The First Rule of Salary Negotiation |

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter discusses the first rule of salary negotiation.



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Most people in the US, Westerners, not Asians, not some Europeans, not some people from the Middle East, but those who are US-born are so uncomfortable negotiating because it is not part of the culture. I listen to clients of mine sometimes talk about making lower offers to people of certain nationalities, knowing full well that they are going to negotiate, and then they will get to the price that they think is actually the right one for the person. The people from those nationalities just know how to negotiate and the firm, as a way of countering that, comes a little slow so that they can negotiate up.

For you who are US-born, who are not used to negotiating, you have to get over your apprehension of doing it. You have to get over that, "Ooooh. Negotiation. I don't like doing that." Well, let me give you perspective.

You read all those finance books the teacher how to save money and how to invest in things and then you don't negotiate on the house purchase? I don't think so. I think you always try to negotiate our house purchase. Why not negotiating your salary, too. After all, if you get them to increase the offer by $10,000 over where they initially made the offer, in 5 years time, assuming a modest salary increase annually, you are more than $50,000 ahead in gross pay. If you actually change jobs in 3 years for another $10,000, it's more than $75,000 more.

If all you did was get that $10,000 more once and change jobs again after 3 years, you would forget about $70,000? Really?

Here is the simple way to negotiate. The deck is stacked against you when you interview. For many of you, if you interview and they ask you about salary and respond by saying, "I don't want to tell you," or words that they can interpret that way, or say something like, "I think it's a little too early in the interview process to discuss what I'm making now, but I am looking for such and such," firms are going to be like barracuda and start chomping at you.

For most of you, I'm not talking about senior people here, but for most staff level individuals, even for many people in the manager level, you have just shot yourself in the foot in their mind.

Recognize that the deck is stacked against you.
1. You will have to answer the question. In answering it, you say, "I'm currently earning such and such, but I want to be absolutely clear with you. That's not the salary that I think is particularly relevant here. I've started to assess my value in the market and firms are telling me that I should be earning about such and such. That's more in line with what I am looking for, I would simply say that if this seems like the right opportunity for me, and it certainly seems that, and I look like the right person for you, I'm just going to encourage you to make the strongest offer because people are going to be coming in fairly soon with offers for me that I think will be quite appealing."

Say something that will demonstrate that the current number isn't particularly relevant,the others are assessing you to a certain level and that is more in line with what your thoughts are. If they are interested in you, they need to make the strongest offer because you are in the market right now where people are finding you attractive.

If they don't want to do that, that's fine. After all, you will have other choices. Remember, it's not just about getting one job offer, it's about getting 2 or 3 so the people are competing to get you.

When all is said and done, it starts off with understanding that you have to negotiate, you must negotiate, you must care about yourself and your finances enough to always be negotiating and recognizing the samples that they are boxing in. Thus, you want to be pushing open the sides of the box to breathe. That's because, if they think they've got you, trust me, they've got you.

If they are not sure, it's not like they're going to reject you. If you are qualified. If you are the best person, it is just making them uncomfortable that they have the right price to bring you on board.


Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes.

Are you interested in 1:1 coaching, interview coaching, advice about networking more effectively, how to negotiate your offer or leadership coaching? Schedule a discovery call at my website,

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