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Tips from Career Coach Sarah Weinberger on negotiating a better salary.

In order to emerge from the interviewing process a winner and reach your earning potential, you must be prepared to do homework and work.

First of all, do not discuss salary. The employer should want you. Discuss what you can do for them and how you are valuable to them. The reason that an employer asks you salary information is they want to know how little they can pay you. They do not want to quote a price higher than what you currently make. They know very well the price range for the position. The other reason often cited by employers is that they want to know if the candidate is in their price range. Everyone has enough money for the right person. They also know the salary range for the position at hand. They can do the math of the seniority of that person and their expertise in the area.

The amount on the offer letter is a reflection of how much they feel that you are worth to them. The first number, the starting point, says a lot. A company that is truly interested in you for the long-term will pay, so that they snap you up. If they want to negotiate and go into haggling, the bargaining can work against the candidate in the future, because even if they pay, they might feel that they are overpaying and build resentment, even subconsciously. If not, it can show that they are cheap and into playing games.

I once received an offer letter from a company and they gave me a low-ball figure with the statement that the amount is final. The salary offered was a very, very lowball figure, below that of even a starting engineer, let alone a senior software and systems engineer. I turned it down. The employer came back with the statement that the hiring manager talked to the CEO and they went over their finances and were able to get a few more dollars. The offer was still low. This game went on for three rounds, and in the end, I turned down the offer. I knew what I was worth. A couple of weeks later, I started work at a different company, a bit further, but several times that earlier offer. A candidate must do research and know how much they are worth. A candidate should know what they are wroth in perks too and how that compares to others (for instance a private office, dedicated parking spot, extra time off, flex time, etc.).

During the interview be sure to listen to what the interviewers say about the position, not just the text posted in the requisition. Go home and do your homework on how you fit the extra points not mentioned. Be sure to write down concrete facts. Keep this information for the following conversation after you receive an offer letter. When the negotiating time comes, you want to call out everything that you bring to the table, not just the specific points raised in the requisition. You want to show them concretely what you can do for them that they may not have realized.

Never say yes or no immediately. Ask to wait a week or so to give yourself a chance to cool off and do research, not just on all the additional tasks required for the position, but doing research for salary ranges in your area for similar position.

Request a follow-up meeting to discuss the offer letter. Never highball, as that is a turn off, but if you feel and know that you are worth more, say so and then cite the facts getting down to business. You may want to remember that time is money, so if they balk at money, maybe you can get something in kind, extra vacation or whatever. The reason that I say “time is money,” is because there is also the reality that the longer that you do not work, the more money flies out the window. If you turn down a salary for $500 per year, but will be out of work for one-month, you may lose more in the longer term than what you might gain. When negotiating, you must keep immediate, short, and long-term goals and benefits in mind.

When you go into negotiate, first start off with a soft question, one that does not mean anything, something that you already know the answer to, such as when you can get a 401K match. The answer, as you can easily research, is always 6-months. The second question should be another easy question. The third question should be your top priority. Have your priorities written out before you come into negotiate the salary.

All employers expect that candidates to negotiate. That is part of the process. In fact, employers see candidates who negotiate as high performers, who value themselves. That might be another reason for them to give you a lower salary to start. They want to know if you value yourself.

Do remind the hiring manager all that you bring to the table and why you are the expert that can solve their problem and take responsibility for solving their problem.

Saying no and declining the offer letter is also an option. Show that you are definitely interested in the position, both through expression and in deed, but if you are worth more, then say so and turn it down. I know from personal experience back in 2005 that an employer much of the time for a right fit will come back. I had this one employer come back to me with two additional offers. Be prepared to walk. Never sell yourself short, as that is a recipe disaster.

Do not get discouraged by comments like: “We are happy that you would like to work with us, however the salary that we budgeted (the key word here) for this position is what we offered.” Know when to not back down and stand firm, but also know when to negotiate or get something in kind. Do your homework ahead of time.

Lastly, practice speaking and talking. Winning friends and influencing people, is an art and not a skill that one comes by through birth.

  • Do your homework
  • All salaries and benefits are negotiable
  • Make a counter offer (might include little or no extra money but add benefits)
  • Make a positive impression and iterate how you can solve their problem
  • Explain how you help their bottom line, but do not make this a discussion of you and how you are perfect and the best
  • If you want to grow and do more as you get familiar with things, mention that
  • Always be courteous, respectful, kind, and good-natured

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Sarah Weinberger is a professional career coach, software and systems engineer, and founder and CEO of Butterflyvista Corporation. You can learn more about her and Butterflyvista by visiting the website, http://www.butterflyvista.com/.

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