When you find yourself in salary negotiations, circumstances will vary greatly, so good manners and common sense should trump all. However, here are some tips that apply to most situations:
1. Be patient. In other words, don’t rush the negotiating process. Many otherwise promising candidacies have been disrupted and even derailed when the candidate brought up money too soon or they were too strident in making statements about their salary expectations. Relax…let the process flow. The employer will bring up money at the right time. Moving too quickly or being too aggressive when the subject does arise can leave the wrong impression about your motivations.
2. Consider the big picture. A few thousand dollars paid over the course of a year, in most cases, will not make or break the quality of a career move. Factors like future growth and the opportunity to acquire new skills should carry more weight in your considerations about the merits of the opportunity. If the role will accelerate your career and you will be learning new things, those pluses are worth something as they will impact the future value and marketability of your services.
3. What to say when asked? It’s best when the salary question comes up to be represented by an experienced IT Recruiter or Engineering Recruiter…who can either field the question for you, or be there as a resource for redirection of the question.
However, if asked point blank about desired salary by a potential employer, state your most recent compensation and then speak specifically about your level of interest in the company and opportunity. Pause for effect. If necessary continue to speak in generalities about compensation requirements: ‘I’d like to see a move up, since it has been 18 months since my last increase, but I’m flexible…what do you have in mind?’, is one possible response. NEVER give a specific number or even a numeric range to an employer. Why? Unless you pick the perfect number you risk either leaving money on the table or worse, scaring the company off by raising concern about the affordability of your services and the real reasons for your interests in the role.
If you are currently under market, most good companies will take that into consideration when making an offer.
Fundamentals of negotiation suggest NOT starting with a high number and working from there. Rather, let the other person speak first.
4. Offer too low? Should an offer be extended that is unacceptably low for an otherwise acceptable job, you might inquire into how they arrived at the number suggested. Perhaps it is an internal equity issue. It would be unusual for a company to simply pick a number out of the blue ‘just because’. Once you understand their thinking, you are better empowered to tactfully probe around for flexibility on the base, details about bonuses, benefits and their associated costs, performance reviews, perhaps even an early review for merit increase. If necessary, reconsider point 2.
In all cases, it is suggested to remain unemotional when discussing this subject. Even though it is potentially your money, it’s probably best to pretend you are advocating instead on behalf of a good friend. You will certainly desire to do your best for your friend, but it is easier to stay rational and objective if the subject is not the person in the mirror.