Updated 29 August 2012
Salary negotiation is a skill, one that does not come naturally to many job seekers, who usually focus only on impressing the recruiter at the job interview, and often overlook the opportunity to negotiate a better salary once they have been offered the job. More often than not, once a candidate gets a job offer, he or she will not negotiate the terms. Even those who do try to negotiate their salary at the interview are usually not as skilled at it as the recruiters or hiring managers are.
Since salary negotation is usually one of the last things to be discussed at a job interview, it usually indicates that the recruiter is willing to hire you and that you are ready to commit to the job offer. To make sure that you walk away with the best possible offer, there are several simple tricks you can employ during the job interview.
The most important thing to remember is that you have already passed the test and the recruiter thinks that you would make an excellent addition to the company, one who could add value to the employer's business. This is why you should always at least try to negotiate a better job offer, whether this means more money, a wider range of benefits, or just better hours and more vacation time. It is up to you to find out which of these things are negotiable during the job interview. Not doing so is an opportunity wasted.
Salary requirements and range
For every job you apply to, there is usually a well defined salary range. A recruiter will know what the range is, so you'd better do some research too, especially if you have not worked in similar positions before. Knowing how much your skills are worth and how much similar jobs pay in your geographical area is an essential first step in negotiating the best possible salary for yourself. Once you have this information, you can determine both the low end of the pay scale and the salary you are aiming for, one that will not seem unreasonable to the recruiter.
Sometimes recruiters will ask you to reveal your salary history before they make you an offer. Your previous or current salary tells them how successful you have really been professionally. Even if your resume sometimes obscures your actual position and responsibilities at the previous firm, your salary will not. This is why you should never give the recruiter a number if you can help it.
If you are moving down from a better paid job for whatever reason, the recruiter will think that you are overqualified and assume you will turn down the job offer. If you are looking to move up professionally, the recruiter might assume that you will take less money than the job is really worth and make you a weaker offer based on your old salary. Instead of giving the recruiter your salary history, try to shift the topic of discussion to the job at hand. Say that you are looking for a salary that reflects the duties and responsibilities of the new job, and that you would need to know more before discussing the salary.
Job offer negotiation
Job hunters often negotiate better salaries for themselves without really trying when they honestly say that they need to consider the job offer before giving the recruiter a definite answer. This is definitely something to keep in mind when the recruiter throws a number at you.
Sometimes you can get a better offer simply by pausing to think instead of jumping at the first number thrown at you. When the recruiter makes you an offer, find a way to let him know that it is not all that you expected it to be and see what happens. You can even ask him directly if the terms are open to negotiation. If you are the best candidate for the job, there is a good chance that the recruiter will make you a better offer right away.
To the recruiter, the first offer is just that – the starting point in salary negotiation – even if most job candidates will happily jump at it. From the recruiter's point of view, however, a quality candidate will always be more important than the exact sum, so if you have made it to this point, you should definitely explore the salary range the recruiter has at his disposal. With high and mid-level positions, there is usually a range to work with, and at least some of the benefits are negotiable.
Another thing to keep in mind is that recruiters regularly meet with job hunters and can sometimes become so used to people accepting the first offer that they can even offer you less money than the position would normally be worth. While this may not always be the case, whatever you negotiate can make a big difference in the long run, so it can never hurt to try.
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When the recruiter or hiring manager asks about your salary expectations, you usually have three choices. You can give him the sum that you want, the sum that you will take, or you can avoid giving him an exact number altogether. The third option is usually the best one. While it is essential that you have both the minimum amount and your ideal salary defined for yourself before talking to the recruiter, you should never be the one to name an exact number. If they ask, simply say that you will consider any reasonable offer or pass the ball back to the recruiter and tell him that he is in a better position to know how much your skills and expertise are worth to the company.
If the recruiter insists, just say ''market value'' or that it depends on the overall package. Another way to dodge the question is to tell the recruiter that you believe that the company will make you an appropriate job offer, one based on your skills and experience, and that you are more interested in discussing the responsibilities of the position you would be filling. You can also ask about performance reviews and career progression opportunities at the company. If there is no way at all to dodge the salary question, give the recruiter a range instead of a number. The range should start at the minimal pay you would accept and end at about 20 percent more than your ideal salary. This will signal to the recruiter that you know how much the job is worth and will not go below market value. Again, it is important that you do some research beforehand, or else you run the risk of asking for an unrealistic sum.
Job offer negotiation
Your salary expectations are not the only thing to consider before going to the job interview. Depending on the job, the stage of your career, and your professional (and personal) ambitions and aspirations, you can also inquire about the benefits that may be open to negotiation. These can range from a signing bonus, more vacation days, bigger allowance, and use of a company car to different club memberships, life insurance schemes, and a number of other things. If the recruiter seems open to discussing these at the job interview, you have very little to lose. Even if you negotiate just a little more than the initial offer, you are not likely to regret it in the long term.
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