Every successful job search will end in a salary negotiation. You want to achieve the highest possible package, but you also don't want to loose the opportunity with the wrong tactic.


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There have been many books written by people who call themselves experts in negotiations, but they emphasize situations where you negotiate with someone you will never deal with again. Their philosophy is that winning is everything.

However, in the job search situation, the use of intimidation and attack strategies have no value. Techniques for one-upmanship can cost you the job. Here you're setting the tone for your long-term relationship.

Never allow yourself to be seen as overly aggressive. In fact, the reason most people don't like the term "negotiation" is that they associate it with confrontation, being tough and role playing something that does not come naturally.

The truth is the best negotiators are low-key. They avoid anything that might cause irritations. So remember, never project an image of being argumentative or emotional. Follow the best negotiators and make sure you appear sincere and reasonable -- never cold or calculating.

7-Step Process for Negotiating Your Best Position

(1) Avoid Discussing Money Until the Time Is Right

Premature discussions about money or benefits can be a real deal breaker. Besides, the more enthusiastic an employer becomes about you -- the more likely he'll be willing to pay more. So learn how to avoid premature discussion of money.

Sometimes an interviewer will begin with a statement like this: "Jim, before we get started, I need to know how much money you are looking for. I don't want to waste our time if it is totally out of the ball park." The principle to keep in mind here is that you do not have to answer the question! For example,

"Bill, frankly, I could talk more intelligently about my circumstances after I know a bit more about the job responsibilities and the growth that's possible in this position. Speaking of that, I noticed that you listed technical experience as one of the requirements for the job. Will this job have line manufacturing responsibilities?"

Or... "Bill, I appreciate your being direct. I would not take your time if I did not have a fairly good idea of the range you would be willing to pay. If we can agree that my experience fits your needs, I doubt we will have a problem on compensation.

Frankly, my concern is the basic question of whether your needs call for someone with my background. Incidentally, I've heard that you're entering a number of added markets with your new product. Is that where this job fits in?"

It is important to have your thoughts ready and use words you feel comfortable with. Before the interview, figure out how you would handle the situation in your own words. That way, your response will come quite naturally. Once again, our U-turn can help you here. It is a way to pleasantly avoid being the first to mention a figure.

Here's an Example of the U-Turn Technique

"For my part, I am most interested in finding a good situation in terms of challenge, growth possibilities and the people I am working with. So far, it seems that this position has it all. The company's commitment, the people and my role in the overall effort all have great appeal.

And while money is important, I'm not locked into a specific figure because these other considerations are important. Now that you have brought the subject up, though, what kind of range did you have in mind?"

Using this approach, you remain gracious and friendly while avoiding a direct answer. You will often find that the employer replies by giving you a stated range. If an interviewer persists about how much you earned or want to earn, you have to exercise judgment. Here is one possible response.

"I would rather avoid discussing my compensation until later on. Job content and challenge are most important to me, and I would like to talk money after I know you want me for the job. Is that agreeable to you?"

(2) Negotiate Only After the Firm is Sold on You

Never attempt to negotiate until the employer is sold on you. Many people misunderstand and think of negotiation as selling. In truth, you cannot negotiate unless there is some hope that you can get the employer to offer new terms, and there is almost no chance they would offer you new terms unless they were sold on you.

When you are ready to negotiate, you will find it helpful to have clear ideas about what you want. Realizing that you will not achieve everything, keep your main objectives in mind, and do not risk an entire negotiation by coming on too strong about less important points.

Support what you want with only one or two strong reasons, rather than many which may be strong or weak. The moment you give a weak reason, the employer can use that as an excuse for not granting the item in question.

No one will ever withdraw an offer because you ask for something in addition. You should always sell "quality" rather than "low starting price." After all, the easier you are to get, the less you'll be valued when you come aboard.

If you are looking to change for a financial reason, don't appear greedy, but looking for a 15% to 25% increase is certainly acceptable. It all depends on your personal situation. This is not to say it is easy, but don't lower your goals without first testing your marketability.

You need to understand compensation systems. The salary for most jobs is usually flexible within a range that is set in advance. At the very least, an employer always has an idea of what he is willing to pay for an assignment.

One exception to this situation would be when an employer wants to hire you and is willing to create a new position to bring you aboard. That's always your best opportunity for negotiating something most attractive!

As a rule you should also focus on negotiating a percent increase. For example, subject to how much you are currently earning it is usually better to speak in terms of "percentages" instead of "thousands of dollars." It sounds like less.

Also remember that in actual practice most firms will not seek a verification of present salary, and if you did exaggerate your earnings, you probably will survive.

On the other hand, if anyone has reason to suspect your claim, they have a number of avenues open to them. Some of these are as follows: They may ask to see a payroll stub from your present employer. They may ask to see a copy of your last income tax statement or your W2 form. They may also rely on an outside agency for a check of any earnings claim.

If you have a low salary and feel you must exaggerate to be considered for the position you seek, be sure to hedge in terms of an expected bonus or increase.

In other words, state your present income, but if you have a chance of shortly receiving an increase, use that level of earnings as the basis for negotiations.

(3) Express Some Vulnerability to Gain Sympathy

Expressing a slight amount of vulnerability can be a very effective weapon in your negotiation process. It is done simply by letting the employer know that accepting the job on the terms offered would cause you some personal difficulties.

