Ask the Coach – Salary Negotiation (Part II)

 

Hey there!  Here we are again with (more) answers to your questions regarding salary negotiation.  Remember that you can also view the full recording of our presentation on this subject by visiting us here.

In considering the hiring process and the point where negotiations begin, is there a “norm” for the number of interviews in the hiring process?

Typically there are at least two interviews in the hiring process – a phone interview and a more formal in-person session.  Some employers utilize a three interview system, where you would do one phone screen, one in-person with a panel or committee, and then one as a one on one with the person who is actually making the final decision.  Of course, there may be some slight variations on this depending on the specific company – however, this is the usual course of action.

 

What if my current company pays me very well, above industry standard: will asking my future employer to at least match this be acceptable?

It is absolutely acceptable!  We never recommend that someone willingly take a pay cut, especially when they are going to be working in a similar or more advanced role.  Prior to asking, take some time to assemble your justification for why your current employer is paying you at the rate that they are, and why you should continue to receive this level of compensation with a new employer.  Remember that by the time you have reached the stage of negotiating salary, they have already chosen you as the person that they want.  This gives you leverage to ask for what you need from them.  Now, that’s not to say that you should be greedy and attempt to take the employer “to the cleaners,” but at the same time, you should feel empowered with this knowledge to ask for what you want and need from them in order to make this employment situation work for both of you.  Remember, the goal is to create a “win:win” situation for everyone involved.

 

How do you approach salary and/or higher status title when your positions moves to reporting to the President of the organization based on your accomplishments?

You would essentially approach it the same way that you would approach any other position change if you were leaving the job to pursue a career with a different company.  Find out what the comparable rates are for someone in your position with your reporting chain of command by doing informational interviews, and then set about building your case for why you deserve a pay increase based on both that information and on your personal background of accomplishments and contributions to the company that would justify the increase.

 

If certain benefits (like educational assistance for ongoing professional development) are not necessarily common within an organization, what strategies would you recommend for bringing up that possibility during the negotiation process?

My recommendation is to use the tiered approach that we spoke about in the presentation (making a list of first level, second level, and third level priorities) and determine in which tier those professional development opportunities belong for you.  Then, research the benefit of offering those to a company, as well as the cost of some specific opportunities that you are interested in and that you feel would be valuable for the role you are entering into.  Present this information as part of your case justification during the negotiation process, but be prepared for the possibility of having the give something up in order to get what you want on this front.

 

Could you negotiate a pay cut in order to work remotely instead of in the office? If so, how is this done? Is remote work is one of “package of benefits” that could be negotiated?

We never suggest negotiating a pay cut – even if you want a more flexible arrangement.  What we suggest instead is to be clear about your intention/desire to work remotely early on in the process (this way you know before either you or the employer invest too much time whether or not this is even a possibility), and then be prepared to negotiate with the understanding that remote work is higher on your priority list than salary.  You may be more amenable to accepting the initial salary that the company offers if it comes with the flexibility to work remotely, but don’t sell yourself short by negotiating down before they even throw something out there.

Also, remember that it is a bit of a long shot to obtain a position that allows for remote work, unless it is explicitly designed and advertised that way already.  You may be more successful taking the position in its traditional format, and then after a time in the position (at a minimum a year), requesting/negotiating a flexible work arrangement.  Typically, employers need to know you in order to have confidence in your ability to manage yourself properly in a remote situation – so, if they aren’t specifically looking at a remote opportunity from the start, you will likely have a challenging time negotiating the remote angle without first proving yourself trustworthy of such an opportunity.

 

Some companies ask up front what your expected salary range is – in this case, what should I do?

First, try to flip the question back onto them by asking what their intended rate of pay is for the position.  If they are unwilling to answer that question, or if they still press forward with an additional ask, give a broad range ($10-15k) that includes your desired rate of pay.  You should already have a good idea of what the rate for this type of position is from research and therefore should be able to give a range that keeps you in contention for the position.

Remember, when a company is asking for the salary range up front, what they are really doing is preparing a judgement on whether or not you are close enough to their intended rate of pay to merit further interviewing. The range that you give them is not necessarily what you will be offered – but you want to make sure that you’re not providing them with a wage rate that is lower than your walk-away point, in the event that they decide to hold you to the range that you gave them.

 

My work performance is better than several other employees at the same level. How do I leverage that without trying to make it sound like I think I’m better than someone else or throwing my colleagues under the bus?

