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 Winning at Offer Negotiation Time

By Joe Stein

When it comes to salary negotiation, this is one area that employers traditionally have had the advantage.  Some state governments have even started to take the issue in its own hands, by starting to limit the amount of compensation information that an employer can require an applicant to provide. 

There are a number of reasons why job seekers have struggled in the area of salary negotiation.  It all starts with the most basic reason and this being that most people don’t like to do it.  So, on one side you have someone on the employer side who does it all the time, and on the other side is a candidate who is probably dreading having to negotiate.  The other major reason is that you want the job badly, especially if you are unemployed.  Most employers are counting on you jumping at their offer, especially if you are in need of employment.

Winning at salary negotiation is very important not only for the obvious reason of more money, but also what it does for your salary history.  In most companies, unless you are promoted, you are looking at merit or cost-of-living increases of around 2%.  So, if you want to jump start your salary, then during the time of switching jobs is critical.

At this point, you may be wondering how you can assist yourself during salary negotiation.  Below are some tips for you to consider:

• Starts from the Beginning – The decisions you make right in the beginning are crucial in the negotiation process.  For example, communicating your salary history (rather than your requirements) places the advantage in the hands of the employer.  An employer is going to want to learn as much as they can about your history so they can provide an offer that is around or slightly above that number.  This may work for some, but if you are undervalued by your current employer or wish to significantly increase your compensation, then you will place yourself at a disadvantage.  You do not want to try to drag yourself up from the lowest end of your compensation range.

• Know What You Want – It is hard to negotiate if you do not know the market or your value in it.  Do your homework and be prepared at the start of your job search regarding how much you are worth.  For example, imagine if you are shopping for a car, what makes more sense: doing some online research and comparison shopping on the vehicle or accepting whatever the dealer states as fact?  There are lots of salary calculators available that will give you some general information you can use in your negotiation.

• Right State of Mind – You have to decide that you want to negotiate.  This means having to potentially do such difficult tasks as saying “no” and walking away, asking for time to consider the offer, or making knowledgeable counter offers.

• The Difference Between Active and Passive – An active job seeker is someone who is looking for work, either because they are unemployed or desires to leave immediately from their current role.  In comparison, a passive job seeker is open to the idea of a new position, but is currently gainfully employed.  As you can probably imagine, the passive job seeker usually has a better negotiation position, since they can walk away from any offer that does not meet his or her needs.  Keep in mind that the prospective employer is assessing your position prior to making an offer, and will be more likely to make their “best” offer to a passive job seeker for fear that they will decline and walk away.

• Present Yourself Correctly – It is important to keep the emotions out of the negotiations as much as possible.  During the process, stay as calm as possible and try not to get too excited or disappointed (or even angry) at an offer.  I suggest focusing on presenting yourself in a positive rather than adversarial fashion.  During the negotiations, you want the prospective employer to want you even more, and this is more likely to occur if they develop an appreciation for your professionalism.  You want the Hiring Manager to feel a connection with you which should result in them wanting you more, and therefore, increasing the offer.
 
• Have a Plan B – Your “Plan B” can be to walk away and stay with your current employer, or to shift your focus to another opportunity.  If you are not ready to walk away, but do not feel like the company will budge on base salary, then you can pursue other areas such as more paid time off, a signing bonus, or some other benefit.

It is a major decision to change jobs and accept an employment offer.  It boggles the mind, however, that people can research and work to strike the best deal on a household purchase, but just accept whatever is presented in a job offer.  A savvy job seeker will have done his or her homework and know their value in the market.  By following some simple negotiation techniques, you can win at offer time!