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March 20, 2023

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Know What You're Worth and What You Want

Concerned about compensation? Arm yourself with data from Job Search Intelligence, which the US Department of Labor says offers the most accurate salary information available. The salary calculator gives you a personalized compensation value to take to your negotiations. Use this tool to guide the conversation to get the compensation you deserve.

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In this section:

The negotiation process revolves around two factors: what you are worth and what they are willing to pay for you. To negotiate successfully, take these factors into consideration and research them thoroughly. Research, after all, is one of the few steps in the negotiation process that you have full control over.

The first step in researching these two factors is to consider the position you aspire to. Know the required skills and job responsibilities, as well as the company’s size, industry position, clients, goals, and challenges. Use this information as perspective or context in for your preparation to negotiate.

  • Make a list of your credentials. What degrees do you have? What other training or education do you have? You may have handled design and layout of the newsletter at your previous position, a very impressive responsibility, but only if it is relevant to the position you are applying for. If it’s not, you shouldn’t expect to be compensated for it.
  • If you held an impressive title in the past, use it to your advantage. Did you have a respected position with your previous employer? Did you work for a well-known, successful company?
  • What measurable successes have you had in your previous positions? Did you raise sales by 15 percent? Did you save your company $50,000? Did you organize a seminar for 1,000 guests? The eye is drawn to numbers and statistics, so include as many as you can.
  • What is included in your skill set? Make sure you can meet every responsibility of the job and can provide specific examples of the skills you have to fulfill them.
  • Think value-added. Maybe you can bring excellent finance experience with you to a human resource position. Do you have any technology specialties or marketing know-how? Are you bilingual? If so, you may deserve higher compensation.
  • What is your work ethic? Are you willing to come in early, stay late? Can you be counted on in a crisis? If you can document this or provide references, it may increase your worth.

When you are in the interview and negotiation stages, briefly and clearly list the most impressive qualifications you have as support for the salary you are requesting. Show them exactly why you deserve the salary you are asking for.

How Much Are They Willing To Pay?

Sometimes you will know the salary before you go in for the interview. Do not simply accept this at face value. You can still negotiate. Think of it as a ballpark figure. If it is lower than you had hoped for, don’t walk away from the position. Go in prepared to negotiate based on what you can bring to the position.

If you do not know the salary going into the interview, you need to research salaries in similar companies and positions. More than likely, the company you are interviewing with will have done similar research. Take into consideration geographic location and cost of living, degree level, years of experience required, and size of company. All these factors will influence salary averages. If you live in Small Town, USA, do not expect to be paid the same amount of money for the same position with the same responsibilities as someone in Big Town, USA.

Know the lowest offer you are willing to accept, the offer you think you deserve, and the offer you will be thrilled with. Prepare materials that support your salary request. It will be easier to persuade people if you can show them solid, objective information.

You are not just there to sell yourself. You are there to get information, as well. Here is a list of questions you need to have answered in the negotiation conversation. Keep in mind, these are not questions to ask until you’ve received an offer.

  • What is included in the salary and benefits package? When do I become eligible for benefits?
  • How much vacation time and sick leave will I receive? Can I roll it over or cash it out if I don’t use it?
  • Is there a 401k plan or retirement program? How much can I contribute and what percentage is matched?
  • What deductions are taken out of the paycheck and how much does it add up to?
  • How often will I be paid?
  • When will I receive a review and be eligible for a raise?
  • What are the opportunities for advancement?
  • Are there bonus opportunities?
  • Are there any other benefits that you think I should be aware of?

Evaluate the Company

When we buy a new dress or any other piece of clothing, we go to great lengths to make sure it’s the right fit. We inspect ourselves from every imaginable angle in the mirror to confirm a proper complement to all body parts. From the neckline to the hemline, nothing escapes our eye.

Even higher standards must be applied when evaluating a job offer. Instead of arms, elbows, hips, butts, thighs, knees, and toes, you’ll want to look beyond cash compensation to seven other categories that relate to the position you’re considering. This is a sure way to determine if it’s the best possible fit.

