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Salary Negotiation Tips
by Mark Zoeller, Transition Assistance Coach, Evolving Workforce, Deloitte Services LP
During the prescreen process, it’s likely that a recruiter or potential employer requested your salary requirements, and that you may have provided them with a range for your expectations. In general, after that, it may be better to let the prospective employer initiate further conversations around compensation. Once you have been identified as the desired candidate for a position, you likely will have more negotiating power and can arm yourself with information to help successfully negotiate a job offer.
Planning for Salary Discussions
There are three steps you may wish to consider in preparing and planning for salary discussions with prospective employers:
- Determine minimum salary requirements. You can evaluate your bottom line or minimum financial requirements to meet your household budget and expenses. It might make sense to keep this figure to yourself during the recruiting process.
- Determine your ideal salary. Consider a salary that would put you on cloud nine, but keep it realistic. Be careful about pricing yourself out of the market.
- Understand your competitive market value. Be prepared and know what your skills are worth in the marketplace. Sources for this information include:
- Salary-related websites (There are several sites that provide this information. Simply search “salary+research+websites”)
- Search firms
- Salary surveys in professional journals
At the conclusion of this exercise, you have three salary figures – a minimum or floor, a realistic desired salary that is your midpoint and an ideal salary, which is your maximum. The minimum salary is for your own knowledge, and may be better kept to yourself through the process. The two remaining figures make up your salary range, albeit that the range is the top half of what you would accept. Using this range could give you an advantage in the negotiation process, since it is typically easier to negotiate down than up.
Having a realistic salary expectation is usually important before you enter into any salary negotiations.
Negotiating the Salary
Here are some key salary negotiation strategies to consider during the salary negotiation process:
- Prepare thoroughly for salary negotiations, including conducting research on the salary you should expect for the specific type of position you are seeking.
- Consider marketing yourself to more than one employer to compare offers and career opportunities.
- Delay salary and benefit negotiations for as long as possible in the interview process. You may have more power to negotiate when the field of candidates has been reduced to just you -- when the employer is completely sold on you as the best candidate for the position.
- You’ll likely have your greatest negotiation leverage between the time the employer makes the original offer and the time you accept the final offer. Once you accept an offer, you may have little to no room to negotiate.
- It may not be a good idea to negotiate at the time the initial job offer is made. Thank the employer for the offer and express your strong interest and enthusiasm in the job, but state that you'll need time to evaluate the entire compensation package. Many employers are willing to give you a fair amount of time to review -- and if you run across an employer, who wants a decision immediately, consider long and hard whether you want to work for such a company.
- Do your research. A good tool in any negotiation is information. Make sure you have done a thorough job of determining your fair market value for the job you are seeking, the salary range of the job for this specific employer, and geographic, economic, industry, and company-specific factors that might affect the given salary. Also try to obtain information on the employer's standard benefits package so that you have information beyond salary.
- Just do it. While some recruiters may be willing to negotiate compensation, not all job-seekers actually do so.
- Negotiate to your strength. Consider the strengths you bring to the position. You may choose to email your “ask,” or you may choose to call the employer and request a follow-up meeting to discuss a counter proposal.
- Consider asking for a higher salary (within acceptable limits) than you are willing to accept so that when the employer counters your proposal, the salary should be near your original goal. And when possible, try and show how your actions (once on board) will recoup the extra amount (or more) that you are seeking -- through cost savings or increased sales revenue, productivity, efficiencies.
- If the salary you're offered is on the low end -- and the employer has stated that salary is not negotiable (probably due to corporate salary ranges or pay grade levels), consider negotiating for a signing bonus, higher performance bonuses, or a shorter time frame for a performance review and raise. You might negotiate base salary first, and then move on to other elements of the job offer.
- When presenting a counter proposal to the employer, consider including a few benefits that are expendable so that you can drop them in a concession to the employer as negotiations continue.
- Remember that even if all salary issues are "off the table," there are still numerous other benefits you may attempt to negotiate, such as moving expenses, paid vacation or personal days, professional training, and more.
- Focus on selling yourself throughout the negotiation process. Remind the employer of the impact you will make, the problems you will solve, the revenue you will generate. And continue expressing interest and enthusiasm for the job and the company.
- If you have no intention of accepting the company's offer, don't waste your time or the company's by entering into negotiation. Negotiation is a process designed to find common ground between two or more parties.
- If you have multiple job offers, you may not want to put the companies into a bidding war for your services; it rarely works out.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Keep in the back of your mind that your goal with these negotiations is a win-win situation. You want to get a better deal, but you also need to let the employer feel as though they got a good deal as well.
- Given a number of factors, such as the strength of the economy, the size and vitality of the company, and the supply of job candidates with similar qualifications, some employers simply will not negotiate.
- Try not to make demands. Instead, raise questions and make requests during negotiations. Keep the tone conversational, not confrontational.
- Be prepared for any of a number of possible reactions to your counter proposal, from complete acceptance to agreeing to some concessions to refusal to negotiate.
- You may have to be willing to walk away from negotiations. If you don't have a strong position (i.e. a good current job or one or more current or potential job offers), it will be harder for you to negotiate. If you really need or want the job, be more careful in your negotiations.
- Once the employer agrees to your compensation requests, the negotiations are over. You may not want to ask for anything more -- or risk appearing immature or greedy and having the employer's offer withdrawn or rescinded.
- Sometimes, you may not need to negotiate. If you receive a terrific offer, one that is competitive within the market and meets your requirements, there may not be a basis – or a need – to negotiate. Don’t feel you have to force it.
- Be sure to ask for the final offer in writing. Be wary of companies that are not willing to do so.