The idea of negotiating a job offer makes many people uncomfortable. They’re afraid they’ll come across as too pushy or price themselves out of the job. But in reality, most employers expect some sort of negotiation. After all, you wouldn’t sell your house by taking the first low offer that you get. So why settle for a job offer that’s less than you’re worth? Doing so actually devalues you in the eyes of the employer. If you’re not requesting a salary that’s commensurate with your talents and skills, the employer may lose confidence in your strength as a candidate.
But remember: every situation is unique. Sometimes negotiating an offer is not necessary or appropriate. But when it is, here are some tips that should help make it a little easier.
Know Your Worth
Be prepared before you interview. Do your homework on the company and prepare answers for inevitable questions. Also, know what you want from each job, including benefits, scheduling and compensation.
Educate yourself on the going rate for others in your field with the same level of experience. Salary, Payscale and Glassdoor offer tools to help you gauge an appropriate salary. Be sure to take into account geographic variations in pay. Using that as a baseline, you can roughly determine your worth based on your unique talents, experience and other qualities. Don’t try to exaggerate or embellish your abilities. You’ll make a more convincing case if you truly believe in what you’re touting.
Exuding confidence is different than faking it. It means understanding your strengths, feeling good about them, and having faith that they’ll make a positive impact on the company. Confidence isn’t the same as cockiness. Confidence is based in reality and is not boastful; cockiness exaggerates reality and feels like bragging. Most people can easily tell the difference. Be humble but proud of your abilities; it will help employers feel good about them, too.
Likability is an intangible but important part of interviewing and negotiating successfully. The more an employer likes you, the more they’ll be willing to fight for you. Be genuine, focus on others and try to have a relaxed sense of humor. Of course, this can be hard to do in the high-stress environment of an interview, but focusing on your strengths and finding things in common with the interviewer will help.
Justify Your Proposal
When determining your target salary, be realistic. You might think you’re worth $200,000, but if the going rate for your position is much lower, then you’re unlikely to get very far.
Having said that, it’s your responsibility to prove to the employer why you’re worth what you’re asking for. Make a convincing case for yourself. Be credible. Show what you can bring to the table both specifically (i.e. 10-plus years of experience, proven track record, awards and honors, etc.) and inherently (enthusiasm, attentiveness, etc.).
Prepare yourself for tough questions. Be honest, but focus on the intent of the question, rather than just the content. For instance, if an employer asks how much you made in your previous job, you’re under no obligation to divulge that figure. In this case, what they really need to know is what you’re looking for now, so you can answer with something like, “Well, I’m currently looking for jobs in the $75,000-90,000 range.”
Understand Their Limitations
Remember that the person sitting across from you is a human. Before you can influence them, you need to make a connection. Don’t see them as an adversary, but rather as a partner in this process. You’re both trying to reach the same goal. They’ll appreciate you more if you try to understand and validate their constraints. Figure out where they’re flexible and where they’re not. Try to come up with creative alternatives such as signing bonuses, extra vacation days or flextime.
Consider the Whole Deal
Finally, it’s important to remember that the amount you make and the details of the offer might have less bearing on your happiness than the job itself – your relationship with your boss and co-workers, workplace culture, day-to-day tasks, and the potential for career growth. Keep this in mind when negotiating the deal and you’ll be much happier in the long run.
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