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How to Get Your Asking Price


The toughest part of the job interview is when the talk turns to money. For some reason, most job candidates feel uncomfortable talking about salary. Maybe that’s because the candidate, who is asking the employer to give him or her a job, is already in an unequal power position. And if you’re unemployed, you probably feel that you need the job more than the job needs you.

Nonetheless, you need to get past your feelings of discomfort on this subject. You’re not going to be happy several months down the road if you find that others in similar positions, maybe even in your own department, are earning considerably more. And it’s a fact of life that most companies don’t give big merit increases so you will be stuck with small incremental increases over your starting salary. The time to get a raise is now as you negotiate for what you’re worth.

Hiring managers go though salary negotiations a lot more often than you do, so you’re not likely to outmaneuver them on this issue. But good preparation will assure that you don’t short-change yourself. Often, people don’t get the money they should because they don’t know what they want.

Know the least you would be willing to accept

The minimum acceptable salary will vary depending on the candidate. Consider living expenses, what others in like jobs are making, and what you know you’re worth in today’s marketplace. Your current salary is also a factor. Some people decide they will not change jobs unless it means a 20% increase in base pay. On the other hand, pay may be less important to you than opportunity for growth, travel, benefits or location. You may even be willing to take a cut in pay for the right position. How you determine your rock bottom price is up to you. The important thing is that you know what you are willing to accept before you start negotiating.

Estimate the company’s top price

The employer always has a salary range in mind when the candidate walks through the door. This is vital information to you. You will want to get every dollar the company is willing to part with. Why wait for a year for a $3,000 raise when you could have it right from the beginning if you had only known the company was willing to give it to you? This can also save you some time. If the company isn’t willing to pay you an acceptable salary, move on and don’t look back. Your best source for getting salary information is from other employees in the company. You can’t ask them what they earn, but you can ask what they think the position is worth. Other sources include salary surveys by professional organizations like the American Management Association, recruiters and people who work in similar positions at other companies.

Timing is everything

Don’t give into the urge to talk about salary until you get the message from the prospective employer that they MUST HAVE YOU! Once an employer decides that you are right for the job, you have some leverage in negotiating.

Keep in mind that the employer will never offer you more than you ask for. For example, if you ask for $50,000 and later find that the employer was willing to pay $60,000, you can’t retrace your steps and ask for a higher figure. When you make your opening bid, keep in mind that the most the employer is going to do is match you.

Knowledge is power. You need to find out what the interviewer is willing to pay before you lay your cards on the table. Watch for the interviewer’s opening bid. This figure will give you a clue or sometimes even a specific figure from which to work.

You can also ask for too much. If you ask for $50,000 and the employer is only willing to pay $40,000, he’s not going to offer the job at the lower figure even if you were willing to accept it. It is assumed that you wouldn’t be happy and that you would be accepting the job only until a better offer comes along.

Use silence to your advantage

After the interviewer makes you an offer, be silent for a few seconds, giving the impression you are not particularly excited about the offer. Counter offer with a figure 20% over the interviewer’s offer and re-emphasize two or three specific qualifications you have that support your counteroffer. Rarely is the interviewer’s offer the final offer.

Occasionally, a hiring manager will offer you a range. That’s a mistake on his or her part. Consider the top figure as an offer and counter from there. Sometimes the employer actually offers you a lot more than you expected. In this case, don’t act as if you just won the lottery, which will only make him or her feel like he or she has been too generous. Calmly accept the offer, or if you’re really feeling sure of yourself, ask for a little more.

Ask for clarification if you don’t understand

Never be embarrassed to ask for clarification regarding any part of the job offer that’s not clear. Compensation for travel expenses, health insurance, vacation and holiday policies as well as information regarding pension and 401K plans can be confusing. Don’t agree to anything until you fully understand what’s being offered.

Sleep on the offer

Once you have gone as far as you can with negotiations, ask for time to think it over. A reasonable amount of time is several days to a week. No matter how you feel at this point, you owe it to yourself to sleep on it. Interviewers expect this, especially with management level positions. It’s important to ask for time, especially when you are still far apart in salary. If the interviewer wants you bad enough, he may re-adjust the budget to get you. It happens a lot.

In conclusion, even if you got your asking price and are satisfied with the package, it’s not a bad idea to wait a minimum of 24 hours before accepting. After you’ve had a day to think about it, you will know if the job is really what you’ve been looking for, or if you are only seeing what you want to see. In addition, if you got the job opportunity through a recruiter, the recruiter will handle the negotiations with your input.

Carol Hacker is a business consultant, seminar leader and author of over 250 published articles and 13 books including the bestseller, Hiring Top Performers-350 Great Interview Questions for People Who Need People. She can be reached in Atlanta at 770-410-0517

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