Chances are that what you're expecting and what they're prepared to pay in salary and benefits are not far apart, for, as we discussed in Chapter III, the amount of salary you can expect will be determined, to a large extent, by two factors: (1) what the company is accustomed to paying in this particular position; and (2) what your previous salary was. In any event, keep in mind the cardinal rule of negotiating salary for a new job: wait for the offer before you start talking money.
A corollary to this rule is to withhold your final decision until the money issue is settled. The person who offers you the job might say: "I don't see any problem when it comes to salary, so what do you say: are you coming" aboard?", and expect you to answer immediately. But as soon as you make a commitment, you lose leverage. Don't play it too coy, though. If you want the job, tell the person or people you're dealing with that you're delighted with the offer, you're anxious to settle as soon as possible, and that all that remains to be done is to iron out some of the financial details. Make the acceptance contingent, in other words, on a satisfactory salary arrangement. "I'm ready to start," you might say, "as soon as we get together on salary."
The Basics of Negotiating
The basic principles of negotiation are the same whether you're buying a house, haggling with a merchant at a foreign bazaar, or talking to your prospective employers about money. Three principles eclipse all the rest in their importance:
- You have to know ahead of time the market value for whatever it is you're negotiating.
- You have to know ahead of time what you want and what you're willing to settle for.
- You have to get the other party to make the opening offer.
As a general rule, you should try to get a salary that is at least 10 to 20 percent higher than the salary of your previous jobs. There are two prime exceptions: first, if you're changing careers; and second, if you've been out of work for several months and have no reasonable prospects.
When you're asked how much money you'd like, it's always a good idea to say what you've been accustomed to and what you're looking for ("in the neighborhood of" is a good way to put it), rather than what you need to live on. Try always to talk money in terms of what the job and the responsibility are "worth," and not so much in terms of what you'd like to be paid. You may get a lower offer. How you handle that counter offer should be determined by how much below your original demand the offer was. You've given a figure that represents what you think you're worth. So even if you get the employer to raise the offer midway between your demand and their offer, you're still settling for less. Here are some options:
1. Ask about perks. Okay, the company can't meet your salary demands. But maybe they can provide you with a car, or a larger expense account. Get together with your accountant: see if you can arrange for benefits that could help you save on taxes.
2. Get a commitment for a raise once you've proven your-self. I prefer this approach in most situations. "Okay," you say. "I'm not going to argue salary with you. I want the job, but the money isn't right, so I'll tell you what we can do. I'll start at the salary you mentioned, but in three months, you'll have the option either to fire me for not living up to what I said I could do, or else to give me the money I feel I'm worth."
3. Offer to work for nothing. This is a bolder version of the last suggestion. Chances are, nobody is going to take you up on it, but it may be worth a try. You should try this if the two of you are very far apart. "I tell you what," you might say. "I really can't work for the salary you're offering. But let's try this; I will work for you for free for two weeks. If, after those two weeks, you don't think I'm worth the money I'm asking, you can fire me. Otherwise, hire me at the salary I think I'm worth."
4. Negotiate a different title or seek more responsibility that might lead to quicker advancement.