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Preparing for Salary Negotiations
Strategies and Tips to Help You Come Out On Top
By Michelle Vessel
Few experiences in your professional life are likely to be as rewarding as the satisfaction that your first paycheck at a new job brings with it. But before you get to experience that sense of triumph, you have to struggle through a trying process that can strike dread into the hearts of jobseekers everywhere: salary negotiations.
For most of us, the interview process itself is already fraught with tension and anxiety. The idea of addressing the potentially sensitive issue of compensation just adds an additional layer of complexity into the mix. Because of this, many jobseekers tend to put off the process of preparing for salary negotiations, choosing instead to focus their efforts on general interview groundwork and practice. As a result, the salary questions that hiring managers pose can often catch jobseekers off-guard.
Expect the Unexpected
Because jobseekers are often so focused on landing the position for which they are interviewing, it may seem premature to think about salary negotiations beforehand. In addition, most interview advice books and columns caution jobseekers to let the hiring manager make the first move when it comes to talking about money.
Although this advice is absolutely correct, you should still come into the interview fully prepared to discuss the issue of salary if the interviewer chooses to bring it up. According to Roger Dawson, negotiations expert and author of Secrets of Power Salary Negotiating: Inside Secrets from a Master Negotiator, jobseekers who fail to prepare for the salary negotiation process are much more likely to undervalue themselves or to accept the first lowball figure that the interviewer offers up.
So how can you avoid this all-too-common interview pitfall? Experts say jobseekers can easily overcome these obstacles with a bit of advance planning, practice, and preparation. Use these simple salary negotiation tips to set yourself on a course for competitive compensation throughout your entire career.
Conduct pre-interview research
. The old adage "Knowledge is power" definitely holds true when it comes to preparing for salary negotiations. With a firm base of factual details about typical salaries in your industry and region at your fingertips, you'll feel much more confident when you embark upon the process of negotiation your own starting wage. Sources to check include industry websites, government labor data, and help-wanted ads from competitor companies. Online salary calculators and anecdotal evidence from your colleagues, friends, and coworkers can also be helpful, although it is important to take these findings with a grain of salt.
Settle on a realistic salary range
. After you've developed a clearer understanding of the salary ranges that are prevalent in your industry, it's time to develop a general range that you feel comfortable with. Consider your salary history and current rate of compensation, and make sure that the upper end of your stated range is slightly higher than what you actually expect to receive. That way, you'll leave a bit of wiggle room for the negotiation process.
Build a persuasive case for yourself
. Marshal the kind of evidence you'll need to prove that you're well worth the salary you're requesting. To refresh your memory and sharpen your argument, compile proof of your salary history, a list of your major qualifications and accomplishments, and evidence of the ways in which you've helped your past employers save money, increase earnings, or improve efficiency.
Hone your pitch and map out potential responses
. Try to anticipate the counterarguments that the interviewer is likely to put forth after you've named your desired salary range. Create and get comfortable delivering a one-minute "elevator pitch" that sums up your qualifications, experience, salary history, and potential value. Cast a critical eye on your argument and look for any loopholes or inconsistencies that the hiring manager may pounce on.
Consider alternative concessions
. These days, many companies are operating under strict budget constraints that may limit their negotiating power when it comes to setting new-hire starting salaries. Brainstorm a few other bonuses, benefits, and non-salary perks that you might accept in lieu of compensation. Possibilities include schedule flexibility, personal leave, profit sharing, reduced-cost benefits, and professional development opportunities. Just make sure to get the total package value in writing before you tender your response.
With a little advance planning and preparation, you can take some of the stress and guesswork out of the salary negotiations process. Armed with these strategies, you could be experiencing that first-paycheck thrill in no time at all!
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