You leverage it by showing your results and allowing them to stand on their own merit, instead of using them in a comparison strategy to show that you are performing better than someone else.  You want to provide justification for a pay increase by showing what you contribute to your team/organization, so let that be the focus of your case (rather than what someone else isn’t doing).

 

How do you handle when an employer says an offer is non-negotiable or they give a short time frame to sign and respond?

Take the time that they offer (I would still recommend refraining from answering immediately on the phone) and use that time to deliberate on whether or not the offer meets your needs.  If salary is non-negotiable, there may be an opportunity to negotiate for other benefits instead (such as additional time off, educational assistance, etc.).  Also, if you’re feeling overly pressured, don’t be afraid to walk away from the offer.  If you aren’t comfortable providing an answer in the time frame given, then perhaps that is a sign that this company is not a good fit for you and you need to reevaluate.

 

Should it be expected to receive a pay cut when taking a job in a different geographic location? (ex: moving from the gulf coast to the Midwest) What about changing job industries? (ex: going from oil and gas to automotive or commercial goods)

Not necessarily – cost of living is definitely a factor when relocating to an area, but it does not necessarily mean that you should expect to have to take a pay cut.  With regard to industry, that’s also not necessarily a deal-breaker.  The key here (as in any instance of negotiation) is research – research the area you’re moving to, research the industry you’re considering, and then create a case for the salary that you would like to have based on that information.

 

At the time of online job application, sometimes it’s mandatory to provide my current salary. Is there any way to avoid that?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to outsmart the automated online application system.  Be sure when you’re filling in an application that this is a required field before giving that information (sometimes employers ask for that, but they don’t make it a mandatory field.  If not, then skip it.).  If it is mandatory, then be honest when providing your information, and be prepared to speak to what you believe you deserve for this role when you go into an interview.  If the role you’re interviewing for pays significantly more than what you currently make, don’t be discouraged – just be sure to have your facts and research on hand as you prepare to ask for your desired wage.

 

Can you further explain how to avoid telling the interviewer how much you currently make, especially if they push you to disclose even after you “put the question back on them” (aka ask their range)?

If you ask for their anticipated range, and they ask about your current salary, redirect again by staying something like, “I’d much rather talk about market value” and speak to the information that you’ve gathered through research that has helped you arrive at your preferred range.  This lets them know that you are savvy enough to have done research and won’t be easily swayed by a lackluster offer on their part simply because it is more than what you are currently making.

 

From the employer perspective, what are some of the factors that would cause them to agree to a higher salary that has been requested in their range?

Because they want you – remember that you are the person that they’ve chosen and they are not terribly interested in going back and starting the search over again.  They also want the situation to feel like a “win : win”.  In order to secure a higher offer, reiterate why you’re the best fit for their company, and show the value that you bring to the table.  Also, fall back on market value and, if necessary (and advantageous), you current salary as well.

 

Also, is it fairly common from your experience for them to come back and agree to some improvement?

Yes – remember that employers are expecting you to negotiate.  This means that rarely will they open with their highest offer.  They offer slightly lower to give themselves room to improve in order to meet what they feel is an inevitable ask on your part.

 

If I accept an offer from somewhere and later on fortunately get a better offer from a higher priority place, in that case, is it an option to decline the previous offer and accept the new one?

This is not really something that we recommend, because doing this will likely burn bridges which may come back to haunt you in your later professional life.  However, if you absolutely must do this, it is critical that you are open in communicating with the opportunity that you’re leaving, and that you do your best not to leave them in a lurch.  Try to give more than 2 weeks’ notice if possible, and if appropriate, assist them with finding a replacement.  This will go a long way toward establishing some good will on your part and help them to remain with a favorable impression of you despite your choice to leave.

 

Any recommendations for those who do not want to leave their current role, but may be in a situation where they know they are underpaid (more than 10-15K) compared to peers with similar roles, but their department will not be flexible with a salary raise despite acknowledging the significant discrepancy?

Unfortunately, you may need to consider looking into other opportunities in order to receive the pay that you want and deserve.  One strategy that you could use to motivate your current employer to provide additional compensation would be to pursue other opportunities and, when offered, use that as leverage to spark a counter offer from your current company.  The danger with that, as always, is that they may call your bluff and then you’ll need to make a decision about whether or not you want to pursue the other opportunity(ies).  The good thing about doing this type of exploration, though, is that you may find that you want to move on or that you’ve come upon a better opportunity for yourself.