Answering the Salary Question

Your job interview seems to be going well, and the hiring manager looks genuinely pleased with your answers to the interview questions. She then proceeds to give you a salary figure. Unfortunately, it's well below your expectations. You're afraid that if you decline or negotiate, they will rescind the job offer. So, should you simply accept what's on the table even though you know you're worth more?

Here's something that job applicants need to know: The initial number that employers offer is rarely their best, and salaries generally have a pay range for each position, not just that one rate. As long as you do research and know how to negotiate effectively, you can get the salary you're looking for. You may even end up impressing your employer with your keen negotiation skills. With that in mind, here's how you go about negotiating a salary that's more what you had in mind.

Do your research ahead of time

Wages can differ by industry, employer, skill and location, so look into these pay range considerations ahead of your interview. Also, learn about the company and its competition. What does their budget look like? What are their targets for the immediate future? From a personal standpoint, think about what you want to achieve in the job, including salary, benefits, career trajectory, and opportunity. Information that relates to these considerations will be valuable to the negotiation process.

Don't talk about money too early

During your interview, avoid talking about salary at the beginning, this is one of the most common job interview mistakes. You'll be in a better position to negotiate after the hiring manager has made the initial offer, so wait for them to make the first move unless you want your meeting to go downhill from the get-go. Receiving an offer means that they have decided that you are the right person for the job, and from there, it's going to be all about taking the little steps to make you sign on the dotted line.

Communicate your conditions effectively

The job and pay will likely to be offered to you simultaneously. If the amount is less than expected, accept the position, but don't say yes to the salary yet. Even if the interviewer tells you that the figure is their best offer, it's usually not. Likewise, be sure to act courteously when they give you the amount-avoid acting surprised or disgusted. A great way to respond is to say something along the lines of "I am really interested in the position and look forward to working with you, but I need to make at least $50,000 a year to make working financially beneficial, and based on my research, that $50,000 a year is reasonable for the job position I'm applying for." This is when your due diligence before the interview will come in handy.

Begin with a number higher than what you want

Now that you've got the negotiation ball rolling, start off with a larger number than what you're going for. This way, if the hiring manager makes a counteroffer, it will be closer to your target amount. And be willing to compromise. Remember, you're entering a negotiation, not a demand session. If they don't give in to your target number, see if you can bargain for better benefits instead, such as paid vacation time, stock options, performance bonus, flexible work hours, and the like.

Prove you're worth it

It's not enough that they decided you're right for the job-you also have to convince them that you're worth the money you're asking for. And make sure you don't sound arrogant about it. Take stock of your previous accomplishments and how the company can benefit from them. For example, if you're the best salesperson in your last job, explain what your skills and experience bring to the employer's bottom line. Use measurable figures and metrics if you can. The more hard facts you can use to support your asking price, the more money you can reasonably request.

Make your interest in the job obvious

Managers won't be willing to give in to or haggle over your asking price if they believe that in the end, you're still going to decline the offer. When negotiating your salary, show that you are clearly interested in working for the company. Sometimes, you can bait people to accept your proposal by making them jealous, telling them that you've been interviewing for other jobs and you have a better offer. Just be sure not to overdo it, because it may lead the interviewer to think that they're not going to get you anyway. If you plan to leverage your other options, make sure to let them know the conditions that must be met for you to forgo these alternatives and accept their offer.

Understand where they're coming from

The hiring manager may believe what you're selling and think you're worth every additional penny you're asking for, but they may still say "no thanks."That's because companies have salary caps that no amount of negotiation can break. Generally speaking, large companies have higher salary caps than small ones, and your job is to identify the size of the company you're applying for and figure out how flexible they are. The better you understand their strengths and limitations, the more likely you'll be able to come up with an offer that both sides can agree with.

Don't negotiate for the sake of negotiating

Avoid the temptation to show off your great negotiation skills. Many salespeople are guilty of this, continuing to bargain even if they have already achieved what they set out to accomplish with the negotiations. A great rule of thumb when negotiating: Don't try to win it all. Fight only for what's important to you. Even if they win the small battles, what matters most is that you win the war.

Know when to stop

In every negotiation, there's always a point when you stop and close. Ideally, you stop negotiating when you arrive at a win-win situation, and everyone is happy with what they're getting. However, sometimes you just can't get what you want, so when each party has laid their best cards on the table, it's time for you to decide whether to accept the offer or look elsewhere.
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