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A Guide to Negotiating Compensation

By Debra Wheatman

 

Negotiating is an art, no doubt. Done correctly it will lead to victory. Done poorly it could lead to failure. When it comes to negotiating salary and other benefits in the workplace, nothing makes people more uncomfortable. He who talks money first loses as they say. Why? Well, it’s because the minute you reference your previous salary, the other side has a distinct advantage. If you reference a desired salary, you may put yourself in a position where you downplay your worth; alternatively, if you present too high a number, you will not be considered for the opportunity.
 
Negotiating can be done in a way that basically bulldozes your way to get the answer you want, or in a way that focuses more on collaboration, cooperation, and communication. It is advisable to take a combined approach to ensure your negotiations are fruitful and effective for you.
 
Life in general is competitive. Professional life, much more so. You want to achieve results – tip the hand in your favor, so to speak. When handling matters of compensation there are a few key competencies that you need to understand:
 
Your desired salary
A salary that you need or want. This does not matter. What does matter is what the potential employer thinks is a fair salary for the position. Oftentimes a budget is already established – but you are not privy to that information. Prepare for this conversation by doing your homework. You need to understand the industry and what other companies are paying for positions with similar responsibilities. Once you are armed with some knowledge, you will be in a better position to represent yourself and obtain a salary that is in line with your expectations.
 
Consider intangible components
Vacation time, external training / education, stock options, and bonuses are some things that you can negotiate to make up for compensation. These things have a tangible value. You should consider them when evaluating what you want. You might be willing / able to reduce compensation requirements for additions or guarantees in these areas.
 
Gear up for the tough questions
You will likely get the following question: “What is your current compensation?” Try to avoid answering this question. How you ask? Indicate that you would like to find out additional information about the role to ensure your competencies and the company’s goals are aligned. It is at this point that you can also respond by asking the salary range that the position fits into. Yes, this is a bit of a calculated risk. However, it is one that you should take. Be polite – you want to maintain the advantage here. Getting a salary range – or better a number will allow you to evaluate if the salary is something you would consider. I know it’s tempting to want to avoid that uncomfortable silence – but hold out. The potential employer will likely speak first.
 
There are options
If you find that the information presented by the potential hiring manager is not acceptable, you can simply express disappointment at the proposal indicating that with your experience and achievements, you think that a salary of (put in a range here) would be more acceptable. Expressing disappointment is non-confrontational and a demonstration of your feelings. Otherwise you can present an alternative whereby you would be considered for an increase after six months based on your meeting established performance benchmarks. If you produce results and meet the targets, it will fully demonstrate your value. A little flexibility and creativity will help you get what you want.
 

Present your case in a clear and compelling manner; remain calm and collected. This is business. Come prepared to explore and present ideas that will put you in a position of authority and give you the leading edge!