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.

Ask the Coach – Salary Negotiation (Part I)

 

Hello all!  Last week we had a great webinar on salary negotiation, presented by myself (Kioshana LaCount Burrell) and our director, Marilyn Bury Rice.  After that presentation, we were inundated with questions from you all about specifics surrounding the topic.  Here are the answers to some of the burning questions you all submitted to us after that presentation regarding your specific questions on the negotiation process:

 

When you are negotiating, should you counter with your “optimal” salary or counter with slightly above your optimal salary, assuming they will negotiate down?

When you are negotiating, remember that the idea is for both of you to compromise in order for everyone to feel like they won all around.  Therefore, if there is a specific number that you are looking to reach, I would suggest countering slightly higher.  That way, the employer has room to come down a bit if he or she cannot accommodate that number, and you will still likely obtain the rate that you wanted initially.

 

Can you share how large of a range you suggest sharing if pushed for expectations on that first HR call?

If you are absolutely being pushed for a range on the first call/phone screen, be as broad as possible.  Up to $15k in salary difference is fine – just be sure not to start way below what you actually want or need to move forward.  For example, if you are expecting/hoping for $75k, then I would say that my range is $70k – $80k, depending on the market rate for the job.  Don’t, however, start the range at $65k, because then the employer will have the impression that you are willing to accept $65k as a reasonable salary for the job that you actually want (and should be) paid $75k for.

 

On OSU website there are salary targets, does this mean this is out window to negotiate our offer?

Not at all!  Salary negotiations happen every day in hiring processes, even here at OSU.  The salary targets on the postings are there to give you an idea of what range you should be expecting for this type of job, but are not set in stone.  It may be difficult to negotiate a $20k raise from the posted target salary, but there is still room for wiggle within that range.

 

Next week will be my 1st year anniversary at my current company. My first year, my manager and I have never talked about raises. How do I talk about raise if supposedly they don’t give me a raise on my 1st year anniversary? FYI, I did not negotiate this job offer – due to excitement and I’m somewhat underpaid.

You anniversary is a great time to open the door to a discussion on salary increase, because this is usually the time of year where you are receiving an evaluation.  There will be an open dialogue between you and your employer about your work on the team over the last year, and you should use that as an opening to broach the conversation about obtaining a salary increase.  Be sure to speak to any positive contributions that you have made to your work environment and highlight any areas where you can show that you have added value to the team.

 

What is your take on relocation packages?  Do you think it’s worth negotiating for if it was told in the phone screening that it is not built into the level of this role? But it’s something you could discuss/negotiate with the hiring manager himself.

Relocation packages are a tricky thing – especially if you’ve already been told that the company does not offer them.  However, it does not hurt to ask once you’ve obtained an offer.  Remember, though, that negotiation should be completed in a tiered approach.  You should negotiate with the most important things to you first, understanding that you will likely not get everything on your list of wants.

 

Do you have any tips for negotiating a raise in your current position/company?

Generally speaking, this is something that is easiest to negotiate during an evaluation period.  This is because your manager has spent time looking at your work for the last period of time (quarter, 6 months, or year) and has therefore come up with a definitive opinion about the value that you add to the team.  However, even if you are not in an evaluation stage, you can negotiate a raise using the same tactics you would at the beginning of the job.

First, you’ll need to do some research and determine what a fair salary is for your role.  You’ll also need to outline the specific amount of increase that you want and be able to justify why you deserve that increase.  You do this by demonstrating ways that you have had a positive impact on the business – have you been able to save the company time or money by streamlining processes?  Have you seen an increase in sales based on something that you have chosen to do differently?  Do you consistently meet and exceed expectations, etc?  Use this information to build the case for your raise and then request a meeting with your supervisor to go over your pitch.  The key is to be clear and confident when talking to him or her, and to communicate your value in a way that leaves no room for rebuttal.

 

What do I do when the HR manager says “this offer is not negotiable” or “this is our highest offer/best we can do?”

