Negotiating salary and compensation can often be hard — whether you are a candidate in the final stages of an offer or an employee at your workplace. As you navigate through a potentially awkward situation, it is critically important to be aware of the ground rules of the process. Understanding and then playing by the rules can help you find success with salary-related talks.
• Remember that likability is a factor
It might seem as if the skill set(s) you bring to the job counts in business conversations but possessing a likable character can influence decision-making. Anything you say or do during your interactions that makes you sound greedy, selfish, or less affable can be detrimental. I recommend role-playing through mock interviews or discussions with a friend to see how you perceive yourself.
• Explain why you think you deserve what you want
Likability aside, a potential employer needs to be aware of tangible reasons you are worth what you seek. Rather than just stating what you want, just because you want it, it is vital to offer reasons why it is justified. Trying to explain that you believe you are valuable to the company can frankly sound arrogant. It can help, however, to state your value in other ways — say, by pointing to current market value and what others in your position tend to earn.
• Make sure they know you are prepared to say yes
A Hiring Manager would usually need to use their influence in the company, and their professional relationships, to win approval from those with authority. If they suspect that you are simply seeking a more significant offer to leverage with another company, they will be less likely to consider additional compensation requests. To get a better financial offer, you need to communicate that you are serious about accepting.
• Look closely at the person you negotiate with
A Hiring Manager who needs to hire several people may be unwilling to consider a more generous package because they might need to offer similar compensation to the other people. Talks with the person who will be your direct boss, however, could be more advantageous. This person could want you on their team and could advocate for you internally. It is essential to be aware of whom you are negotiating with before you expect results.
• Ready yourself for challenging questions
While you may have challenging compensation demands to place before the company, they may have uncomfortable questions to ask as well. For example, prepare to be questioned what other positions with other employers you are considering and where the company ranks on your list of desirable places to work. Being untruthful in a negotiation is not a good idea. Be prepared with rational, meaningful answers without giving up your bargaining position. It is essential to think about possible solutions to these questions before the negotiations begin.
• Think about the intent behind questions
When questions come to you in the middle of conversations, they are usually not meant to catch you off-guard, even if they have that effect. For example, when you get a question about other positions or your readiness to quickly accept a role at the company, they may be innocent feelers. Rather than fear that such questions have hidden agendas, it can simply help to clarify for more information. A readiness to participate in meaningful conversation can usually help you intuitively work out how to answer difficult questions and help you offer answers that satisfy.
• If you have multiple items to negotiate, do not do them one after the other
Of all the requests you have, you may be concerned the most about compensation. However, you may care about other requirements such as work-from-home allowances or vacation time. Introducing these demands one after another may present a disingenuous appearance to the person you are negotiating with. I recommend giving all requests simultaneously while also making clear how important or expendable each one is. Communicating upfront how you prioritize different requests helps make sure that negotiator knows which ones they must accept, and which are open for consideration.
• Only negotiate when you need to
Todays’ candidates come to job interviews having taken classes on negotiating skills and feel compelled to put their skills into action. However, standing firm to make the point that you are no pushover can make you seem less likable. Months later, when you have more important things to deal with, it may be more challenging. Essentially, timing is everything, and one should learn to pick their negotiating battles wisely.
• Time your offers correctly
If you are serious about considering multiple offers together, you must make sure that they arrive at about the same time. If they are spaced apart — with one coming one week and another arriving a week later — you will not be able to compare them meaningfully. Each company that makes you an offer is likely to expect a prompt response about whether you plan to accept it. Therefore, it is essential to apply to all the companies you are interested in, as best you can, at about the same time to be able to compare your offers and use them in your talks.
• If you hit an immovable obstacle, ignore it at first
Not every statement that sounds like a take-it-or-leave-it proposition may be what it seems. The person you negotiate with may misspeak and have their words come out sounding harsh when they do not mean it. If you hear something that sounds like an immovable position, it can help give the other party the benefit of the doubt and pretend you never heard it. You could move on to different discussion points and then come back to the contentious issue later. Should they be serious about the ultimatum, they are likely to repeat it. Then, you can know for sure that they meant it.
As important as your conversations may seem to you now, other parts of the negotiation puzzle are usually necessary. For example, consider your career trajectory, the industry you go to work in, how your co-workers seem.
Finally, as you prepare for any negotiation, I strongly encourage you to think about your desired outcome and know what you are and are unwilling to consider. Without knowing, you are not ready to proceed.
Before helming Perpetual Talent Solutions as President, Jim Hickey held several senior leadership roles in both sales and operations for two of the world’s largest Commercial Staffing organizations. Jim is a dedicated professional who has been formally recognized as a Staffing Industry Subject Matter Expert.