How Can I Negotiate a Better Salary Offer?
-Signed, I just want what I deserve.
We all want what we deserve. Unfortunately, what I call the ‘Unwelcome Truth’ usually gets in the way.
The Unwelcome Truth:
Companies usually pay based on pay history, and they are not typically basing their offers on what you will bring to the company, or on what you will produce for them. That’s an equation that most individuals who strive to be at the top of their professions have a difficult time accepting. So, I have some advice.
Change the Equation.
Just knowing this ‘pay history’ fact will help you better prepare for your interview process (that’s a sales opportunity for you). The interview process –which may begin with an email exchange, a brief phone conversation to ‘pre-screen’ you for a role, or a scheduled full interview, is an opportunity for you to begin to properly frame your value to the organization that you are potentially looking to join.
At each step in the process, which may include multiple phone and multiple face-to-face interviews, it’s important to ‘control’ any conversation about salary, salary history, expected salary, desired salary, etc. Whether that question comes directly in a pre-screen phone call, as an off-handed question out-of-the-blue during one of your meetings, or as a question buried in a stack papers that someone from the Human Resources / HR department has handed you, you must stay in control of what you choose to communicate about your salary.
Here’s my guideline. On your current or last salary, if they ask, you will need to disclose it at some point, but wait as long as possible to do so. The last thing that you want to do early in the process is to create a number in their minds that they associate or identify when they think of you. Ideally, when they do think of you, you want them to be thinking of the value that you will bring and the addition in expertise that their team will gain, should they choose to hire you. Delaying any discussion with regards to salary will give you the ability to frame your value during the interview process by letting them know all that you will ‘bring to the table’ in this new position. If and when you do decide to disclose your past salary, you have to frame it as ‘$X for that role’, and then segue to the fact that for the role under consideration, you would be ‘looking for a fair offer for your experience and the responsibilities of that position’.
As for expected or desired salary, Never… and this is one of the rare cases where I really mean never, never answer the ‘expected or desired salary’ question with a number (any number). No, Nada, Never. Really.
First, you have to understand why they are asking. Have you bought a car in your past? The question could just as easily be about buying a house, a new TV or anything else that you may want to acquire. The person at the auto dealership asks you what you can afford or how much you want to spend. They are looking at the ‘deal’ from their side, but trying to convey that ‘it’s about you’. Hogwash. It’s about trying to work the deal so that you ‘feel’ satisfied and so that they get to sell / structure the deal with most of the advantage to them. So why do we so willingly tell them how much money we have to spend? Because they asked. Asking, is an important part of selling. Individuals involved in hiring are there to actually find the right person, but they are also there to ‘sell’ the opportunity to that individual –so that they want to join the company. We are all trained to answer too many questions, disarmed by an ease of style that may be present in the sales person’s approach.
The hiring process is a buy/sell relationship, just like any other. Ever wonder why –no one– is allowed, at any company that I have seen, to talk about or discuss their compensation with others in the company? An ‘open pricing’ policy on salaries would surely drive up overall wages, and that’s not to their advantage. It’s simply because five people all standing next to each other doing the same job are likely all earning different salaries. If 3 of the 5 knew what the other two were making, they would demand the same. You’ll see others comment in that this just ‘isn’t so’, but that’s what exists in many many companies and those that earn the most know all too well about this fact.
Given this understanding, there is an obvious reason why they are asking expected or desired salary. Just like the car salesperson, they would like to offer you the very least that they could. You may not be thrilled with their offer, but you will likely not be overly disappointed, as it will most certainly be an offer in the area of what you had told them was acceptable.
Take back Control.
Be sure to be selling them on all that you bring, while also evaluating whether this is the right company for your next career home. Work to have them see you as the solution to many of the issues and challenges that you discuss with regard to the role. And continue to reinforce that you would be looking for a fair offer for your experience and the responsibilities of that position. You can also turn the tables a little by asking them what they have budgeted for the role. If they can ask, why can’t you?
The interview process is your time to present and sell yourself, as compared to all others that they may see. Your value must be stronger, and brighter, than all of the other candidates. As you navigate the process, look for every opportunity to understand what their real problems are (it’s not the open position) and relate how your background, experience and expertise is the right solution for those problems.
In my book, Self-Recruiter® Changing the Rules: How to Be Your Own Recruiter & Ride the Economic Crisis to Your Next Career Challenge, I discuss many of the challenges faced during the hiring process and how to overcome them. It’s about getting them to ‘fall in love’ with your skills and expertise for the role. That’s your job during the interview(s). Once they ‘have to have YOU’ for the position, the negotiations are no longer from a sorting, or ‘ruling out’ standpoint. They are about trying to come up with an offer to ‘make it work’ for both the company and the person they are trying to hire. And that’s a Win-Win for everyone.
Author, Career Coach & Speaker
on Job Search and Career Management
© 2009 John Crant
As seen and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, on FINS.com, on CareerBuilder’s CBsalary.com, on The Ladders, in The New York Post, The Huffington Post, in Essence magazine, in CRAIN’S New York Business, on Forbes.com, in amNY, and on CNN, BBC, FOX News, Arise TV – John shares the answers and the concrete steps for success in Job Search.
John is a Featured Speaker at The New York Public Library’s JOB SEARCH CENTRAL, as well as at the YMCA in New York City, and is a Social Media expert for Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program.
He speaks at Corporate Events, works with Workforce Development organizations, and teaches both students and alumni with this Self-Recruiter® Series for Colleges and Universities.
Changing the Rules: How to Be Your Own Recruiter &
Ride the Economic Crisis to Your Next Career Challenge.
© 2009 by John Crant
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