminate you. An old adage in negotiations: whoever mentions money first, loses. Maintain a positive negotiation approach. Do not give a negative impression or contradict who are by acting tough or stubborn. A collaborative style is more effective and will enable the employer to perceive you as fair and a team player. Focus on your financial and professional goals, rather than on winning. It is more important to achieve these goals than score a point and potentially alienate an employer. Find multiple areas where there are opportunities to negotiate. Most negotiation topics are not a yes or no decision point. Decide what is worth negotiating and how you want to ask for it. You may not always get what you want, but you may be surprised by what you do get. Constantly re-enforce the value you will bring to the organization. Throughout your discussions, emphasize the value that your knowledge and skills will bring to the organization and the results you will help achieve. Do not make an impromptu decision during a negotiation. Decide that you will be flexible and open during the negotiation discussions. Know when to stop bargaining. There is a point in every negotiation where you have gained everything that is reasonable. One way to lose everything is to appear stubborn or greedy.
Finalize the salary negotiation on a positive note: When a salary offer is extended, wait 24 hours before making a decision. During this time, review all aspects of the offer, and weigh it against other actual or anticipated offers. Discuss it with family members and colleagues. Evaluate whether it is fair relative to the current market and if it meets your financial and professional goals and positions your for growth. If the salary offer does not reflect what you believe is fair for the market value or employer’s standard compensation for the position, broaden the negotiation to include other aspects of compensation such as benefits, bonus or profit sharing, vacation time, relocation, tuition reimbursement, or other job satisfiers such as flexible work hours. Be prepared to turn down an offer. If you cannot reach an agreement, be prepared to provide a reason to the employer that you cannot accept the offer and end on a positive note. If you determine the offer meets your financial needs and professional goals, graciously accept the offer. Follow up with a written thank you for the offer and express your enthusiasm for your new position.
Salary negotiations are complex and have long term ramifications for your personal well-being and your professional career. To be successful, you must be well-equipped with the right information, attitude, and strategies to achieve a win / win salary negotiation.