March 13, 2003
How to win at salary negotiations
Special to NWjobs
The biggest raises you're ever likely to get come from quitting your job and going to work for another employer. But only if you avoid the minefield of mistakes employers lay out for you.
A key concept to learn: Whoever mentions money first loses. If the employer asks you to mail in a salary history (one quarter of employers do) just ignore this request. But if the ad insists, stating, "We won't consider anyone who doesn't send a salary history," you can comply in a clever way that preserves your negotiating power.
Instead of revealing your old salary, offer a statement of fact, citing a salary survey source (available from professional associations, magazines and here in our Salary Center. Provide a salary range, commenting that you are within that range. Employers report that they use the salary question as a device to screen applicants out. While you worry the employer won't pay high enough, in reality employers often eliminate you because your salary was too low, thus automatically downgrading your skills.
Nothing illustrates this more clearly than what happened to Kathy, one of my clients. She spent several years at a large, prominent company, taking on new administrative duties as her job expanded. She excelled, but her requests to upgrade her salary seemed to get lost behind other items her boss found more important. Although she performed a management job, her salary remained stuck at $33,000. After months of promised raises and title changes, her promotion had not been made official. So she began to job hunt.
In an early interview she told the hiring manager her true salary. The HR recruiter later told her that once the hiring manager heard the low figure, he disqualified her skills as "low level." Too late, Kathy learned the correct salary negotiation technique to never reveal her previous salary. She never made that mistake again. A few weeks later, she masterfully dodged the salary questions when interviewing with an impressive high-tech company. Coupled with good answers and solid work examples, she landed the job at $68,000-DOUBLE the pay of the job she left.
More negotiation tips to follow:
- Leave the salary boxes blank on job applications. This is a legal document and can result in your being fired if you "fudge" on the true number.
- If asked in an interview "What is your current salary?" simply volley their question back with one of your own. Reply with "What is the range that this job pays?"
- Get the job offer on the table before you discuss money and benefits. It's after the employer has screened candidates and decided you're the one for the job that you have the most power to suggest they offer more - money, vacation, perks - and get it!
- TRY. Many candidates simply accept the offer as given. Too bad, because in the last 18 months I've seen employers offer higher salaries and more lucrative benefits packages, simply because the prospective employee asked for them.
Robin Ryan has appeared on Oprah, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, CNN, CNBC and is considered America's top career coach. She is the best-selling author of: 60 Seconds & You're Hired!; Winning Resumes; Winning Cover Letters, and What to Do with the Rest of Your Life. She's the creator of the highly acclaimed audio training program Interview Advantage and The DreamMaker. Robin's passion is helping people find better jobs which she successfully does through her career counseling practice where she offers individual career coaching and resume writing services. A popular national speaker, Robin has spoken to over a thousand audiences on improving their lives and obtaining greater success. To purchase products or contact Robin visit her Web site at www.robinryan.com.
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