The job search process is a lot like the weather in Colorado. It can change quickly. After a long dry spell, what often happens for many candidates is that it finally begins to rain – job offers! This brings up a different dilemma: how to successfully negotiate when one or more opportunities or offers are on the table.
This is a nice problem to have as long as you are equipped with the skills to successfully negotiate. The goal is land the best position with the most attractive compensation package possible.
The first thing to keep in mind in terms of negotiating is that you need to maintain your likeability. You won’t win any favors, let alone additional compensation, if you become demanding and difficult during negotiations. You will start off your new position on the wrong foot or the offer could even be rescinded.
This should not deter you from negotiating. It should only serve as a reminder of how essential it is to maintain a positive and professional attitude throughout the entire recruitment process.
Successful negotiations require that candidates know their value in the marketplace while also understanding an employer’s needs and constraints. The following tips can assist you in negotiating a win/win solution for you and a potential employer.
Know your market value
On an emotional level, keep in mind that the company is interested in you. That is why you have an offer in the first place. But, you also need to think rationally and logically about the value of your skills and experience. Acquiring facts helps us resist the tendency to inflate or deflate our value.
Gordon Emory, Principal and Senior Account Executive at the Bradsby Group, a full service executive recruitment firm in Denver, stresses that the key to successful negotiating is determining what you want in your next position and knowing what you are worth.
Use a variety of sources to get a clear picture of salary ranges in your industry and the cost of living in your region. Factor in company size and stage of growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) offers salary data and talking to recruiters, trusted colleagues, and career experts can provide greater clarity about the market value of your unique skills and experience.
Consider the total value of an offer
It is always advisable to look at total compensation, especially if you are trying to decide between multiple offers. Health benefits, paid time off, bonuses, and retirement programs should be carefully considered. It is short sighted to focus too heavily on base pay without considering the total value of an offer.
Emory goes one step further to say that, “It can be a red flag when a candidate is solely focused on money. I want to understand a candidate’s interest in the position and the organization – beyond just the salary being offered.”
“I want candidates to look at non-monetary criteria such as the culture, leadership style, and the satisfaction and professional growth to be gained from the work itself when they are considering a position.”
Keep in mind that base pay or salary can be the least flexible aspect of an offer. If you are not happy with the base pay, there may not be much that HR or the hiring manager can do to significantly sweeten the deal for you.
The bottom line is that you need to know your bottom line. Ask yourself if you are satisfied with the base salary before negotiating additional benefits. This can avoid you getting into complicated negotiations only to realize that nothing is really going to make you happy unless the salary is right.
Think like an employer
Knowing your own perspective is only one part of successful negotiating. Candidates also need to consider the needs and constraints of the organization. Emory says, “Look across the desk and try to understand the perspective of the hiring manager or HR professional. “
“Companies need to acquire key talent and they also need to control their compensation costs and maintain internal equity. They want candidates who are really excited about the opportunity. And, they don’t want to be filling this position again any time soon.”
Justify your requests
When considering an offer it is a good idea to list all of the issues that need addressing. Itemize and prioritize your needs. Get a clear understanding of how all the various pieces of the offer fit together.
Nothing drives HR folks and hiring managers crazier than candidates who keep coming back to them with just, “one more little request.” This is where your likeability factor begins to wane. If you are too nitpicky, the hiring team will begin to question your sincere interest in the position.
As you consider your needs, it cannot be stressed enough that you need to justify why you deserve additional compensation or benefits. And, don’t negotiate just to negotiate. Emory stresses, “Candidates must be able to make a clear and compelling case for their requests.”
“It is also important to know your tolerance level. Know where you can flex and where you cannot budge. Think logically and avoid letting your ego get in the way of having a rational discussion.”
Ultimately, the best negotiations are conversations based upon shared needs and goals. Both parties should be prepared to compromise. Emory adds, “If you want something, you also have to give something. Once the negotiations are final, ask for a written letter that outlines the terms agreed upon.”
If you are interviewing, ask yourself if you are prepared to enter the negotiation phase. Don’t be caught in a storm of offers! Effective career management depends on our ability to communicate our worth, justify our value, and understand how we fit into the marketplace – not just during interviews, but also when negotiating our way into a new position and then every single day on the job.