Salary negotiations can be the most stressful part of the entire interview process for candidates. Ask for too much and they may reconsider their offer; ask too little and you damage your own pocketbook. And once you’ve given up a number, you can’t go back. It’s important to remember that any successful negotiation results in a “win-win.” You’ve got to remember that the company has its own agenda and doesn’t want to make a mistake either—and in a recession, companies are belt-tightening and have their own pressures about keeping costs down. So how do you successfully navigate this delicate situation?
Do a Great Job of Selling Yourself
The very first step to getting a top offer for your position is to do a good job of selling yourself as the best candidate in the first place. The job search is a sales process, and you’re the product being sold (in the form of a salary for work). Position yourself properly. Have a fantastic LinkedIn profile that gets attention, hire a career coach to help you come up with a “marketing strategy,” bring a 30/60/90-day action plan for the job to your interview, and make sure your references are glowing. These are all great ways to increase your value as a commodity in the job market so that you’re starting off in a more advantageous position in the first place.
Don’t Be the First to Mention Salary
Bringing up money in the job interview is a big no-no for candidates. Your focus should always be on what the hiring manager’s problems are and how you can solve them. Once you’ve convinced them that they need you over the other candidates, then you can talk money.
But what if they bring it up first?
Treat it as lightly as you can by saying, “Does that mean you’re making me an offer?” Sometimes they’ll say “yes,” and then it will change the conversation (in a great way).
Deflect it by saying, “I’m certain that given the responsibilities of this position, and how important it is to the organization, that you will compensate the right candidate with an appropriate amount of money,” or “Unless you’re making me an offer, we’re still trying to see if this is a good fit, and I think that if we decide that it is, we’ll be able to work out the money issue.”
If your interviewer asks you directly how much money you currently make, you can antagonize him or her by refusing to answer, so you have to say something. One option: answer honestly, but qualify it by saying, “I am not sure that it is relevant because this position requires x, y and z…”
Do your homework before you go to the interview so that you know appropriate salary ranges for this position in this region of the country. There are all kinds of sources of information online to get an idea, and you should come to the interview with an appropriate salary range in mind. Know what value you’re bringing to the table, and be able to justify what you’re asking for. Be realistic, and try to be objective about the market values for this particular position—which in a recession, might not be as much as you had hoped.
Consider Other Benefits
Never forget that the job isn’t just about the paycheck, and neither is the negotiation. If you run into a roadblock on salary, consider other avenues like increased vacation time, stock options, retirement plans, incentives, bonuses, trade association fees, health care, day care, car allowances, flexibility in your schedule, telecommuting options, or other things specific to the job. All these items can be a part of a great salary and benefits negotiation.
These tips have always been a part of a good salary negotiation, but during a recession, things like the benefits package become a bigger part. Just remember—be flexible, aim for a win-win, and keep the focus on the valuable skills you are bringing to the company.