Negotiating Salary

Artie Lynnworth has over 40 years of management and hiring experience.  He is the scheduled speaker for the May 26, 2011 meeting of the WorkSource Professional Network.  He’s also the author of “Slice the Salami One Slice at a Time: Tips for Life and Leadership.”   Here’s one of his coaching tips for negotiating salary.

He says, “I had a client who had a great interview out of state.  So great, in fact, that the recruiter called him before he left the city to offer him the job.  When the final offer letter came, the salary was just below the ‘low $40,000 range’ mentioned in the interview.  He liked the job; liked the company, but didn’t know how to open the negotiation without losing the offer.”

It’s easy to worry about the process of negotiating an offer; it makes everyone nervous.  But as I mentioned in a previous post, there’s never going to be a better time to try to leverage your offer.  The company wants you; you’re their first choice.  But they don’t know yet whether you’ll accept.  It’s the single most influential time of your career – use it to your advantage.

Here’s what Artie advised: start with a simple question.  “I noticed that the offer came in below the ‘low forties’ we had discussed in the interview.  Did something change?”

Then you apply one of the most powerful negotiating techniques known to man: silence.  Just wait.  Artie says that the answer will be one of two things: you will learn that the lower offer is due to a perceived gap in your skills set, or that the lower offer is based on a policy or some other factor out of the hiring manager’s control. In other words, it’s either about you or about them.

Either way, you can keep the conversation going. If the offer is based on a gap in your skills (“We were concerned with the number of large projects you’ve managed in the past”) you can offer to defer some of the salary until you’ve proven that you can manage the duties.  “I understand; we did discuss that in the interview. I wonder if we can agree to a review in three or six months, after I’ve shown you what I can do.  At that time, we’ll know whether the higher salary reflects my true value.  Could we add a review and increase based on that to the offer letter?”  If the decision maker agrees, be sure to get it added to the offer letter, so there are no misunderstandings later.  Then get to work and earn that raise.

If the lower offer is based on a policy (You don’t have the degree or required years of experience) you don’t have many options; the HR department implements policies, and usually doesn’t like to make exceptions.  You can still ask about the review period and ask if an increase based on performance is possible.

In the end, you may have to accept the offer as it stands.  If the job is a great one, I’d take it.  Your energy and performance will eventually pay off in earnings.

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