Do you know what you are worth, professionally? How much should you be paid in dollars? What about non-monetary pay? Can you demonstrate your value to employers? What dollar value will the employer assign to you (if you let them)? What salary are you willing to accept in exchange for your time and expertise? A few of you probably think you are worth a lot; some either don’t know or don’t feel they are worth more than an employer is offering. After impressing upon the employer that you are the right person for the job, the bottom line becomes money- your labor in exchange for the employer’s cash and benefits. How, then, are you going to deal with these questions in order to get more than the employer may initially be willing to offer?

As a recruiter, salary negotiations are tough. I have the advantage of knowing what the salary range is and it is my job to get a person to accept within that range. It is very frustrating for me when I see someone clearly worth more than what is being offered or even asked for. I often counsel people to do some research before getting far into the interview process so nobody wastes time. I am a huge advocate for fairly paying someone for their talent and skills. It often saddens me to see people, most often women, accepting less just to get foot in the door or because they don’t know they can negotiate.

The salary question is awkward for many applicants who are reluctant to talk about money. They think one must take what is offered because salaries are set by employers. Such thinking is unfortunate, because it means many people are paid far less than what they could be getting if they knew some basic techniques for negotiating salaries. Most people are probably underpaid by $3000-$5000 because they don’t use negotiating techniques. In some cases, it is way more than that!

Demonstrate your value. Salaries are usually assigned to positions or jobs rather than to individuals through salary bands (or grades). But not everyone is of equal value or skillset; some are more productive than others, some are less. Since individual performance differs, you should attempt to establish your value in the eyes of the employer rather than accept a salary figure for the job. The art of salary negotiation will help you do this. Have a list of your verifiable accomplishments handy. Past performance appraisals, letters of commendation, reference letters, certifications, degrees, etc. are important tools in establishing credibility of your perceived value. If you feel you are worth a certain amount, be prepared to back it up.

Research, research, research. I can’t stress this enough. It is far too easy for you to get salary information with a few key strokes. Sites like Salary.com, Payscale.com and Vault.com make it easy to find comparable informations. Also use job sites such as Monster, Careerbuilder, Dice, 2 Figure Jobs, LatPro, etc, to find out what some jobs are offering. Now, a lot of companies won’t list a salary, but some will list a range. Take notes and compare across your industry and in the different regions. You should be able to come up with some good sound ranges of salaries.

Prepare for the money discussion well in advance. You should be well prepared to deal with the question of salary anytime during your job search, but especially during the job interview. If you’ve done your research, you should know the approximate salary range for the position you are seeking. You run the risk of doing yourself a great disservice if you fail to gather this information. You may price yourself too low or price yourself out of consideration. It is always best to be informed so you can be in better control to negotiate. And don’t be afraid to stick to your numbers. Only you know what your comfort level and lifestyle will allow you to compromise on. Keep an absolute minimum in the back of your mind to use as your boundary. No matter what, you will not go below this number.

Hold off on the salary discussion until the last minute. If at all possible, try to keep the salary question open until the last possible minute. As I mentioned earlier, typically, employers will assign a salary or salary range to a position rather than the individual. It’s not really about you or what they think you’re worth. Although they will generally have a range in mind, they still want to see where your head is at and what you would be willing to accept. By asking about salary preference in the beginning stages of the interview, employers are trying to screen out or eliminate candidates. When you are asked about salary, don’t respond with a specific amount. Give them a range that is acceptable to you. If you give them a set figure you have just eliminated your chances of negotiating a better salary. You should try to put off discussing salary at least until an offer is extended. Don’t appear too anxious. Get the employer to state a figure first. By doing this, you will be in a stronger negotiating position.

Questions to ask the employer. Questions attempt to establish the value for you as an individual versus a position. Seek clarification from the employer as to the actual job and all it involves. Emphasize the level of skills required in the most positive way as well as the value of the position to the company. Ask the employer what the normal range is in the company for a position such as the one you are interviewing for. This question establishes the value as well as the range for the position. Ask what the normal salary is for someone with your qualifications. This question further attempts to establish the value for the individual versus the position. This line of questioning attempts to yield the salary expectations of the employer without revealing your desired salary figure or range. It also should indicate whether the employer distinguishes between individuals and positions when establishing salary figures.

So stop leaving money on the table. If you’re still not comfortable negotiating salary, take a class and learn how to negotiate from a place of strength. EVERYTHING is negotiable. But timing is everything. If you play your hand too early, you ace yourself out of a strong negotiating position.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham

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