The most important criteria to look for in a new job are a rewarding work environment, amiable co-workers, and the knowledge that you will be spending yours days working on projects that give you a deep feeling of personal satisfaction. For all of you who would like to eat three times a day, however, let's talk about how you can get that same position but for a heck of a lot more money. The following is a quick synopsis of some of the best information and advice you will need before talking numbers.
- Negotiations can be one of the quickest parts of the job hunt process,
taking place in less than a minute in many cases.
- Assume every offer you receive will be negotiable. If it's not, you've got
nothing to lose by asking.
- There are two main types of companies in the world. The first feel that
their first offer, is their best offer, and very often it is. Companies in this
category do a lot of industry research, and honestly do their best to offer a
fair, competitive salary. They find little advantage to low-balling and bringing
in underpaid personnel, so negotiations with these firms are often halted
quickly. Companies with this strategy are usually great employers. The second
type of company is very accustomed to negotiations, and consider it to be an
acceptable reality of the hiring process.
- The employer is working from a company-determined range for each position.
The salary range is divided into three roughly equal segments. The lowest third
of the range is reserved for inexperienced workers who show potential; the
middle third of the range is for competent workers; and the highest third is for
people who bring something extra to the job.
- Another range, called the hiring range, starts near the middle of the salary
range and extends below the bottom figure. Hence, a job with a salary range of
$32,000 to $40,000 may have a hiring range that starts at $28,000. In other
words, an inexperienced candidate may be offered $28,000, while a competent
applicant might be offered $32,000. In both cases, more money is available, but
only if the candidate knows to ask for it.
- Research has proven that the employer is most often not proposing the
highest wage possible at the beginning of the offer. You will seldom receive
more money unless you ask for it. No request, no raise.
- Don't screw yourself from the get-go. Many company request your salary requirements with your resume. Do not include them. Very few companies will hold it against you, and this information is only to their advantage. If your number is too small, there is no room to negotiate, and if it's too high, you won't get a call back.
- Preparation is probably the single most important part of successful
negotiations. Any good trial attorney will tell you the key to presenting a good
case in the courtroom is the hours of preparation that happen beforehand.
- The motivation is easy. In exchange for 2 hours of preparation, you could
might walk away from the table with $2000 or more in salarynot a bad pay-off
for a small amount of time.
- Granted, it's a complete pain in the ass, but every job seeker should put
together a rough personal budget, keeping in mind that things like income tax,
loan payments and health care will probably account for a huge chunk of each
- Determine three figures: how much money you think you need; how much you
want, and what you think you can live with.
- Be sure you know exactly what you want, not approximately. Clarity improves
communication, which is the conduit for effective negotiations.
- Justify your needs to yourself, and you will be confident enough to get it.
- Gather as much factual information as you can to back up the case you want
to make. For example, if most entering employees cannot negotiate salary you may
be jeopardizing the offer by focusing on that aspect of the package. Turn your
attention to some of the other more flexible parts of the offer in order to
sweeten the deal, such as your health plan, dental plan, retirement package, the
type of schedule you prefer, etc.
- Review what you know about your contact's communication style and
- How will you respond to counteroffers? What are your alternatives? What's
your bottom line? In short, plan your strategy.
- Have someone, preferably an experienced business professional, critique your reasoning.
- There are many salary survey sites.
Wage Web: http://www.wageweb.com
The Salary Calculator: http://www2.homefair.com/calc/salcalc.html
Careers at WSJ: http://public.wsj.com/careers/resources/
- Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook
features salary information, job descriptions and an employment forecast for each industry.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics http://www.bls.gov/
also offers a thorough package of employment information and statistics by region.
- Ask friends and alumni of your school who work in the industry what a
typical starting salary for a new graduate is in the job of your choice.
- Call the company and talk to the hiring manager or personnel director. "I'm interviewing for the software position on Wednesday, and I'd like to get some information in advance. Can you tell me the salary range for this job?"
What You Need to Know Going In
- You'll have more negotiating power if you have specific programming or
engineering skills, internship or co-op experienceanything that has
demonstrated or tested your professional skills.
- Requesting a salary increase because you are a fast learner, or have a high
GPA usually are not justifiable reasons in the eyes of the employer.
- Always wait until a job has been offered before you begin negotiating.
- Always begin by expressing genuine interest in the position and the organization.
- Often, your initial contact person will come right out and state: "This
position's salary is $32,000; everyone starts out at that figure." Don't let
this discourage you, every single salary is negotiable. Express your enthusiasm
for the position, the company, and its work environment, and then calmly
explain how that salary comes out on the low end when compared some of the other
positions you've been considering.
- The key is to keep the initial interview conversation rolling without ever
committing to an exact salary. Always leave yourself an out. For example, when
pressed, mention that you'd still like to find out more details about the
position because your primary concern is an exciting work environment, not
money. This is, of course, not exactly accurate, but it keeps the ball rolling
and sets up your position at the future bargaining table. The initial interview
is kind of like dating someone without ever trying to commit to them. Guys
should know all about this.
- You will usually be up against someone who has much more experience with
negotiating. The best thing you can do is take away their power. The easiest way
to do that is to NEVER TELL THEM THE SMALLEST AMOUNT YOU ARE WILLING TO TAKE.
- According to the Noel Smith-Wenkle Salary Negotiation Method, the first time
they ask you how much you'll take, reply: "I am much more interested in doing
(type of work) here at (name of company) than I am in the size of the initial
offer." If they press you again, reply: "I will consider any reasonable offer."
These are worth memorizing.
- Whoever mentions the first price, usually loses the battle. After they are
forced to name a figure, NEVER jump right on top of it. Research shows that if
you acknowledge the offer, contemplate it for a few seconds, and then explain
how that figure is smaller then you had expected, the hiring manager will almost
always immediately offer more. Remember: he or she has usually been given a
little leverage to make the hire.
- Compare it to your "secret bottom line." You can always give in and accept
the offer. With a little hesitation, however, you may be able to get way more
than you had expected.
- Try to avoid expressing that you need the figure to be X amount higher. See
if you can get by with simply saying "higher."
- If pressed, defend your proposal with your work-related skills and positive
benefits to the employer.
- You can always negotiate more than just salary. Benefits can add thousands
of dollars to the compensation package. They include paid personal leave,
discounts on the company's products and services, health insurance, paid
vacations, personal/sick days, child care, elder care, use of the company jet
for family emergencies, disability and life insurance, retirement plans,
investment or stock options, relocation costs, and tuition credits for continued
education. One of the biggest trends in today's hiring market are signing
- If it makes you more comfortable, submit your initial request in writing and
plan to meet later to hash out the differences.
- Keep in mind that the employer has chosen you from a pool of qualified
applicants, so you are not as vulnerable as you think.
- Remember that this process should be a smooth one, and that success is determined by how well you break down the barriers that crop up when two people take sides.
Lily Maestas, Counseling and Career Services, University of California.
Amy Lingren, Knight-Ridder News Service.
David G. Jensen, Search Masters International.
The Noel Smith-Wenkle Salary Negotiation Method.
Jack Chapman, Author of Negotiating Your Salary.
Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute, by Jack Chapman (Ten Speed Press).