In one corner: the prospective employer, who wants to hire you at the lowest reasonable salary. In the other corner: you, wanting to be hired at the highest reasonable salary.
In between is the negotiable area, which, according to HR managers we spoke to, ranges anywhere from 10 to 30 percent. Should you bother to negotiate?
Absolutely! “The level of salary is a predictor of the level of responsibility you will have within the company,” says Human Resources expert Lori Kocon. “And since future salaries, salary increases and bonuses are based on this one, an increase of just $1,000 in the negotiated salary may represent $15,000 to $30,000 over the next 10 to 15 years.
“Most employers are not trying to exploit you and will not take offense as long as you approach the negotiation with professionalism, tact and goodwill,” Kocon adds. Here are 10 ways to do just that:
1. Dress and act the part. Remember going into the interview that much of your negotiation is already non-verbally transacted by your image and bearing.
2. Be patient. Wait until after the job has been firmly offered to discuss or negotiate pay.
3. Research the normal salary range for this type of position. If you have close contacts at the hiring company, they may be able to provide you with the actual salary guidelines for the job grade or position. Otherwise, you can find out what other companies are paying individuals with your skills and education by checking out third party research.
4. Don’t be the first to give a definitive figure. Ask for the pay range for this position before offering any figure you have in mind. (In some cases, the manager may have discretionary power to go 20 percent above the highest figure he or she mentions to get an exceptional candidate.)
5. Keep your full attention on the person you are negotiating with. Listen and watch for all verbal and behavioral cues that will give you a better idea of the real needs, values and aspirations of the other party.
6. Be comfortable with silence. In a negotiation situation, the person who has the least tolerance of silence will fill the void by speaking – often with a concession.
7. Don’t sell yourself short. Never downplay your strengths or over-emphasize your weaknesses. Be amicable, but firm. In higher level positions, especially, the most appealing candidates have a pleasant air of invincibility about them.
8. Give yourself time.Do not put pressure on yourself to make a decision or grant concessions on the spot. If they tell you the offer is final, say that you’ll need a day or so to think about it.
9. Negotiate for the future as well as the present. If you are told the salary isn’t flexible, perhaps another area is. See if you can increase the total value of your compensation package through benefits such as deferred compensation, relocation assistance, vacation time, stock options, club membership, commissions or a company car. (As a rule of thumb, benefits are worth 25 to 30 percent of the cited salary.)
10. Be sure. Never say “no” or turn down an offer until you are absolutely certain you must do so. How you negotiate your salary shows the employer how you will do business and negotiate on the company’s behalf once you are hired. The key is to do it in a way that gains you not only a higher income, but the employers’ trust and respect.