Getting Paid What You're Worth: Salary Negotiations
Oh happy day. Your interviewer looks you straight in the eye and says, "We'd like you to join our team; I'm offering you a job, but before we go any further, we should talk about how you'd like to be paid."
The novice interviewee will cave in and ask the interviewer to suggest a salary based on what the company would like to spend. But after all your research on your market value and on the company, you'll realize that this cop-out won't bring home top dollars.
You can do better by following the guidelines contained in the sections that follow.
Find a home in the range
Most experienced job changers know by now that expressing their salary requirements in ranges based on the going rate for the job is a good idea: I'd be expecting compensation in the range of ($000 to $000). A range gives you haggling room and shows that you're economically aware.
No one suggests asking for the bottom of the range unless you're a rookie. Even then, if you've worked while in college, ask for a two-striped corporal's pay rather than a one-striped private's. You're positioning yourself as a top rookie candidate.
Experienced people should ask for a pay point just above mid-range — not only to show you're above average, but also that you understand the need to leave room for raises.
More daring candidates head toward the top of the company's projected range.
Seasoned aces, who are prime candidates, should head for the top 15 percent of the range, and if your qualifications will support it, the absolute top or even above.
If you're hired as a supervisor, you'll soon know what the people who report to you directly (your direct reports) are earning. If you come in at too low a figure, within a few months you can ask your boss to put more dollars between you and those you supervise.
Plot your salary history carefully
Some job seekers feel they should inflate their salary history. That's a risky idea — the odds of discovery are stacked in the employer's favor. Instead, try this:
- Show compensation modules. List base pay and variable pay in one figure; give another figure for indirect pay; then add the figures together for the total compensation package.
- At executive levels, list compensation items line by line.
Decide in advance what you will do should your interviewer ask you for proof of your salary — tax forms or pay stubs. The request is not illegal, but you should anticipate whether you will comply.
Stonewalled? Try to upgrade the job
Point out how the job requires more than the standard duties suggested by the job title — how it fits in a job description that merits a higher pay bracket. Clarify how you plan to minimize company costs through your performance. Explain how you'll pay for yourself. By using this tactic, you establish your worth to the company and your performance-based reason for asking a higher price.
When you're told the pay offer was designed by compensation specialists and your chances of improving it are nil because "everybody starts at that pay level" and we can't violate "our policy," try this ploy: Say you'll be glad to start at the lower figure, provided you receive a raise the second week. Smile. Don't expect it to happen, but you'll have put your new boss on notice that you expect an early review and raise.
Use dramatic silences
What should you do when the interviewer offers you a salary near the floor of the salary range for the position? Keep quiet! Look at the floor. Keep your face glum.
These moments of nonverbal communication show your dissatisfaction with the offer, without a word to incriminate you as overly hungry for money. The interviewer may feel compelled by this uncomfortable silence to improve the offer. Or at least open a dialogue in which you can campaign for other kinds of rewards.
No flexibility? Make creative suggestions
You have a wide range of options from asking for a company car, stock options, extra generous mileage reimbursement, parking privileges, additional paid vacations, and a sign-on bonus. If you're negotiating for a job that pays below $30,000 and you know the company's salary cap can't be raised, try to get a shorter work week or flexible work hours, and take a second job to keep a roof over your head. If your spouse can cover you with health benefits, maybe you can trade insurance for cash.