There has been a flood of archaic advice in the marketplace recently and one topic that I’ve gravitated towards is salary negotiation. It’s become more intriguing to me since Massachusetts recently passed a robust equal pay law that prohibits companies from asking potential employees their salary. Recently, I read an article written by a “Staffing Industry Expert” expressing her advice on salary negotiation and comparing it to buying a home…SMH. Now, I’m no expert at buying homes, other than buying and selling my own. However, I would consider myself an expert in negotiating compensation packages as I’ve been doing it for all level professionals throughout my 10-year tenure in the staffing industry.
To that end, because I don’t want you to be steered in the wrong direction and I don’t see eye to eye with the advice that is available for you on the internet. I want to share ways you can negotiate an offer with a potential employer, whether they have your compensation details or not.
First and foremost, the conversation will remain the same whether you are working with an agency recruiter to negotiate for you or speaking directly with the employer. It starts at the very beginning of the process by putting a value on our skill set and experience and setting high standards. This all starts at the beginning of the process before the interview certainly not when an offer is about to be extended. This will allow you to approach your search in a strategic way and negotiate a competitive salary.
- Collect market intelligence (internet, search firms) in an effort to create a salary band for your type of work and use the data as a benchmark for negotiating. While doing so you will start to understand the demand for your skill set so you can realistically come to a conclusion of a market salary (Take education, advanced degrees and certifications into consideration). Example: Project Manager in a financial services firm at the VP level could earn anywhere from $125,000 – $160,000 on a base salary.
- Put together your storyboard as to why you’ve moved from one firm to the next and rehears it as much as possible.You want to be authentic but practice makes perfect.
- Set a “marker” – a number that you would accept the offer at based on the market intelligence you’ve gathered. That is the number you will go into the conversation asking for. When HR or the hiring manger asks you for this number, you deliver it and explain the reasons why you are asking for this number regardless of your current compensation. Example using the PM range from above:I am looking for $145,000 base salary. Reasons: I bring 15 plus years’ experience to the table along with the most advanced Agile certification. Furthermore, I’ve managed multiple work streams across a diverse product set. I have managed, in matrix organization, up to 30 people but also have managed small SME teams of 3 – 5. Also explain that although compensation is important, it is not the most important aspect of your search as you are interested in the career trajectory, opportunity to leverage your skill set, etc.
- Set a minimum salary expectation for the role as well as a new marker based on initial interviews. The marker may go up and down dependent on the firm, culture, role responsibilities, expectations, travel, and other non-cash incentives.The minimum salary is the salary you would accept only if the marker was not met and other data points were taken into consideration:
- You really clicked with the manger and team
- This is a stepping stone in a pathway for your career trajectory
- You want to get out of a bad situation and this one is seemingly better
- Other non-salary benefits are strong – pension, education reimbursement, low cost/no cost health care, etc.
Once you have completed the interview process and assessed your value against the role you are interviewing for you will continue the dialogue with HR/hiring manager about a potential offer and what you are looking for.
- When asked what you are looking for, provide the marker number ($145, 000) and continue with reasons as to why. At that point the ball is in their court and you need to wait and see if you get what you are asking for or if there is a counter offer.
Remember, coming in first often times will allow the stage to be set for the rest of the negotiation so come in first and come in strong! (Others will recommend not to do so but this is the key to getting what you want!!!)
Most times there will be a counter offer from the employer and you will need to assess at that point if the counter is not close enough to your marker to accept. If not than you will have to come up with alternative ways that the offer can be more appealing to you by working other parts to the offer, i.e., vacation days, sign on bonus, guarantee year-end bonus, etc.
Whether you receive the offer you were looking for or not, it is entirely up to you if you plan to accept or pass. Remember that you are completely in control of your own destiny and sometimes you just have to walk away if you feel that an offer has not met your expectations, otherwise you’ll be waiting for the equal pay act to come to your neighborhood!