By John O'Connor
Conventional Wisdom: Don't Talk Salary Before You Have an Offer. This kind of information and advice, depending on industry and specific situations, may not always be relevant. In some ways, the recession changed some things about salary negotiations. Here is what I have seen that you may want to note as an executive job seeker trying to negotiate your best deal:
- You May Need to Deal with Salary Issues Up Front. I realize that it would be nice to let salary and compensation discussion happen at the end of the deal. That would be great. But you may want to be ready to cover some very heavy compensation discussions early. Or you may be eliminated.
- Just Because You Have a Starting Number Doesn't Mean it's an Ending Number. What I have seen is that if a recruiter introduces you, they may start with a number. The company may ask you to give them a range or an idea. Do not be afraid to do this. In this environment, don't get eliminated up front. Prove your value throughout the interview process. Don't be too arrogant about money. Many competitors of yours will take less. Get the secrets of negotiating your best deal by practicing your approach. One client admitted this: "Before I talked to you guys and got more tactics in my favor, I was hyper-focused on salary. That matters. But the overall deal matters more." Exactly right. If you understand your value, then focus on that throughout the interview process. Don't turn down a $134,000 job because it pays you 9% less than you want. Examine the entire value and realize that you will more than make it up as you progress and the company realizes it can't do without you. They will eventually pay up. At least that's the attitude you need to have in negotiations.
- Negotiating Begins with the Resume or Phone Screen. In fact, don't let your guard down. Negotiations start with your level of preparation...even before you contact the company.
What's the bottom line? It's up to you to uniquely prove your value proposition throughout the entire interview process. Do not step on a salary land mine by pushing a high range immediately. That does not mean you have to leave money on the compensation table. Market your value and the company or organization may just up their offer for you in any economic environment.