Originally published on LinkedIn

I am constantly reminded that smart people can make dumb decisions when they are under the pressure of changing jobs, job interviewing and salary negotiations. That’s the reason I write as much as I do . . . to remind of you of what is in your self-interest without you messing things up while feeling “stressed,” “nervous,” or generally frightened during some element of your job search.

The time of the job offer is one of those times where people’s anxiety level is up. Unlike athlete’s and entertainers we read or hear about in the media, there are limited ways for you to improve your perks because they are mandated by the business. Few can be negotiated beyond where they are without exposing the firm to a law suit (Why did you give this benefit to “the man” and not “the woman, for example”).

Here are a few tips to remember as you walk into a negotiation :

1. Become clear about what is absolutely necessary and what isn’t before your first or next interview. What’s most important to you in your next job or organization? What do you need to see or know to become certain it is the right place for you to go to work? WRITE IT DOWN AND REFER TO IT BEFORE YOU START NEGOTIATING.

2. Make them fall in love with you and what you can do for them during your interviews. No honey, no love. No love, no money. If they settle for you because you were not their first or second choice, the offer may feel like “take it or leave it.” It doesn’t mean that it is, but it may feel that way.

3. Employers want to know that you are interested in their job. If you are, let them know that as the very last thing you do when meeting the last person on your schedule. When it seems like the Q&A is ending or as you are being escorted to the exit or the elevator, look them square in the eye (if you are male, you can do this while shaking hands; as a woman, I wouldn’t recommend it during a handshake) and say, “I just want you know that I am quite interested in this opportunity and look forward to hearing from you about the next step.” It’s like being the first one to say, “I love you when you’re dating.” It doesn’t commit you to anything but draws the other to you. As in dating, only say and do this if it is true.

4. Have an idea of your value. Just because you see jobs that pay $90000 – $160,000 for what you do, does not make you work $160,000. It does not make you worth, $90,000. It does not make you worth any of the price points in the middle. Your skills, how they are demonstrated on the interview PLUS the relative degree of desperation on the part of the potential employer dictates price.

5. Keep your emotions in check. Like they say in “The Godfather,” it’s business. It isn’t personal.

6. Anticipate objections. We see you at this level. “How did you come to that decision? “What criteria came into the evaluation where I was assessed to that level,” makes them justify/explain the decision that targets you to a particular job level and salary level and re-opens the discussion.

7. Be prepared to say, “No.” If you are out of work and only have one job offer, it’s hard to say, “No.” If you have multiple job offers, you can play one offer off against another and feel better about rejecting a poor one.

8. Remember, the easiest question to ask to see if you can negotiate a slightly higher offer. “I am really interested in joining YXZA Company. Could you do a touch better on your salary offer,” will sometimes encourage a firm to increase the offer.

9. Be reasonable. Don’t go crazy during the process. Sometimes people lose self-control and blow up on friends and family. Don’t set ultimatums with employers. Don’t listen to the advice of “know-it-all” sympathetic friends. Even someone who is doing what you do for a different company, does not know or do exactly what you know or do and cannot accurately judge your ability or value. The market defines your value, not your friends. People’s value today is different today (2010), than what it was two years ago. Hopefully it will improve in two years and create a higher value. But today, it is what it is and you can’t look back to what it was.

10. Find a place to laugh and relax. It’s serious. It’s important. It’s not everything in your life. If you make it that way, you will push away the people who care about you the most.

11. Win-Win means you lose. There is a fine line between being reasonable and giving away the farm. Practice negotiating on small things before you negotiate salary. Try walking into a Starbucks or McDonald’s and negotiating your purchase. Notice what it feels like to confront your fear and try to negotiate. You will learn a lot from doing that. Trust me.

 

 

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