How-To Negotiate a Top Salary


Salary Negotiations Tip #1: Know your value and be able to clearly articulate the returns that an employer can expect from hiring you. Never forget that as an employee you are investment. When a company hires you, they are making a financial investment through the compensation and benefits that they provide you (as well as many other expenses involved in hiring), and they are doing so with the expectation that their returns on that investment (ROI) will be greater than the cost. It is up to you to know what your worth is, to make sure the potential employer is clear on what that is, and to make sure that they pay you the best possible price for your contributions.

Action Step: Document 6-12 of your most impressive career achievements. Jot notes about the challenges and problems that you were facing, the actions you took to meet those challenges, and the results of those actions. Now quantify those results. Dollar figures or percentages of increase or decrease that represent dollar figures are often the most powerful way to present results. But, even if you don’t have dollar figures, there are often other quantifiable measures that you can use to express the value of your contributions and achievements in the workplace. Now, review all your success stories and practice until you have committed the details of each to memory and are comfortable discussing all aspects of them. These are the stories that you will use during your interviews with companies, to establish and illustrate your financial worth and your proven ability to deliver a strong ROI to your employers.

Salary Negotiations Tip #2: Wait until the right time to talk about salary with a potential employer. Wait until a job offer has already been made. When a potential employer brings up salary prior to a job offer, it is almost always for the purpose of screening you. Before the job offer, if you answer a salary-related question with an actual dollar amount and you give a figure lower than their range, believe it or not, you are likely to be screened out. Why? Because the employer may think that your low amount indicates that you are not capable of handling the responsibilities of the position. And sadly, even if you do make the cut and eventually win a job offer, your salary offer will be held down by the low-ball figure you mentioned too early in the process. If you mention a figure that is too high, you will also be screened out. At this early stage you have almost certainly not had the opportunity to establish your wo rth and value to the employer. So wait…postpone discussion of salary until you have a job offer.

Action Step: Think of ways that you might respond to questions about salary and practice saying them out loud until you are comfortable doing so. You’ll want to find your own natural words for this, but here is one suggestion for postponing when you are asked that inevitable question: “Salary? If I’m the right person for the job I’m confident that we can come to an agreement. Before we discuss salary, let’s make certain that I am the right person.” Or, “I’m sure you pay a fair salary, and I clearly understand that I need to make you more money than I cost, so I’m sure that when the time comes, we can come to a fair salary agreement.” You could soften either of these statements with a preface statement, such as “I’m very interested in this position and I’m a little concerned that a discussion of salary at this point could screen me out or box me in…”

Salary Negotiations Tip #3: When you are offered the job, and it is time to talk salary, let them talk first. If you have been offered the job and have now been asked about salary, just respond with a simple: “What range did you have in mind?” If you have accomplished what you set out to do and have clearly established your value and worth during the interview stages, you should have a fairly easy time getting the employer to state either a salary figure or range. Now, put a look of thoughtful consideration on your face, and restate the figure or the highest figure of the range with a question in your tone. In other words, say something like “Hmmm…$50,000…” – and then, just be quiet and look thoughtful.

Action Step: Prepare yourself mentally to be comfortable with silence. Know in advance that the silence is necessary and a key part of your negotiations. If you must, keep tally quietly in your head for a count of 30. The most likely outcome of your silence is that you will make the employer slightly nervous that they will lose you as an employee and all of the benefits that hiring you will bring them. Don’t be surprised if, in response to your silence and thoughtful stance, the employer proactively raises the offer before you even have a chance to say anything.

Salary Negotiations Tip #4: Be prepared with market research. With the Internet, you have numerous resources available to determine the salary ranges and all the related salary statistics for people who do the type of work you do in your geographic area. Use the resources available to you and be armed with the facts when you enter salary negotiations. The salaries that others are making are just one piece of the puzzle, but these statistics are an important piece of the puzzle. Having printed research from reliable sources that you can reference to support your desired salary during negotiations, and to help you realistically evaluate job offers that have been made to you, will be invaluable at this stage of the negotiation game.

Action Step: Go to the Internet now and Google “salary research.” Spend an hour or so researching, compiling, and printing salary research relevant to your situation. Be willing to pay for a comprehensive salary report. It will be money well spent and it will give you the ability to respond confidently to a job offer and associated salary offer with a researched response. If the offer made is just what you were hoping for or higher, go ahead and seal the deal. But, if it is a little low, you now have the researched knowledge to respond with a sincere “From my research, I estimate that positions like this for a person with my qualifications pay between X and Y. What can you do in that range?”

Salary Negotiations Tip #5: Remember that monetary compensation in the form of a salary is only part of the deal. What other benefits and perks might be important to you? Once you have come to an agreement with the employer on an actual salary figure, it is time to continue your negotiations to win an offer complete with the benefits that are most important to you.
Action Step: Take some time right now to think about the benefits that would be important to you. Take out a sheet of paper and list them so that you are prepared to discuss and negotiate them when the time comes. Examples may include sales commissions, performance bonuses, insurance, vacation time, a flexible work schedule, professional memberships, expenses for relocation, investment programs, use of a company car, special training or education benefits, and company discounts.

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