Determining Your Worth in the Open Market
Negotiate Top Dollar and Get What You Deserve!By Donald J. Strankowski
Ascend Career and Life Strategies
Most workers will tell you that they want a job that motivates and challenges them and one they find satisfying. But most people also want to be paid what they’re worth. In today’s economy, most job seekers (and employers) keep score the old fashioned way—in dollar signs.
Today, the law of supply and demand has enabled the the pendulum to rest securely on the employer’s side. There are simply more qualified candidates in the labor pool right now able to fill most positions. Employers simply don’t have to pay as much for good talent. Still, it pays to be informed, know what your personal going rate is and how to receive top dollar when it comes to negotiating your compensation plan.
Do Your Research!
The first step in gaining an idea as to what you’re currently worth in today’s job market and to develop any sort of negotiating leverage is to conduct research. The Internet has a wealth of data concerning salary ranges for certain occupations. Some sites allow you to drill down on a very granular level by offering salary data for a litany of industries, titles and occupations.
The best web sites for gaining salary information are:
- Salary.com (www.salary.com)
- America’s CareerInfoNet (www.acinet.org)
- United States Department of Labor—O*NET (http://online.onetcenter.org)
- PayScale (www.payscale.com)
- SalaryExpert (www.salaryexpert.com)
Recruiters can also be a good source of information. They deal with employers and potential candidates everyday and know what the latest going rates are for different occupations. They can also advise you regarding salary trends and how much you may be worth on the open market when figuring in your skills and experience.
When surveying your worth, be sure to research a number of different sites and sources rather than relying on just one. Salaries may vary from one source to another so the best thing to do is to formulate an average based on your findings. You must also factor in certain intangibles such as industry, company size, skills required, your level of experience, and the current demand for the position.
Negotiating a salary during the interview phase
Use the previous research recommendations for gaining information regarding what the average salary may be for the position and bring your research along with you to the interview—in hard copy. In the vast majority of all first interview situations, you will be asked what you are expecting to earn. This is another way for the employer to weed out candidates; eliminate the people who are looking to earn too much money.
Once you do state what you are looking to earn, most interviewers will ask you how you arrived at that figure. Always state one number as opposed to a range. This way, the employer cannot lock in on the lower of two numbers, i.e., "I'd like to earn $55,000-$65,000 for this position." Given the state of the current economy and budget constraints of most companies, most hiring managers will be looking for "quality products at an affordable price."
To throw out a random, “nice to have” number like $50,000 or $60,000 is also a major interview blunder. As a former corporate recruiter, these kinds of figures just sounded made-up, as if the candidate didn't do any research on their worth.
When asked, state that you based your numbers on your research findings, your skills and experience, and your knowledge of the industry. For example, "Mr. Jones, based on my research, conversations with a few recruiters, and knowledge of the industry, I feel my current market value is $67,500." Coming into an interview and discussing salary with tangible data will afford you much more leverage when finally settling on a figure.
If at all possible, have the employer throw out the first number. You can take the sword out of the interviewer’s hand by (when you feel the interview is winding down) asking, “Could you tell me the compensation range budgeted for this position?” Or, “Just to make sure we’re both in the ballpark, what can one expect to earn in this position given my background and experience?”
How to start the negotiation process
Always call the hiring manager within 24 hours of any offer and say how much you appreciate the opportunity to work for Company X. If the offer falls within your range and you are satisfied to this point will all other areas of the company and compensation plan, accept the offer and settle on a start date. If however, you have concerns that the compensation being offered is too low, you must be able to position yourself properly and ask the right questions in order to maximize your chances for an increased offer. At this point, what you say (and don’t say) in a 10 second window can cost you thousands of dollars. Scripting your dialog ahead of time in a bulleted format will give you confidence and assist you in being specific regarding what you want.
To start the negotiation process you may ask, “Based on my ten years' experience in this industry, my research, and my proven ability to close deals and generate revenue, I feel the base salary offered is low. Is there any flexibility here?”
The hiring manager will usually ask what you have in mind for a number. Because you have done your research and know your current market value and worth, you are able to sell yourself based on what you will bring to the company.
Then try something like, “Based on the research I have done, I feel someone with my experience and background should be in the upper level of the range we have been discussing.”
Hold your position and go silent. Silence is a strong tool in negotiations and the first one who speaks often loses. The hiring manager will generally wait through the silence and either counter or state they will get back to you.
If you’re extended an offer and it falls within your range, when it comes time to work through all the final details, don’t haggle over every particular item. It can cast a shadow over you and sour the hiring manager on their decision to hire you. Nobody wants to hire a “trial lawyer” who’s going to dicker over every minute issue.
I want the job, but I’m not being offered the money I deserve!
If you're not being offered the compensation your experience, skills, and salary research warrants, there are still a few additional strategies you can employ. One option could be negotiating a sign-on bonus. It's a one-time expense for the employer and could be a short-term solution to accepting a lower starting salary.
Another way to increase compensation is to demonstrate you can do more than the job requires. Adding duties can justify an increase in pay and possibly assist the employer in that it may eliminate hiring another person or giving even more responsibility to an already overloaded employee.
Also consider the benefits package. People seeking employment need to remember company-paid health insurance, profit sharing, vehicle allowances, stock options, discounted stock purchasing plans, a 401K and other perks all have a dollar value and should be considered part of the total compensation.
You may also want to ask for a six-month review as opposed to the standard 12-month (or in some cases, no review at all). You can start for less and then demonstrate your value to the organization by exceeding the boss' expectations. After six months, request a review of your compensation. Keep a record of your accomplishments and prepare a short proposal detailing what you have done to this point and how it has affected the company.
You can also shoot for an increase in non-monetary rewards, like more vacation time with pay or some extra three-day weekends. Yet another option is to try and negotiate a stake in the company--stock options--or an increase in the stock options (and perhaps an accelerated vesting schedule) you’ve already been offered.
When negotiating a salary, be reasonable and flexible. Don’t let your ego get in the way of a great opportunity because you aren’t being offered top dollar. Getting what you’re worth in the current market means researching what you’re worth and presenting your case with tact and professionalism.
Donald J. Strankowski is founder and President of Ascend Career and Life Strategies, a training and consulting firm for businesses, professionals, and executives. He works out of Boulder, Colorado and can be contacted at 303-245-7049, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at www.AscendCareers.net.