Job hunting can be a grueling process—especially if you’ve been unable to land a decent job for a while. When the phone finally does ring and they want you to come in for an interview, your primary focus should be on securing the position, rather negotiating the salary.
As recruiters, it is so disheartening to see a candidate put the cart in front of the horse, when they are not in any position to talk about what it will take to gain their employment, and by doing so derail their chances of actually receiving an offer.
With that said, once you do receive an offer, if it is not acceptable, it is fine to negotiate for a higher compensation, provided you do so in a way that leaves both parties feeling good about the proposal and ultimate outcome. Keep in mind that by negotiating you’re displaying, in part, the qualities for which the company wants to hire you in the first place. However, like any other skill, effective negotiating also requires practice. Because people on the average only change jobs every 5 years, it is unusual to have the opportunity to consistently practice negotiating for your own salary.
In this blog, we’ll give you a few helpful tips on how to secure a higher salary offer.
Wait as long as possible to discuss the salary
This is one of the best pieces of advice you’ll receive, and one that you should pay attention to. Not only do you want to delay the conversation for as long as possible, but it’s also in your best interest to not quote the exact amount you’re expecting until absolutely necessary. Research consistently shows that the longer that you can put off putting a number to gaining your acceptance, the higher salary you will end up with.
The reasoning behind this is it will allow you more time to impress your potential future employer and convince them that you’re worthy of being offered a higher salary. Over the years we have seen candidates come in and the very first thing is they tell the hiring manager what it will take to get them to make a move. Throughout the interview process, the hiring manager is then telling himself how expensive that candidate will be, and questioning if he is worth it. By stating how expensive you are before they decide they want to hire you, you have created an uphill battle to sell yourself.
For applications that ask you to write in what your salary requirements are, consider just putting in OPEN, or n/a. For automated forms that require a numeric entry, you can always just put in the number 1. When queried, a great response is to simply say that you will be making a decision on your next career move based on many factors; primarily where the job will position you 1, 3 and 5 years down the line, the company culture, who you are working for, and with, and other quality of life issues…..travel requirements, commute times, etc. And while compensation is certainly an important component to be considered, it is by no means the most important factor and therefore you would prefer to learn more about the opportunity prior to putting a dollar figure on it.
Remember, salary negotiations are a form of collaboration, not a fight
Never give off the impression that the salary is a make-or-break factor for you. Use it as a way to work together with your potential employers rather than against them. This will enable your future employers to design a compensation package that’ll be beneficial for both parties.
Also, using the right words during the negotiation process is vital. For instance, mentioning that you’re interested in “working together” with your employers shows your eagerness in contributing to the organization without compromising your financial positioning. Using the analogy given earlier of letting them fall in love before telling them what kind of ring you need, the interview process is indeed a type of courtship. The goal is to end up happily together, and if the negotiations are so fierce that they leave one party feeling that they ‘lost’, the union is unnecessarily doomed from the start.
Ensure that your experience justifies what you are asking for
Before you decide to counter the offer with a request for additional money, be sure it’s backed by industry and geographic data. Check out salary.com to see what other professionals within your area of expertise and location are earning for similar roles. Many a candidate has priced themselves out of an offer, so be realistic in what you are asking for. And of course if you are in the enviable position of being currently employed and relatively happy, and would only consider switching teams if it was a clear vertical move, than it certainly makes sense to give some consideration into specifically what that package would have to look like, in order to justify making a career change. One of the guaranteed ways of ruining the salary negotiation process is not being able to prove why you would be a valuable asset to the organization. By being able to show prior success in achieving results in tasks similar to what you would be asked to deliver in your new role, you can increase the comfort level of the hiring manager to justify a higher salary.
Keep in mind that there are many factors that make up compensation, and base salary is just one component
Often times we see candidates go into a negotiation solely fixated on the base salary. While this is absolutely an extremely important component in a compensation package, it is by no means the only factor to be considered. Keep in mind that insurance coverage and premiums, commission structures and bonuses, sign-on bonuses, vacation time and pension plans are all pieces to the puzzle. Especially with larger organizations, the hiring managers hands may be tied in terms of base salary, but by thinking outside the box, many deals have been saved by being creative. If you want the job, and are at a cross roads when it comes to base salary, be open to considering other components.
Ann Zaslow-Rethaber is President of International Search Consultants, a leader in executive recruiting since 1999. Ann can be reached at 888-866-7276 or via e-mail at
Carolyn McClendon is an Executive Recruiter with International Search Consultants, and can be reached via direct dial at 888-974-0086 or via e-mail at