Know self-worth when negotiating pay
jobs are scarce. But if you're lucky enough to land one, don't be
afraid to negotiate your paycheck. Once a hiring manager chooses
you from what is probably the largest pool of candidates she's ever
seen, you know you're a top candidate. In the current market, you
won't have the edge to ask for first-class air travel, but here's
a four-step process to improve your salary outcome.
Step 1: Don't disclose your pay requirements
during the interview process.
The first person to provide numbers establishes the range. If you
give a number first, the interviewer will either tell you you're
in the same ballpark as him, or you're too high.
If you ask for less than the interviewer was
considering, you'll probably get it -- and never find out you might
have earned more. So interviewers always want you to disclose your
requirements first. (Do not try to remedy this situation by giving
an unreasonably high number because then you will sound unreasonable.)
Your first line of defense is to say you'd like
to talk about salary once you have an offer. Still, a good interviewer
will persevere. So try asking the interviewer what HE would pay
someone for this job. Whatever number he gives, you can say, "That
will be a fine starting point." (You will ask for more later.)
Step 2: Get the whole offer in writing before
you ask for more.
Here's why (and you should remember this for when the tables are
turned): Let's say the job pays a salary and a performance bonus,
but you don't know about the bonus part. If you do not get a written
offer specifying the pay elements before you start negotiating,
then you might negotiate a higher base salary but lose a portion
of your bonus. That's because the bonus gives your hiring manager
some "wiggle room." She can take it off the table before
you know you're supposed to receive it. (Then she can report back
to her boss and say, "I saved us $5,000.") Get the full
offer in writing so you know what you have to work with during your
Once you have that written offer, ask for a
night to think about it and come back with a counter offer. Admittedly,
you may hate confrontation and feel you're a poor negotiator, but
you have nothing to lose and you're likely to get more money. Plus
you will get better at this each time you try. Remember, almost
no one loses a written offer because he asks for more money.
Step 3: Go home and form a plan.
To know what to ask for in negotiations, you MUST know the pay range
for your position. Check out salary surveys online and in trade
journals. Do not quote any numbers from surveys conducted earlier
than 2001. They are inflated. Get more recent information. Talk
with friends in similar jobs or recruiters who regularly fill this
type of position in your geographic region. Find the top of the
salary range and ask for that. Show the hiring manager your research
and remind her why you are worth the top of the range.
If you are fortunate enough to find out that
your offer already is in the high end of your salary range, then
propose taking on more responsibilities so you can ask for slightly
more pay. Suppose you are a marketing manager with a background
in technical writing. You can say that while most marketing managers
pass off technical writing in marketing documents to someone else,
you will handle this yourself. This entitles you to ask for slightly
Step 4: Know thyself.
Each person is compensated in different ways -- and not always monetarily.
For instance, if you love what you do, you may not mind earning
less than your neighbor with the same degree. Likewise, if you have
a shorter commute.
Friends can advise you, but you are the one
in the job, and you must decide if you want it, regardless of the
size of your paycheck. No salary survey can tell you that. Decide
what's important to you and what trade-offs you'll make pay-wise,
but be honest with yourself. Don't give up being paid more because
you hate negotiating. Self-knowledge, good negotiation skills --
and a little chutzpah -- will help ensure you earn what you deserve
starting with your next job.