  • Functional Fit: Work is much less fun and fulfilling when you’re doing stuff you absolutely hate or when you’re performing tasks that are uncomfortable to you. Will you be playing to your strengths? Does the thought of doing this type of work make you giddy with glee that someone is actually willing to pay you to do what you love? Does the position offer enough stimulation or challenge? Is the title and level of responsibility in line with what you deserve?
  • Industry: More and more we see that women care very much about the type of work they do in terms of industry. Perhaps you’re an accountant, but you couldn’t get excited about doing the books in any old field. Your passion lies within the non-profit world, and that’s where you’d be most effective in fulfilling your functional fit. Similarly, an ace marketing and branding professional might not feel comfortable applying her skills and expertise at a tobacco giant if she hates cigarette smoke. Be sure the industry doesn’t conflict with your personal beliefs and values.
  • Employer: Research an employer’s position in the marketplace. Is it a leader in its respective industry experiencing terrific growth, or is its stock taking a dive amid mass layoffs? If the company is a large player, identify its wealth by how the media reports on it. At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re talking to a small company, look at its products, services, and clients as a first step in determining the strength its finances.
  • Management and Supervisor(s): High turnover or great loyalty and longevity among employees are telltale signs of the respect given to management at any organization. While interviewing with the person who’d serve as your direct boss, what were your immediate thoughts and observations on his or her management and work styles? Did you sense any concern about the potential for conflicts or clashes? Ask to speak to others who have worked for that person. If in doubt, it’s essential to address it and work it out up front so both of you are crystal clear on expectations.
  • Advancement and Growth Opportunity: Most of us have a long term plan and the ideal position will mesh nicely with our goals. Sometimes a job is ideal because it affords us the opportunity to gain new skills and experience that will be essential toward achieving the ultimate position. Will this employer provide internal or external training and development to complement your existing skill set? If you’re just launching a career or are in a mid-career transition, will this position be an effective bridge to the next step? Beyond assessing this particular position, you’ll also want to know if the company has a formal policy for promoting from within. This often sheds light on your potential opportunity for growth at this particular employer.
  • Culture: Dress code, workspace, office hours, and employee diversity all contribute to the culture of any organization. Will you work 70-hour weeks in a T-shirt and jeans? Are family picnics and an active commitment to the community part of the routine? Is there a sense of teamwork and camaraderie, or is everything and everyone independent and autonomous? Do your best to determine the values of the organization by talking to current and former employees, studying the “About Us” section of its Web site, and reading media accounts and annual reports.
  • Location: While this may seem relatively unimportant compared to some of the other criteria, a long commute can make your job miserable. Make the drive (or train, bus, or subway ride) a few times during rush hour, not just in the middle of the day, to get a realistic sense of what you’d be in for. If you’re hoping for a telecommuting arrangement, it’s important to negotiate this up front – or at the very least broach the subject upon a satisfactory orientation and initial completion of mutual goals.

Before you accept a position, consider the size of the company. Whether a small or large company is right for you may depend on your career stage, as well as your personality.

  • Large companies often offer great training programs for entry-level positions, affording time for adjustment from the theoretical realm of college to the practical world of work.
  • The resources in terms of equipment, facilities, and funds available at a large corporation can be a significant factor in fields such as engineering, information technology, or medical research.
  • There’s more diversity in a big company. For those less comfortable with close personal interactions, there’s also more anonymity.
  • At a small firm you may feel like you are thrown right in the deep end, where everyone can see if you sink or swim.
  • A small office environment requires great responsibility, but it provides exposure to a wide variety of tasks. You may learn about all aspects of a business, from soup to nuts, instead of just one piece of the pie.
  • Self-starters find there’s often less bureaucracy and more autonomy in a small company. Creative types may find it easier to get their ideas off the ground.
  • Small companies may offer larger salaries than large companies or signing bonuses to compensate for the lack of benefits available.
  • Some assume that they can achieve a better work/life balance at a small company. While there may be more flexibility in your daily schedule – you can take off an hour to catch the preschool play or go to the dentist’s office – there’s also no one to cover for you at critical company functions or production times.
  • A small office environment can be close-knit (or claustrophobic depending on your personal opinion). Forget standing around gossiping at the water cooler. This office sport is too up close and personal, and strictly taboo in a small firm. You must be able to get along well with coworkers. At the same time, you may work in close proximity to company leaders, gaining the benefit of their input and energy.

Once you’ve decided to accept a position, and have negotiated the salary and benefits you want, get them in writing. The deal is not finalized until it’s in writing, so don’t give notice at your current position, or make any major moves until a contract has been signed.

Take It or Leave It

If you cannot negotiate a mutually acceptable offer with the employer, consider whether you need to walk away. This isn’t a viable option for everyone. Only you can make that determination based on whether or not you’ll be happy and content with the deal you agree to, and whether or not you can afford not to take the offer.

  • Rejecting the offer can be a strong negotiation tactic, but only if you’re genuinely willing to walk away. Don’t use this threat if you want or need the job. The employer may come back with the offer you were hoping for rather than let you walk away. It is expensive and time-consuming for employers to interview candidates. But they might also opt to pass on your candidacy.
  • Even though you refused the position, send a thank-you note a few days later restating the salary you would be willing to accept and reiterating your interest in the position and the company. After they have thought about it for a few days, your salary requirement may seem more reasonable than they had initially thought.
  • Be careful not to burn any bridges. If you stay on good terms, you may get a call a few months down the road for a similar position with a better salary. Conduct yourself professionally at all times.