A Guest Column by Cindy Beresh-Bryant, SPHR, RCC, MHRD, President of HR Solutions by Design, LLC
Well, you did it! You survived the interview process and are the leading candidate for your dream job – now what? Candidates who enter salary negotiations prepared and with a positive attitude often walk away with the best offers.
Negotiation Table Prep
Believe it or not, salary negotiation preparation begins when you write your resume – it’s about clearly establishing the value you bring to the organization and how you will positively impact their bottom line. To maximize your negotiating power you have to link your skills to accomplishments, bottom-line value and revenue for the company and this is done throughout the entire interview process. If done properly, once you arrive at the offer stage, it’s not a matter of you asking “how much are they willing to pay me.” Rather, it’s a matter of them asking “how much is it going to take to get YOU?” This may seem like the same question but the outcome can be significant.
There’s an old adage, “Knowledge is Power” and negotiations are no exception. Before contemplating an offer, be sure you’ve considered your needs and expectations carefully. Create a checklist so you don’t forget anything in the excitement of accepting the position.
The Bottom Line
Do you know what your bottom-line salary requirements are? If you do, great! If you’re not sure, you’ve got some work to do. Once you’ve determined your bottom line, you’re ready to begin negotiations.
When you begin negotiations, start well above your bottom line. After 25 years in HR I can tell you employers look at salaries based on ranges and these ranges are determined based on two critical pieces of information: 1) the employer’s compensation philosophy and 2) salary surveys. Companies want to be competitive on pay, but they don’t want to overpay. In order to negotiate your best deal, you have to know what you’re worth in the market you’re considering. There are any number of online salary survey reports available (www.payscale.com and The Creative Group 2012 Salary Guide) to help you determine the going rate for your position in your geographic area. Seek these out and do your homework before ever sitting down at the negotiating table.
Negotiate Power Before Salary
You may think your title dictates your offer, but that’s only part of it. The depth and breadth of your responsibilities lie at the heart of what the organization is really willing to pay you. In other words, the greater your level of responsibility, the greater your pay. With that in mind, it’s best to negotiate your duties and responsibilities before discussing salary.
When negotiating responsibility make sure you and your future employer have the same understanding of your responsibilities and the specific performance standards that will be used to measure success. Keep copious notes of the discussion and document your title, the reporting structure, your level of authority, specific performance measures, accountability, the number of direct reports you will have, and any peripheral responsibilities. Remember, any documented increase in responsibilities put you in a better negotiating position.
Negotiating the Package
During negotiations it’s not just about the base salary, so be sure to consider the entire compensation package as fertile grounds for negotiations. Remember, anything you don’t have to pay for directly, is money in your pocket.
Employers are usually most concerned with base salary because it’s a fixed cost and in most cases health insurance premiums are a percentage of your base salary, thus driving up the total compensation package. Because this is such a sensitive topic, consider other benefits during negotiations, such as:
Student Loan Forgiveness
Cell Phone Allowance
Additional Vacation Allowance
When benefits negotiations are complete, it’s time to move onto the big stuff – salary. Begin salary negotiations by inquiring about the possibility of signing bonuses, enhanced severance, timing of performance/salary reviews, and a guaranteed first year bonus. These are important for two reasons: 1) they increase your total compensation if you can get them and 2) they provide you with bargaining chips to “give away” in the spirit of flexibility. Remember, in negotiations it’s important for BOTH sides to feel they have won something. You don’t want to appear to be a push-over but you absolutely DO want to appear logical and flexible. Never give ultimatums – if you take that attitude, the employer will likely walk away. Don’t be negative: look for win-win solutions.
Negotiations and Women
Many people, especially women, are afraid to negotiate either because they feel greedy or have a hard time asserting themselves. Remember, you haven’t gotten this far without the credentials to support your candidacy, so it’s now time to capitalize. You will never have as much leverage, once hired, to boost your salary as you do right now during negotiations, so don’t waste it. Studies have shown that men often make more than comparable women because men are willing to negotiate.
Once you’ve agreed to terms and conditions, get it in writing and never seek to reopen a point. If the employer wants to reopen a point, that’s an opportunity for you to get a major concession. Once it’s in the can and you have the offer in writing, take 24-48 hours to review it before actually accepting it.
If you’ve effectively demonstrated throughout the entire interview process the value you bring to an organization, you’re in a strong negotiating position and you may just be surprised at how far an employer is willing to go to get you on board. At this point the question truly does becomes “what will it take for you to join our team” rather than “I wonder what they would be willing to pay me.”