There you are, sitting in your interview feeling proud and excited about making it this far in your quest for the perfect job. You've long been preparing for this moment. You've perfected your resume, researched interview techniques and have mastered the art of a perfect handshake. Then, it hits you. There is one question you didn't prepare for. Once you hear it come out of your interviewer's mouth, your heart sinks into your stomach; "What were you thinking about in terms of salary?" You freeze. Sound familiar?
Don't let this painful scene play out in your life ever again. As an experienced hiring professional who has initiated countless conversations about salary negotiation, I am going to let you in on some inside secrets.
1. We want to hire you for the least amount of money.
Elizabeth P. Cipolla
Much like buying a car or house, you need to go into the negotiation process understanding one thing. Although the employer is truly impressed with your skills and excited about hiring you, they want to "profit" as much as possible when they close the deal with you. This doesn't make them unethical or sneaky; it makes them a smart business person. You certainly wouldn't buy a car or house for the sticker price without negotiating a better value, right? The same is true for salary negotiation. Don't pass up the opportunity to negotiate a higher compensation package when they make their initial offer. Unless they are in the dark ages of hiring practices, your employer expects you will do this and is prepared to entertain a higher offer. The first offer is a starting point which they hope you are naive enough to accept on the spot.
2. We know a lot of you will jump at our first offer.
Throughout my recruiting career, it never ceased to amaze me when I came across a candidate who quickly answered an initial job offer with, "That sounds great! I'll take it." As a naturally caring person, I wished I could tell them what they just did to shortchange themselves. As a consultant who works with people making career moves, I can now tell you to go in to these discussions with your eyes wide open. Countless statistics support my unofficial observation when it comes to who is most likely to jump at a first offer. Women and young job seekers who are new to the work world are far less likely to advocate for themselves. Perhaps it is confidence or legitimate inexperience that leads them to think whatever is written on the price tag is the final offer. Whatever the reason, never jump to accept an initial offer. Instead, thank the employer graciously and explain you will need to think about it. Then, come back to them with a number that is ten percent higher than your true bottom line. It creates some negotiating room, and you might just get what you're asking for.
3. We know that if we can get you to state your "minimum salary," we've won.
There's an old saying about negotiation in the business world, "The first person to bring up money loses." Experienced hiring managers know this, and will push hard to get a minimum salary requirement out of you early on in the interview process. Why? Because if they can weed you out for wanting too much or hang onto you for wanting less than what they've budgeted, they will quickly make a decision without knowing what you have to offer. Don't put so much power into their hands. The entire idea of a range is a charade. Do you really think an employer is going to insist on paying you a penny more than the bottom line you stated when you shared the low and high end of your range? If an employer brings up money right off the bat, smoothly change the subject so you can fully demonstrate your qualifications before talking about your salary requirements.
Don't underestimate the tone you set for yourself with your future employer simply based upon how you negotiate your worth. If you set a precedent of undervaluing yourself, they will recognize you as a pushover who is easily overlooked for advancement opportunities. However, if you present yourself as respectfully confident and firm throughout salary conversations, they will see you as a valuable candidate who has high potential within their organization.
Elizabeth P. Cipolla is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, professional development and executive coaching for more than 13 years. She brings leadership experience from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.changeagentsee.com.