Although some advise to never answer the question of how much you are earning when asked, for most people, not answering that question will result in you being given an ultimatum to provide the information or be shown the door. Although for executive talent, the strategy generally works because those rules don’t apply to them, for most mid managers and staff reporting to them,declining to answer questions about compensation is not a viable technique.

So what can you do? How do you viably negotiate? The best strategy is:

Hire an agent to represent you. Athletes and entertainers do it. Business executives do it (they are called lawyers). Hire someone to represent you and your needs and pay them to represent you in any negotiation whether you accept the job or not.

What’s Plan B?

1. Research your value. One thing you can do is use job board listings to give you an approximate idea of value. Don’t just focus on the salary maximum. Look at ranges and the size of the organizations and compile data.

2. When they ask you about salary, state your current salary and and any benefit that you receive that has a dollar value. Say that you are looking for an opportunity, not just a big bump in salary.

“Anyone would be lying if they said that money wouldn’t be a factor. Of course it is and it is for me, too. I’m looking for an opportunity where I can improve upon what I have now both professionally and in compensation.”

AT THE BEGINNING OF THE NEGOTIATION, AVOID STATING A SPECIFIC SALARY FIGURE.

3. Once the offer is extended, do not accept it on the spot. Thank them for the offer and say you are pleased but want to think about it for 24 hours. During that time, make sure you learn everything you can about the terms of the offer and the benefits the firm will give you.

4. If the offer was for less than the salary maximum the company advertised, ask them how they came to that offer given that they were prepared to offer a higher amount in the ad. DO NOT TAKE WHAT THEY SAY PERSONALLY. You are trying to show that you did research and to see if you can get them to feel guilty and offer you more.

5. Use lesser benefits as negotiating leverage. Although for most workers, you may not be able to improve a company’s 401K contribution or vacation policy, if you are giving something up, get something in return.

6. If you are working with a recruiter, remember that they are paid by the employer and are not your friend. Use your mentor for guidance.

7. Be prepared to reject the offer if it does not meet specific goals . . . but also be prepared in advance to know which criteria of yours are expendable and can be given up as part of a negotiation.

8. DO NOT BECOME INTRANSIGENT. I can’t state this strongly enough. If they do not meet every condition you set, it does not mean that they dislike you or think less of you. Be prepared for concessions on your part and on their part.

9. Keep selling yourself and the impact that you will make, particularly with your new boss.  I cant stress this enough. Remember that,in most organizations, HR enforces rules that will not serve your interests. Managers can become your ally and push HR to become flexible.

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