Nancy Kasmar, MS, SPHR, CCP is the Practice Lead for Compensation and Benefits Consulting at Washington Employers, a member-based organization providing real-time business results through strategic workforce performance solutions. She is a subject matter expert on compensation and assists members in attracting, retaining, and motivating their employees.
I hope if you’re reading this, you are already convinced it’s a good idea to negotiate when you get a job offer. Good news – you’re right! But the groundwork for negotiating a salary offer in your new job begins when you start the interview process. Yes, you got it. You need to do your homework before you get to the job offer stage, so you are ready to negotiate for that higher salary when the opportunity presents itself. Here are some tips for improving your next job offer, and a short illustration about why you need to negotiate.
Early Salary Discussion
First, you may be asked about your salary expectations early on in the interview process. Remember: you do not have to tell the recruiter or hiring manager what salary you are looking for. There are many ways to postpone a discussion about salary until they have chosen you as their perfect job candidate. So decide in advance what you want to say to postpone the discussion. Then PRACTICE so it comes tripping lightly off your tongue when you need it. My favorite response is a variation of, “Since we are still discussing all the responsibilities of this position, I haven’t completed my research on the appropriate salary for this job in your company.” This usually helps avoid the need to name a salary figure this early in the process. Even if your next position is a step up, by the time you get to the salary negotiation you will be prepared to show you are worth what you are asking for. However, if asked your current salary, tell the truth!
Do Your Homework
As you complete the interview process, gather facts about the company and the job to help you research the salary you should ask for. How many employees? Are the job duties standard for this job title? Any extra responsibilities that don’t usually come with this position? Are there unusual working conditions or hours that involve extra pay? Any travel associated with the job? Are there specialized skills or certifications that command premium pay for this position? Do you already have those skills/certifications? Do you want the cost to achieve them included as career development in your job offer?
Armed with these facts, research salary information for the job. There are any number of places to find salary information. You can discreetly ask your personal network. Check online, and be sure the job title you research is matched to the job duties of your potential employer. Remember to include all the compensable factors you asked about in your research.
As part of your research, spend some time determining what salary is just too low for you to accept. It’s important to know your “walk away” number. There is no point in taking a job that you may love but can’t afford. It puts you in the position of knowing from the beginning you need to get another job soon just to pay living expenses.
Decide on the salary you want before the job offer. Once you know how much you will ask for, practice. Ask a couple of good friends to listen to you make the case for how your qualifications match the company’s business need. Get their suggestions on ways to say things better. And then practice some more.
In part 2, we will talk about what to expect in the negotiation process and step you through it.