This plays to the employer's desire to make sure you are happy, so you can devote your full energies to the job.

For example, you can be flattered by the offer, but you can say that you may have to sacrifice your current lifestyle in order to afford to take the job. And, of course, this would disappoint your family.

(4) Question... Rather Than Demand

The best negotiators persuade others through questions. This gives them the information they need to put themselves in control of the situation. It also gives them time to think and never has them putting all their cards on the table.

For instance, good negotiators will not say, "I do not agree with you because... " Rather, they will say, "Frank, you do make a good point, but I wonder if there is room for another point of view... " or "I accept that point of view, but it raises a question about... "

They would never say, "That would not be any good for me." Instead, they might say, "Bill, could you tell me how you think this would work for me?"

Then, they will follow up with questions, so the employer can discover for himself that the proposal is not quite good enough. So remember, question -- do not demand.

(5) Negotiate the Job and Responsibilities

This is the most important factor you need to negotiate. The reason you need to do this is because the range in which you will negotiate compensation is determined by the responsibilities that go with the job. If you can reshape the job into a larger one, the salary range will be higher.

To get started, begin with a positive comment about the job and the firm; suggest that they might benefit by adding responsibilities to the job. Then offer to share your thoughts on what might be added.

For example, "Tom, there is no doubt that this is a good job. However, based on what you have told me, I believe I could be even more helpful if a few related elements were added. There are three areas where my experience could make a big difference. I'd like to discuss them, so we could see whether they could be included in the job description."

You could then go on to talk about the areas where the firm could capitalize on your experience, showing with personal stories how you have made contributions before. If the interviewer agrees these are important, have them added to the job description. Believe it or not, reshaping the job can often be just that simple! Can you see how we have applied some of the basic principles here? There was no confrontation. The manner was positive, friendly and matter-of-fact.

(6) When You Get an Offer, Never Say "Yes" or "No" Immediately

If you are offered a job, but the salary is too low, let the employer know how pleased you are they made an offer. Take the opportunity to praise the company and explain that you need some time to consider it. You might try a statement like this:

"John, I am pleased you made me an offer. This is an outstanding company and the position has a lot of promise. I am sure you can appreciate that I would like some time to give it further consideration. It would not present any problem, would it, if I were to get back to you tomorrow?"

When you call back, after opening with one or two positive statements, consider raising the possibility of redefining the job. Your conversation might be something like this:

"John, I appreciate the fact that you gave me the time to consider the job further. As I said earlier, the idea of joining your firm is exciting, and the position is very appealing in many respects. I want the job, but I have difficulty with the level of starting salary.

"With children about to enter college, I had done some planning based on an income that was ,000 higher. As I thought about that, however, I realized that jobs are not cast in bronze and that a company can often redefine a position to fit the talents of the person they want. Would it be possible to take another look at the job specs?

"For my part, I know that if you could make a modest additional investment, I would show you a handsome return through my performance. I sincerely want to work for you and hope that we can make some adjustment. Can we take a look at it?"

Of course there may be situations where you do not want to redefine the job, but you would still like to raise the salary. In that case you use the same technique, but show some vulnerability, then suggest that a specific dollar figure be added to the base salary.

Normally, if that figure is within 10% to 15% of what you have been offered, the employer will not take offense and will grant you at least a part of it.

Once again, the reason for the positive statement is to reassure the employer that you think the offer is fair. Asking for more money is a negative, and it needs to be balanced by positives. If your positive comments are too brief, the employer will only hear the negative, the request for more money.

If all else fails, give a range which surrounds your best estimate of the upper end of what the job might pay.

(7) Use Your Enthusiasm as a Negotiating Technique

If you load a maximum amount of enthusiasm into your statements, it becomes nearly impossible for the employer to conclude that you should not be with them.

Enthusiasm can be particularly important when you have been underpaid. Ideally, an offer should be based on your value to the company, but in reality, most employers will base their offers on present earnings.

When you get back to them, however, follow the principle of introducing other criteria on which to base the offer. This can include the importance of the job to the company, what you would make with a raise where you are, your total compensation package, what you believe the market is for persons with your background, or any other offers you are considering.

In the example that follows, notice how there are no demands, only questions. By your inviting employers to explore the situation with you, they are free to reach their own conclusions about whether their offer is too low.

Using this approach, you come across as easygoing, sincere and slightly vulnerable, never as cold, calculating or aggressively demanding -- never as someone who is putting them in a corner. Your comment might be: "Paul, let me tell you once again how pleased I am that you made me an offer. I am very positive about the prospect of joining you.

I've had the chance to give it some more thought, and I can only say that my enthusiasm has continued to increase. If we can forget about money for the moment, this is the job I want. It's the kind of situation where a person could look forward to staying with an exciting company for the long term.

There is one hurdle that I have to overcome. You see, I've been underpaid now for some time, and it has created a financial situation where I need to start earning at a rate which reflects my background and ability to contribute.

If I stayed where I am, I'd be due for a raise which would put me close to your offer. But it's because I know I am worth more than that, that I want to make a move.

In talking with other companies, I've discovered that some of them realize this, and they have mentioned ranges that are 25% higher. Now, I don't want to work for those companies. I want to work for you. But I do have some financial needs that just won't go away.

Is there some way we can get around this problem? Perhaps the company could approve a higher offer if they understood just how well qualified I am and how much I want to join the company. Can we pursue this together?"


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