How to Get the Upper Hand in Salary Negotiations

You’re on your 3rd round of interviews.  All is going smoothly and you and the hiring manager are hitting it off.  There’s one topic, though, that has not been broached.   Salary.  You think to yourself: “What if the number I throw out is too high and I talk myself out of a job?  Or, what if it’s too low and I sell myself short?”

How do you successfully negotiate a salary without feeling so vulnerable?

There’s really only one answer.  YOU need to take control over the negotiations.   When a job opens up, the base salary is most often a range of possibilities, depending on the qualifications of the person who is interviewing for the position.  If a broadcast news show, for example, is looking for a Senior Producer, the hiring range might fall somewhere between $135K and $150K.  As the candidate (job seeker), you probably don’t have any clue that this is the range, which puts you at a disadvantage.  This does not have to be the case. 

Before you start your  job search, come up with a salary range that’s going to work for you.  Jobs are few and far between right now, so many of you are willing to be flexible in your salary needs.  If you’re a computer programmer and you’re making $80K, think about what you could be content with on the low end of your salary range.  It could be $75K or $85K. Whatever YOU decide, just make sure this is a number you’d be happy with — and could live on.  The top of your range should be a number that you think is REASONABLE for a person with your qualifications.  (Don’t go hog-wild here.) Once you have this range in your head, stick with it.  Don’t deviate.  If you say your bottom number is $75K and someone offers you $70K, you KNOW you are going to say “no.”  Then you can potentially negotiate into your range with the full knowledge that you will walk away if the final number does not fall within YOUR needs.  Remember, although the economy sucks right now, it is going to turn around.  After this job, you’re going to eventually start interviewing for another one.  You will always be asked “what are you making now?” and you have to tell the truth as many companies ask for proof of salary.  Make sure, if you do take a step back in your salary, it’s a baby step, so that you can catch up quickly with the next stage of your career.

If you feel that you are underpaid compared to industry standards, you might want to do a bit of research prior to setting your range.  Perhaps an old boss or mentor would consult with you on his thoughts regarding appropriate salaries for someone at your level.  Check industry organizations to see if they have done any salary surveys that are for public viewing.  Or, try  Salary-dot-com.

More about negotiating with recruiters on your salary needs in my next post. Until then…

Carpe diem…

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