Honing Your Negotiating Skills and Strategies to Get the Job You Want After 50

By Kerry Hannon

Copyright © 2015 AARP. All rights reserved.

If you want to be the happiest you can be in your job, you will need good negotiating skills and strategies at your disposal. Although the parties engaged in negotiation often assume adversarial relationships, the best approach for both parties is to work together to meet one another’s needs.

Negotiation doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game proposition in which a win for one side is a loss for the other. In fact, when played as a zero-sum game, negotiation often results in a loss for both sides because neither side gets what it wants and walks away bitter about giving up too much. Here are some suggestions for needs-based negotiating:

  • Know your value. The more you learn, the more you earn. Research salaries for the position you’re applying for in that area of the country. Tap into your network to get additional opinions on what your contacts deem fair. If you’re a woman and you have a male friend who holds the same position, ask what he thinks.

    Don’t use your salary knowledge to argue. For example, don’t say something like, “The average salary for this position in this city is $65,000.” They probably know that, and calling it to their attention may come across as confrontational. Be more diplomatic; for example, say something like, “I was expecting something more in the $_____ to $_____ range based on the position and my experience and skills.”

  • Be prepared to tell them what you want. Of course, you don’t want to tell them too early in the process, because you could end up low-balling yourself. But if the offer they make is too low for your liking, simply say something along the lines of, “I was expecting an offer more in the $_____ to $_____ range. How did you arrive at the offer?”

    Let the hiring manager offer you an amount, and then take a day or two to consider. You may be able to renegotiate for more if you don’t think the first offer was fair, but you will need to have your reasons down pat.

  • Speak in “I” statements. “I” statements are very difficult to argue against, because all you’re saying is what you think and feel. Without getting inside your head, nobody can deny that you don’t really think or feel what you’re telling them you do. “I” statements open up the conversation to explore options.

  • Ask questions. It’s okay to ask the interviewers how they came up with a specific dollar amount. Maybe they’re including something in their calculations that you hadn’t considered. Probe to find out more, to make them think more deeply about what they’re offering, and to give them room to save face and present a better offer.

  • Don’t refuse an offer outright. Don’t fall for the trap of thinking you need to answer yes or no. As soon as you say no, the conversation is over. Put the hiring manager in that uncomfortable position by pausing a few seconds to contemplate the offer and then asking additional questions or explaining what you need to feel fairly compensated for the skills and experience you bring to the table.

    Explain how much you’re looking forward to meeting the needs of the organization, but that you need the organization to meet your needs as well.

  • Speak in terms of value. You may say something like, “If I were an average employee, I would be happy with your first offer, but I don’t think you’re looking for someone who’s just average.” And then go on to describe in detail the job duties and responsibilities as they’ve been explained to you and how you will excel at delivering on your end of the bargain.

  • Don’t back down. Give the conversation more time to percolate instead of reluctantly accepting an offer. Ask additional questions about the responsibilities of the job and the employer’s expectations, so he starts to realize that you know what he’s getting is worth more than he’s offering. A few seconds of silence and a delayed decision are powerful tools for getting them to loosen the purse strings.

  • Don’t issue an ultimatum. An ultimatum traps you and the interviewer, providing neither of you with a graceful, face-saving exit. Keep the conversation going until you’ve succeeded in meeting the needs of both sides.

  • Be sensitive to the employer’s needs and current circumstances. If the company is laying people off and reducing costs, you may have to cool your jets until things improve. Of course, if the organization is in financial trouble, you may want to think twice about working there, but if this is the job you want, have a plan B.

    If the salary you want is out of the question right now, your boss may have an easier time offering you a one-time bonus or stock options to show her appreciation for your signing on. Or she may give you a few extra personal or vacation days or comp time.

Practice your negotiating skills. Knowing how to negotiate well is vital in the interviewing stage and during performance review sessions. And, of course, there’s an app for that. One worth checking out: Close the Wage Gap from a Carnegie Mellon team. It includes a practice interview video and negotiating tips.

Negotiate all financial aspects of employment, such as your sign-on bonus, in person or over the phone. Be sure all details of your employee benefits package — including any special adjustments you’ve been granted — are clearly stated in in your contract or offer letter.