Negotiating Strategies That Work

Negotiating StrategiesOne of the comments I hear most often from executives is the struggle to negotiate their salary when the offer is presented. This is especially true for executives who have been unemployed for some time and wish to return to the workforce as soon as possible. Some think being too harsh when negotiating salary might jeopardize their job offer.

Find Out the Salary Range

To help you negotiate, find out the salary range the company has in mind for the position before the interview. This may not have been posted with the job description or relayed to you previously.  If the salary question comes up before the offer, and you feel confident enough, ask what salary range they are considering for the person they are hiring for this job. When they reveal that range, you can reply that your salary requirements are within that range. That doesn’t give anything away and leaves you room to negotiate when the official offer does present itself.

Don’t List Salary in a Cover Letter

I understand you don’t want to threaten your chances of not getting an interview if you don’t relay your salary requirements when asked. Some recruiters and hiring agents make it seem like you won’t be considered if this information is not presented, and that may be the case in some instances. However, if your resume shows that your talents and skills line up with what they are looking for in a candidate, you will likely be given consideration with or without stating your salary in the cover letter.  If asked to include salary requirements in cover letter, try something like:

  • “I’m happy to discuss salary requirements once we see if there is a good fit of my experience and skills to the position you are trying to fill.”
  • “May we defer salary discussions until there is a possibility of a job offer? I’m sure once we identify if I am a good match, that salary won’t be an issue.”

Don’t Mention Money First

It starts at the pre-screen call. Generally jumping out with a salary figure before you have an offer could be detrimental to the outcome. The interviewer has you pegged at a certain salary that could screen you out quickly. Why? Because sometimes recruiters use salary as an “indicator” dictated by the company, and you can be eliminated if your salary level is too high or too low. If you cannot avoid a point blank question of salary at the onset of an interview, try these strategies:

  • Turn the question around and ask what the salary range is for the job. This will give you an idea if you are in the ballpark with your salary and if the range is lower, if you want to continue pursuing a position that may not meet your needs. Your response can be something like “My salary requirements are within that range. May we proceed with the interview and discuss salary when we determine there is a good fit?”
  • If the interviewer insists on a salary figure before proceeding, then give a broad range to cover the high and low spectrum in the hopes that you are somewhere in the middle. If you research the job to find out what it pays, you can get a heads up on this range. This might keep you in the hiring process for a few more steps before anyone gets serious with an offer – at least long enough to identify if this position is right for you and something you want to pursue.

Note: Recruiters are the exception. They will ask and need to know what your compensation is, along with any perks, and what you expect. They will be negotiating on your behalf, so to speak. Be upfront with them, or you will lose your credibility and their goodwill.

It Continues During the Interview

If you pass the pre-screen call and get an interview appointment, don’t circumvent salary negotiations by stating what you are looking for in dollars. Never throw out the first number. If at the early stages of the interviewing process you are asked for your salary, you can delay the conversation by saying, “I would like to know more about the position and see if I’m a good fit with your organization before we address salary.” Or, “May we come back to salary once we have determined there’s a mutual fit?” 

Silence is Golden in Negotiations

The offer is finally on the table, but it isn’t what you want. Because employers expect you to negotiate, express your disappointment. Once you have done so, be quiet. The silence will be uncomfortable and cause the hiring manager to pierce the silence with conversation – an attempt to negotiate. At this point, if asked for your target salary, present a figure above what you want, so the negotiations can land close to your anticipated dollar amount.

Considerations Other than Salary

When in the depths of negotiations, be sure to factor in benefits such as healthcare, retirement contributions, paid time off, stock options, etc. Would one or more benefits outweigh certain salary limitations? Maybe a perk like working from home helps to sway your decision. Be prepared with your non-negotiables and your wish list to see what results you can achieve.

Remember that the highest negotiating power you have is when you are being hired. Leverage what you know as an executive who has negotiated for million- to billion- dollar companies to cover all relevant salary considerations. A wise person once told me “You have to ask for the business to get it.” If you don’t negotiate and ask for more benefits/perks, you may not get them. And that is something you will never know if you don’t ask.

Knowing how to negotiate and maximize your compensation is critical to getting what you’re worth going into a new position. The standard benefits that most executives negotiate besides salary are health care coverage, life insurance, retirement savings, and vacation.

Consider these additional benefits that could be part of the negotiations conversation.

Flex-time: The workplace has dramatically changed in the last few years, and companies are considering non-traditional work schedules. One theory is that companies are open to accommodating executive requests for flex-time because of the perception that executives work more hours in a day than the average employee. Whether that is true or not, negotiate this benefit if it is important to your lifestyle.

Telecommuting: The concept of “face time” in the company offices is dwindling. That’s not to say that as an executive you don’t need to show up to manage and motivate the troops, it’s just that companies are starting to accept work models like “Telecommute Tuesdays.” This can be advantageous to you when negotiating working from home a few days a week.

Expedited Review: The possibility of an earlier salary review is an easy way to assuage a low-ball salary offer. Employers typically schedule a performance review at the 90-day benchmark to make sure there is a fit with the person/job, and then yearly thereafter. Negotiating a salary review before the one-year mark could land more money in your pocket.

Professional Development: Ask about the opportunities the company provides for educational advancement. This perk benefits both you and the company. It also indicates to a hiring manager that you’re conscientious about growing professionally.

Bonuses, Stock Options, and Shares: If you are seeking a position in the private section, don’t short change yourself by failing to negotiate these additional benefits. Research standards for what’s customary in your industry. Also stay informed on the corporate health of the company you are considering working for.

As an executive, your skills are at a premium and hiring managers know this when negotiating a job offer. It is expected that people will negotiate salary. Don’t leave money on the table by neglecting to negotiate additional benefits.

Louise Garver

Louise Garver

Louise Garver, part of ExecuNet's team of Coaches and Career Strategists, is a career industry expert for executives, has a successful 30-year history as an Executive Coach, Resume Writer, Branding and Job Search Strategist, with recruitment and corporate management experience along with 13 career-related certifications, a master's degree and post-graduate certification in career counseling. Executives work with her to capture their brand message and clearly, consistently and effectively communicate it in their career documents and communications. Louise is co-author of Win Interviews! The New Must-Have Game Plan and her work is featured in over 20 career publications.

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