How to Negotiate Your Next Salary – Ask #HR Bartender

Asking for money is a very difficult thing. Especially when we’re asking for ourselves (versus asking for one of our employees). I’m always more comfortable presenting the case to give a member of my team a pay increase. But me? Fuhgeddaboudit. Learning the art of salary negotiation is important. That’s what today’s reader question is about: 

Hi Sharlyn. I have an issue that I’m not sure you’ve answered before. What are some strategies for employees to negotiate pay during the hiring process? Or is it best for employees to renegotiate their pay after hire? I imagine employees can try to renegotiate during appraisal time, but how often is that successful? Does one have to actually threaten to leave the company in order to garner higher wages? 

Years ago I worked in the outplacement industry. And when candidates came into our offices, one of the things they learned was salary negotiation strategies. So I reached out to Joyce Domijan, vice president at CareerBeam, a division of CareerArc Group. CareerBeam provides modern outplacement solutions and career transition services. They were also just named a gold winner in Best New Service of the Year at the 2014 Best in Biz Awards. I recently saw a demo of their product and thought it was impressive.

Joyce, let’s start by providing some context. A candidate’s current pay is either way under or over the salary range for the job. I understand the whole “salary is negotiable” angle, but at times it does seem too vague. How should job seekers reflect their salary on the application? And what should they say during the interview?

[Joyce] In a perfect world, a candidate shouldn’t be discussing salary until the company is ready to make a job offer. The interview process should be focused on learning about the company, the position, and communicating to the hiring manager the reasons you are the best candidate to solve their problems and get the job done. If a candidate is asked about salary early in the process, you might say that you’d prefer to learn more about the position before making a determination on an acceptable compensation package.

But in reality, especially with online job postings, companies may ask this question early in the process or as a required piece of information on the application. If that is the case, the best thing to do is to provide a wide salary range (i.e. $50-$80k). Make sure that the low point of the range still reflects a salary you would consider accepting. If you are speaking to human resources or the hiring manager, you might ask what the salary range is for the position. If they are willing to answer, this will give you a better idea of how to structure your acceptable range.

If you are applying for a job that you know is substantially above or below your current salary range, make sure you are well prepared to justify why the job is still a good fit. If you are looking to increase your range be prepared to tell the employer what you can do for them that justifies that increase (talk of prior accomplishments and experiences that will positively impact your performance). If you’re looking at taking a position with a salary lower than your current range, be prepared to explain why you’re willing to do that and assure the employer that you’re 100% committed to the company and position, otherwise they might think you’re only accepting until you find something better.

The goal of any candidate is to get multiple job offers. What if a candidate gets multiple offers, but the job they really want is the one that offered the lowest pay? Can you share a way to approach the situation to ask for more money?

[Joyce] Candidates should spend time researching the positions they’re seeking and the local market using tools like Salary.com, to determine the going rate for similar positions. They should know going in what the average salary should be for the position, understanding that many factors can affect the average, like size of company, benefits, and location.

If the offered salary is below other job offers as well as below what their research found, it is perfectly acceptable to negotiate with the employer based on these facts. The candidate might say something like “I’ve researched the local market for similar positions and found that the average salary Is X.” or “I have another offer for a similar position that is X amount higher.” “I really like your company and this position best, would you consider increasing compensation by X?”

This reader question deals with pay, but we both know there’s more to salary than the paycheck. What are some other things that a person can negotiate for instead of money?

[Joyce] There are many variables that make up the compensation package besides salary, some examples include:

While not an exhaustive list, you can see that there are many aspects of the compensation package that may be open to negotiation, besides base salary.

The reader talked about negotiating after hire (i.e. during a performance review). If the company offers an early review and potential increase, should candidates take that seriously? What if the company doesn’t make good on the promise?

[Joyce] The promise of any early review with a potential increase is a common negotiation tactic and one that many companies are open to because it gives them the opportunity to see you in action and justify the increase.

If the company doesn’t make good on their promise, the first thing to do is to gain an understanding of why the hiring manager/company didn’t come through for you. Was your performance up to par? Is the company or industry experiencing a downturn? Once you can determine the why, then you can evaluate if this continues to be the best place for you professionally.

Last question: I’ve often seen employees accept job offers because they were “offered” a job – meaning they were so anxious/excited about the company or the work that they didn’t take time to evaluate the terms. Share 1-2 tips for job seekers to help them evaluate the job offer they are presented.

[Joyce] The best way to evaluate a job offer is to do two very important things:

  1. Identify and prioritize your 5 most important values. Think about things like challenge, variety, integrity, leadership, creativity, knowledge, flexibility, etc. Once you’ve identified your 5 most important values, then determine how well the ‘offered’ position meets those needs. If you don’t get a good match with your values, chances are you won’t enjoy the new job.
  2. Research the company and the position to determine if the offer is in line with similar positions in the marketplace. If it isn’t, with time you may become disgruntled, so don’t hesitate to use your research to request an increase that’s more in alignment with the marketplace.

My thanks to Joyce for sharing her expertise with us. Because many organizations ask for salary history, I’ve always believed that salary negotiations start the moment a candidate applies. While we know salary history and salary requirements are two different things, explaining the reasons can be difficult. In order to get the salary you’re looking for, candidates must be able to discuss the difference between what they make and what they want to make. And possibly even offer some creative solutions in lieu of base salary.

Image courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby

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