Negotiating a job offer can be one of the most anxiety inducing parts of a job hunt, especially if you are at the beginning of your career, and don’t have a lot of experience to draw wisdom from. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you have an offer in hand before you start to think about salary negotiation. Start now and it will literally pay off later.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” –Alexander Graham Bell
1. Know your worth – your market worth can vary depending on the industry, job, and geographical location. Talk to people who are in your field, and find out what the average salary range is for the type of position you are applying for. If you know someone who is a hiring manager in your industry, they can be an invaluable source of information. Also check out Salary.com and Glassdoor.com to research what your position pays in similar companies. Salary.com did a study that found the work of a stay-at-home mother was worth $138,095/year. Don’t assume you know intuitively know your worth, back it up with research.
2. Learn the basics – there are endless books written about negotiation, and reading at least one before you have a job offer in-hand can make a significant difference in your skill and comfort level. I highly recommend Getting to Yes and Bargaining For Advantage. You should be familiar with the acronyms BATNA and ZOPA.
3. Role-play – ask a mentor, or someone you trust who has experience hiring employees if they would role-play a salary negotiation with you. As a young professional, it can be a challenge to negotiate with confidence, especially since it is something that most people don’t typically have an opportunity to practice. You only have one shot to negotiate your salary, so do some practice runs with a trusted advisor.
4. Focus on the job responsibilities – don’t bring up salary during your interviews, it sends the message that you are more focused on money than finding out if the job is the right fit for you. Let the hiring manager bring it up, which they will often not do until an offer has been made. If you are asked in an initial conversation what your salary requirements are, a great response is, “I have flexibility depending on the compensation package as a whole, and I’m really interested to learn more about your needs and what the position will require.” Translation: I’m not telling you. One of my favorite Penelope Trunk posts brilliantly explains why you never want to be the first person to give out a number, and how to answer questions about salary accordingly.
Preparation breeds confidence, and quiet confidence is a must for a successful negotiation. Just because you are young and don’t have a lot of experience, doesn’t mean you need to accept the first offer you get. Hiring managers never give their best offer at the beginning, so they expect you to counter offer. My next post, Part 2, will cover what to do in salary negotiations once you have an offer in hand.