Once you’ve proven yourself well qualified for a job during the interview process, you have to start asking yourself the tough questions. Do you have a strong desire to work for this company? What if they don’t offer quite as much money as you’d like? Is there a way to ask for a higher salary without alienating the employer?
It’s normal to feel nervous. But you can learn effective negotiating skills that will help you get what you want, need, and deserve in terms of compensation.
1. Understand Benchmarking
You don’t want to waste your valuable time on a company that is never going to pay you what you’re worth. This means you need to understand how employers decide their salary levels and adjust your job search accordingly. Companies use a variety of benchmarking tools. These include comparing pay rates with:
Average pay at other companies in their industry
Average pay for professionals with your level of experience and education
Average pay for professionals in your field in their area of the country
Most employers who are interested in great talent will be in the upper quartile of their market when it comes to pay. However, employers have also figured out that paying significantly more than their competitors actually doesn’t motivate employees to stay over the long term. So, don’t expect to be able to negotiate for significantly higher pay than the norm – no matter how qualified you are.
2. Wait for It...
There’s an old saying “The first person to bring up money, loses.” Starting a discussion about salary prematurely sends a signal that you don’t place a high priority on being a good fit for a company’s culture – you just care about the almighty dollar. In the same way, if a recruiter brings up money right off the bat, it’s a good idea to smoothly change the subject so you can fully demonstrate your qualifications before talking about your salary requirements.
3. Negotiate Performance Pay
An employer who really wants to hire you but has limited resources may offer a lowball figure with the excuse “This is what we can afford right now”. If you want the job, ask if they would be open to discussing a performance based bonus. You could start by saying “Let’s talk about specific, measurable results that would improve your bottom line and increase my earnings.” Get any incentive pay agreements in writing during the hiring stage so your employer is committed to following through.
4. Don’t Just Talk Cash
Any discussion of salary should be about your total compensation. If the recruiter isn’t familiar with the dollar value of the benefits package the company is offering, you might ask to talk with their benefits specialist. Remember to negotiate for non-cash perks that might bridge the gap between your asking price and the employer’s offer.
5. Walk through It in Training
One of the best ways to prepare is by practicing. Pick a career coach who can prep you by role playing an entire interview including the salary negotiation phase. This process gives you the confidence to talk money with a potential employer without being afraid you are getting it “wrong”.