comes to salary negotiations, a two-letter word can cost you thousands
of dollars. If you say "OK" to the first offer you hear, you are essentially
throwing in the towel without a fight and giving up any hope that
your employer might have gone higher.
Jack Chapman, author of Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000
a Minute, says everyone should say "Hmmm" to that first offer, whether
they are starting an entry level job or taking a salaried position.
Saying "Hmmm" to an initial pay offer could add another several
cents to an hourly wage or raise you from the bottom of a salary
range to the middle, he says.
Just as pauses in conversations are uncomfortable, a pause in salary
negotiations can make people ill at ease. If the interviewer offers
$50,000, a smart applicant will repeat that figure. "Fifty thousand,"
you'll say while tilting your head back to check out the ceiling
tiles in the room. "Hmmm."
The interviewer will likely be anxious to hear your response and
may ask what you think about the offer. He or she may even up the
offer without you having to do anything.
Your hesitation in responding has already made it clear that you
were not overwhelmed with the offer. You have set the stage to counter.
Now it's time to put your research to work. If you have done your
research well, you should know the expected range for this job,
and you can now begin to position yourself favorably within the
Tell the interviewer that your research has shown the range for
this job to be up to $55,000 and that you believe your experiences
qualify you to come in at the top end of the range. You'll probably
get a counter offer somewhere in between.
Even if the initial salary offer is exactly what you had hoped
for, it doesn't hurt to pause and reflect a little, Chapman says.
This shows you have some backbone, and most employers will respect
that. It shows what kind of employee you will be. It shows you will
be willing to stand up for what you believe in and be willing to
defend your work and the company in the marketplace.
An appropriate response to such an offer might be. "Well, that's
a generous offer and I think I'm inclined to accept it, but before
I make a decision I'd like to know..." Then you might diverge into
a discussion about when salary reviews typically are done and what
you might expect your salary path to be. You can come back and re-address
the salary offer. If the counter offer meets your expectations and
is reasonable, say that based on your research you think the offer
is a good one and you would like to accept it. If you're uncertain,
ask if you can consider the offer overnight and call them back first
thing in the morning.
You have demonstrated to the interviewer that you are thoughtful,
that you are knowledgeable and that you can hold your ground. This
is much preferable to jumping to a quick "OK."
"Have you ever sold a car?" Chapman asks. "Say you are asking $6,000
for the car. Someone comes and takes it for a spin. He comes back
and says he'll take it for $6,000. Right now you're probably thinking
you didn't ask enough for it and you feel bad that you let it go
But what if the guy comes back and says he'll give you $5,500 for
the car? You say no, $6,000 is the least you will take. So he buys
it for $6,000. "In both cases, you get $6,000 for the car, but in
one case you feel bad and in the other case you feel good." Even
if your salary negotiations don't net you a higher starting pay,
you will at least feel that you gave it your best shot and you will
have shown that you are a person who will stand up for yourself.
In Chapman's book, he lists rules for salary negotiations. The
first rule, he says, is to postpone salary talk until the interviewer
has had an opportunity to get to know you, to "sample the goods."
People always go over budget for things they really want, Chapman
says, and a company will go over budget if they really want you
- unless you have set the price too early. "Your best leverage is
when they are really interested in you."
An interviewer may begin the process by asking what salary you
want. You might respond by saying: "Could we talk about that a little
later on after I have learned a little more about the job?"
Or, the interviewer might say up front what the job pays and ask
you what you think of that. Again, postpone making a commitment.
Say something like: "I'd like to know more about the job before
I respond. Can we go ahead with the interview and see where I might
fit in the salary range for this position?"
Using the car image again, think of yourself test driving a new
car with lots of bells and whistles. Power windows and seats, sun
roof, CD player. You hadn't planned to spend that much when you
went into the dealership, but now you find you can't live without
all those things. You'll gladly pay another $25 a month to have
Your interviewer thinks the same way. If you wow them during your
interview, they will probably dig a little deeper when it finally
comes time to talk price.
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