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With the economy in such shambles, many candidates believe employers are in little mood or position to negotiate on a starting compensation package. It's natural to think, "If I don't accept their first offer, there are six other candidates outside the door who'll be glad to accept any offer."
Don’t assume that’s the case.
I recently spoke with Jack Chapman, salary expert and author of “Negotiating Your Salary : How to Make $1000 a Minute,” about how to leverage your negotiating power to its best advantage.
Here are five easy techniques he emphasized:
1. Know what you’re worth in your geography.
Well before you interview, do your salary research. Gather outside information on the current market value of your position. Credible Internet resources for this information include Salary.com, Payscale.com, Jobstar.org and Indeed.com. Their tools should give you a good market rate for the salary of peers in your position in your local area .
2. Monetize what you do.
If you want compensation, show how you’ll compensate the company by achiev ing its goals. Be prepared to sell return on investment : How will you make or save the company money? It's that simple. Be ready to cite specific situations where you have contributed to the bottom line, and plan to explain how your examples relate to the position you’re being offered. Since you should already have discussed ROI in your interview, it should be easy to recall those examples during salary negotiations. Money talks, and it works to your advantage to have several entries on your side of the ledger before you negotiate .
3. Postpone it.
Traditionally, compensation is the last element discussed in the interview. Considering today's economy, however, some interviewers may jump the gun and try to probe you for a figure early in the game. If this happens, you'll want to postpone that conversation. Chapman recommends practicing a specific phrase that you can use to delay salary negotiation should this situation arise.
Whatever you say, though, it shouldn't sound canned, too cutesy or overly rehearsed. When asked the salary question early, here is an example Chapman suggests you might try. Feel free to adapt it to your personal tastes:
"I'd love to talk to you about it, but can I ask you this ? The salary I'm asking for might not exactly match your figure, but I'm flexible. I wouldn't be screened out of an interview just for salary, would I?"
This is one way to put it back on them by asking a question that will be hard for them to reject out of hand.
Another technique Chapman suggests using is reframing the priorities. For example, when asked about salary early in the interview, respond this way:
"That's really Number Three on my priority list. My Number One priority is to make sure that we can work together. Number Two is to make sure my ROI covers my salary at least three to four times over. And Number Three is the actual salary number.
While I'm happy to talk about salary, could we concentrate on Number One first?"
4. Use the magic four- letter word
When you're finally ready to address the salary, you can either let the company initiate it or you can be the one who goes first. Chapman suggests that you let the other party go first if you're concerned about security. Otherwise, go first and lead with a high number because it's always easier to negotiate down than up.
Once you hear that figure, Chapman also suggests responding with a four-letter word. That magic word is, "Hmmm."
Then you compare the figure they gave you with your previously researched figure. Respond with your researched response. Remember, you've already justified your value by this point. And you already know the comparable range companies are currently paying others to perform this function.
5. Don't forget the perks.
If they can't find the dollars to pay you up front, don't forget what Chapman calls "risk-factor dollars." This is the time to negotiate those non-cash items, like time off, flex hours, work from home and any other areas you'd like to put on the table. Review all the perks and benefits that you can. Your goal is to negotiate the best possible compensation package. Remember, they already want you. Now you're just negotiating your price. Don't be afraid to put the most important elements forward for discussion.
Your negotiating power will never be this high again. Once you've signed on the dotted line, your moment has passed, so use this opportunity to your best advantage.
The key point to remember is that as candidates, we have the same amount of power in salary negotiations whether we're employed or unemployed. While it's true we feel we have less leverage in today's market, too many candidates concede their power by accepting the first offer given. Take some extra time before your interview to employ these five tips and you'll more likely have a larger payoff in the end.