When and How to Negotiate Salary

One of the biggest mistakes that many people make is attempting to negotiate salary during a job interview.  The interview is not the time or place to be discussing salary.  Attempting to do so results in the following:

  • Immediately puts a negative spin on the interview
  • Comes off as arrogant because you’re implicitly implying that you have already secured an offer
  • Makes the hiring manager think you’re an idiot who doesn’t even understand basic interviewing principles

Obviously, you can completely ignore this rule if the interviewer brings up the salary of their own volition.  In that case, clearly the topic is open for discussion.  The point is that you as an interviewee shouldn’t bring up the topic first.

The two “proper” times that you should negotiate salary as as follows:

  • Prior to accepting the interview
  • After an offer has been made

Before the Interview

Now, it is likely that the recruiter will be reluctant to disclose the salary prior to making you an offer.  This is for the obvious reason of being able to lowball you.  Here are some common bullshit they’ll give you:

  • “The salary is competitive and the company offers great benefits.”
  • “Salary will be commensurate on skills and experience.”

I get calls from recruiters all the time, and my answer is always the same.

  • “I am currently employed, and I have no interest in considering an opportunity that would represent a pay cut.  I want to make sure that you can focus your time on viable candidates.  Can you please disclose a salary range for the position?”

I’d say about 4 out of 5 recruiters will be responsive to the above, especially since you’re spinning it as though you’re the one doing them a favor.  The recruiters that still don’t disclose a salary I simply hang up on.  They clearly have no respect for you and will do anything in their power to get their precious commission.  Companies willing to make an attractive offer rarely resort to a cloak and dagger approach.  Any company not willing to even disclose a range is almost certainly going to be offering below market wages.

If you’re strapped for time, you should probably ignore the opportunity if the only salary you’d accept is at the absolute high end of salary range.  While it’s technically within range for the position, the top end will typically never actually be offered unless you are literally the most perfect candidate possible.

After an Offer

Now this next piece of advice may frighten some of you, but I assure you it is in your best interest.

Never accept the first offer.

Now of course there may be some exceptions, such as:

  • This is your absolute dream job and money is a secondary concern
  • You have absolutely no negotiating leverage (such as being currently unemployed)
  • You have strong reason to believe that there is a long list of other extremely qualified candidates who have interviewed for the position

In any other situation, negotiating at this phase will almost always result in a better offer.  Here are some simple secrets that many of you may not know:

  • Companies never make their “best” offer first
  • Hiring managers generally go through at least five to ten useless candidates before finding a promising one
  • Hiring managers would much rather give you a few thousand more dollars than go through the whole hiring process all over again (after all it’s not coming out of their own pockets)
  • If you know for a fact that the position has been open for a significant period of time (>3 months), you probably have a significant amount of negotiating leverage
  • Candidates who attempt to negotiate are often perceived to be more valuable, because candidates who have the balls to attempt to negotiate generally have a high degree of confidence in their own skills

My advice is to always ask for two times more than what you actually want.  If you want a five thousand dollar bump from what they’re offering, ask for ten thousand.

It appalls me that many people simply don’t have the guts to make this simple move.  People are willing to waste hours of their time hunting for coupons or waiting for discounts that may only save them a few hundred dollars a year.  If you pull this tactic off successfully, you can reap thousands of dollars in benefits for minimal effort.

Conclusion

Never sell yourself short.  If you’re a decent employee, you’d be surprised at how much you can be worth in the marketplace.

Having the courage to ask for what you’re worth can lead to tremendous financial gains throughout your career.

 

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