What ghastly error could very well cost you thousands of dollars
annually? This: failing to negotiate your salary and benefits when on a job interview.
According to the experts, you can add approximately 10% to your income EACH YEAR by
mastering the essential skill of negotiating. Learning a few ground rules is the key to
Rule #1: Establish a bottom line
In advance, decide what salary you want by taking into account what the company's ranges
are, what the market is paying for jobs in your field, and what you deserve based on your
skills and experience. It also wouldn't hurt to analyze your budget to see how much income
will be necessary to meet your expenses. If accepting the job will mean relocating, take
into consideration the fact that the cost of living varies greatly according to
geographical area ($25,000 definitely won't go as far in New York City as it will in
Chattanooga, Tennessee). Doing your homework can prevent you from making a horrendous
blunder in this regard. Once you determine the salary you desire, Shhh! ... keep that
figure a secret.
Rule #2: Timing is everything
The easiest chance to get what you want comes at that moment when you know the interviewer
wants to hire you, when you're sure he or she has enough information about you to
determine your worth, and BEFORE you commit to accepting the job. For best results, please
don't even think about negotiating until those three conditions have been met.
Rule #3: Watch your attitude
Be careful not to be so aggressive that you appear rude or overbearing. The interviewer
will react negatively if he feels he is being pushed around. Balance your firmness with
such non-threatening words as "idea," "suggestion,"
"perhaps," etc. Explain that you wish to work together to come to a satisfying
compromise. Being adamant and stubborn may result in pricing yourself out of the job.
Rule #4: Know how far you can go
Determine just how much you want this job. If you really, really want it -- or really,
really, need it -- be careful not to get so carried away with negotiations that you
jeopardize your chances of getting hired. If the job isn't your favorite choice, then you
can take a few more liberties. Keep in mind that the lower the position, the less leverage
you will have ... if you turn down the offer in such a case, the company can easily find
someone else who will accept its terms.
Rule #5: Small things first
Try to get the employer to agree to some perks before you start negotiating the salary.
This strategy will enable you to accumulate some valuables even before it's time to talk
money. Otherwise, if you negotiate the salary first and the interviewer has to make a
concession, it's unlikely that he will want to do so again when you ask for that perk or
benefit -- which means you will end up sacrificing it.
Rule #6: Take notes
Gone are the days when a handshake meant a sure promise, so remember to take extensive
notes on all settlements! You will need them for your Letter of Acceptance (to prevent
misunderstandings) and for future raise negotiations.
Rule #7: Don't be the one to name the first figure
Unfortunately, almost all companies play a nasty little game -- they innocently ask you
how much you want. Time and time again, job candidates fall face first into that trap.
They say and/or write on the job application "$9.00 an hour." In 1.3 seconds,
they have sabotaged themselves because the company will almost always try to get away with
paying less. And who knows? Maybe they were planning to offer $10.00 per hour! The way to
steer around that land mine is to GET THE INTERVIEWER TO TOSS THE FIRST FIGURE. A truism
in the game of negotiating is this: the first person to name a figure puts himself at a
distinct disadvantage. Don't let it be you.
Rule #8: Avoid nominating a specific sum of money
Whether the interviewer asks for your number or names one himself, do NOT say "Well,
I won't take a penny less than $9.00 an hour." You must avoid prematurely nailing
down a specific dollar amount for these two reasons: (1) you want to show the employer how
flexible you are, and (2) your credibility will be damaged later when you're forced to
move away from this number by the interviewer's negotiating tactics. Your safest move is
to outline a salary range, such as
"between $20,000 and $25,000, depending on my level of responsibility." The
amount you tell him should be about 10% more than what you really want (and higher than
your previous or current job). Without stopping, tell him why you deserve such earnings.
"I feel that my background and experience will allow me to
contribute more to the company than the average candidate."
"I think my skill level in the _________field is higher than
most other candidates. Therefore, I can save you time and money by being especially
Because you are such a valuable employee bringing with you many
unique skills and talents, you are entitled to earn a satisfying income. Learning the
dynamics of negotiating can help you put thousands and thousands of dollars in your pocket
over the course of your career! Study these eight rules, and practice them before you work
the real deal. And most of all, don't doubt your abilities ... you might surprise yourself
with what you can actually accomplish if you just take a leap of faith. You'll never know
if you don't try. As the saying goes, "nothing ventured, nothing gained."
Copyright © 1997 by Deborah M. McGeorge. All rights reserved.