Thank them for their time, and then ask for time to evaluate.  You need to determine whether or not the offer as it stands meets your needs, or if you need to walk away from that opportunity.  You can also ask if other things are negotiable (for example, perhaps salary is set, but you’re able to negotiate some additional benefits from the offer instead).  Evaluate the total offer, and figure out where it falls within your needs – and decide whether to accept or decline based on that.

 

Is it a bad sign if an employer needs an answer in 24 hours and is not flexible on that timeline?

It isn’t necessarily a bad sign, but it may be an indicator of whether or not this is a company that you want to work with.  This shows some inflexibility on the part of the employer – therefore, you need to be able to make a decision quickly.  If you cannot fully come to terms with accepting the offer within that period of time, then don’t feel bad about walking away.  Never allow yourself to feel overly pressured into a situation that you are unsure about because you don’t have adequate time to make a decision.  Remember that you are in control of the choices that you make regarding your employment – if you aren’t sure about the offer, then it is more than acceptable to decline and continue with your search for the right fit.

 

If an employer asks why I declined an offer and it is b/c the salary was too low, should I be honest about that?

It is fair, and even important, to let an employer know that you declined his or her offer because their salary did not meet your needs.  Be polite and courteous, but also frank when communicating this to them.  You might even be surprised at receiving a counter offer.

 

My current superior is stepping into a new role and therefore, his current position will be coming open in a few months. We have worked together for a year now in a company that has a more family-like, casual/relational approach than a rigid business approach, so we have become friends. As part of his new role, he will be making the deciding factor on who steps into his position coming open and salary for that person. I will apply and interview for this position. Any advice on how to navigate negotiation if offered the position?

Be all about business during the negotiation process – do not lean on the fact that you have a friendly relationship with this person.  Although you are friends, his job is to choose the best fit for the business as a whole.  Therefore, you should be able to showcase the value that you add to the company through the use of examples that speak to your track record as a strong employee and leader within your team.  Not only will this be a more effective route to take, it will also likely win you additional respect among your peers and supervisors.

 

Is it appropriate to ask broadly what benefits are negotiable? Companies present benefits packages as being standardized across the company or certain roles

Once you’re in the space of negotiating salary, it is absolutely appropriate to also ask questions about benefits, and negotiate there as well.  There may be less room for wiggle with a benefits package, but it won’t hurt you to ask.  I’ve personally been able to negotiate things like an extra week of vacation and the ability to forego waiting a 90 day period for insurance benefits to start, having them start on day 1 of employment.   Ask – the worst they can do is say no.

 

When I accepted my current role I was told during my initial negotiations I would be eligible for a 9% increase after 6 months. That VP has since moved on from the company how should I address this with the new leadership?

I would contact HR about that – explain the situation and ask what the process is for getting the increase evaluated.   Even though you don’t have it in writing, you should be able to get an increase based on merit.

 

Can you negotiate with an offer if recently laid off/unemployed?

Absolutely!  Being laid off is almost never the person’s fault, and is something that most of us will experience at one time or another in our lives.  The key is to approach a new offer with confidence, which (again) comes from being able to communicate your value to a new employer.  Remember, just because your last company failed or chose to go in a different direction doesn’t mean that you have failed.  Even in a role that was eliminated, there are still opportunities for you to speak to what you have contributed as part of that team.  Use these points as a spring board to communicate to the offerer what you have to contribute to them as well.

 

Telling an employer you have another opportunity can also be interpreted negatively as an attempt to leverage or speed up the hiring process – how to negate this?

You’re absolutely right – telling an employer that you have other offers can sometimes be perceived as negative.  This is why we advise that you do not bring up another offer unless you are fully prepared to take the other offer if the employer you’re bargaining with will not meet you where you need to be (in other words – don’t just bluff!).  Also, be mindful of the way that you broach this subject – be sure to be polite, enthusiastic, and keep a positive attitude.  Having another offer in and of itself isn’t negative – being rude or off-putting when bringing it up, however, may very well be.

 

Don’t see your question up here?  No worries!  We’ll be following up this post with a second part later in the week that details even more questions submitted by you all, along with our expert answers!  In the meantime, if  you would like to schedule an appointment with a career consultant, remember that you can do so by calling our customer service line at 1.800.635.8944.