The interview went extremely well. So well, in fact, that the hiring manager has offered you the position: "Sue, we'd like to offer you the job. I'm confident you're the right person. What I need to know now is what your salary requirement is."
Wow, you think. You were fairly sure you'd be offered the job, and that's a good thing. However, you aren't ready to have the salary conversation just yet. But the interviewer is looking at you with expectation. Surely you have a salary in mind.
Preparation to discuss salary begins before you're even offered a job. In fact, it begins during your first contact with a prospective employer. Before you are invited in for an interview, you need to sell yourself, and you'll have to keep selling yourself throughout the interview process.
All too often, people freeze when asked about salary expectations, or they quickly throw out a figure. This can lead to candidates asking for too much and pricing themselves out of consideration or asking for too little and settling for unsatisfactory salaries.
If you want to ensure you get a fair salary and benefits package, follow these steps:
1. Start Off on the Right Note
You probably think your resume is the first contact you have with an employer, and that is usually the case. You submit a strong resume that shows the value you'll bring to the employer. It is loaded with relevant accomplish statements and tailored to that particular job.
But here's a better first-contact scenario: You find a contact within the company who can lead you to a decision-maker. You and the decision-maker have a few very productive conversations during which you're able to sell yourself face to face. Eventually, a position becomes available. By then, you are already considered a shoo-in for the role.
2. Sell Yourself During the Interview
So you've set the stage by networking and having a series of meetings with the hiring decision-maker, or you've submitted a strong, tailored resume. Congratulations – you landed an interview! It doesn't end here, though.
You will continue to sell your value throughout the interview process. Your job of selling yourself will be easier if you understand the employer's pain points. Are there lagging sales? Inefficient processes? Poor communication within departments? Enormous waste? Now address these pain points whenever you can during the interview.
3. Do Your Homework
First, you must determine the salary you're able to live on. Next, you determine what you'd consider your "dream salary." For example, maybe you can live on $80,000, but you'd be ecstatic with $90,000.
It is important to be realistic about your value in the labor market. There are tools out there that can help you with this, such as Salary.com.
The second piece of your homework requires determining the employer's budget, or what it can pay. Networking with people within the company will play a huge part in understanding what the employer can pay. However, if you can't do this, Glassdoor can be of some assistance.
4. Respond With a Range of Your Own
Now that you've determined your needs and the employer's budget, you are at a stronger vantage point for the salary negotiation. But before you engage in a negotiation, it's important to realize two things: one, employers expect you to negotiate; and two, you are the one they want – and for this reason, you have more leverage.
The first step in responding to the employer's query regarding your salary expectations is to ask for the employer's range. Employers will generally disclose their ranges, but keep in mind that the numbers they offer are usually within their first or second quartiles. For example, if the employer provides a range of $80,000 to $90,000, chances are the real range is $80,000 to $100,000. Based on your research of the company, the employer's range should be approximately the range you expected.
Your next step is to offer a range of your own. In this example, your response to the employer's range should be $92,500 to $95,500. The reason why you want to ask for an uneven number is to indicate you've researched possible salaries.
5. Back Your Expectations Up
You aren't justified in asking for a salary higher than the employer's offer unless you back your request up with facts and figures. Focus on the pain points and illustrate how you can alleviate them.
You may reply with, "First, I'd like to tell you that this job interests me very much. I will be committed to it and the company, if we can be closer to the $92,500 to $95,500 range. I know your sales department needs someone to infuse motivation into it. I want to remind you that I was able to increase sales by at least 85 percent at my last three companies. Further, I will bring in four times the salary you're offering. I've also contributed to my previous positions by presenting at the AA-ISP's Inside Sales conference. I can bring more visibility to the company. Are we on the same page?"
6. Remember the Benefits Package
You may come to a standstill during salary negotiations. When this happens, the best recourse is to divert to benefits. Many people don't realize that benefits, such as vacation, flex time, and stock options, can be negotiated. Remember, it's not all about salary.
For example, "I understand there are budget constraints, so I'd like to talk about vacation time. Where I last worked, I accumulated five weeks of vacation. You're offering two weeks. If we could agree on four and a half weeks of vacation, I'd be happy accepting your offer."
Negotiating salary can be stressful. It's important that you view it as a business transaction, not a confrontation. Always keep a level head and try to smile during the process. And if one company can't meet you where you want to be, remember that there will be other offers from employers who will be able to accommodate your needs.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.