Sunday, May 26, 2013

What You Need to Know About Negotiating Before the Interview

There are things every job candidate should know about negotiating BEFORE the first interview. It could cost you money and more if you do not follow these simple steps.

Why Negotiate?

Many of you wonder if you should even bother to negotiate in this job market. Many feel that if the offer is fair, you should just take it.

Let me ask you: Would you pay sticker price for a car? Of course you wouldn’t. You know that is the starting point and it goes down from there. Would you automatically pay the asking price for a house? Of course not! You know when buying a car or a house, the game of negotiating is expected. Then why would you leave money on the table when you are being offered a job? The response for many is that they do not know how to negotiate when it comes to salary. By reading this article, you will know the basics of negotiating in a job search.

Truths About Negotiating

There are some truths about negotiating that will be helpful to know.

1) The offer made is usually not the most the manager can offer.

As a former hiring manager, I know it is true that we managers do not put our best offer on the table the first time. We usually have a range we can work within for a position. The offer is based upon experience but even then we usually leave ourselves a little room to negotiate.

The range we have is usually not even the most we can offer. If we find the perfect candidate, we can go to our upper management and make a case to make an offer that is above the initial range.
So if you are not negotiating, you could be leaving money on the table.

2) The point of hire is the best time to negotiate.

The company has gone through a resource and time consuming process with a significant number of candidates and decided you bring the best combination of skills, experience, and fit for the company. They have decided on you. This is the best time to negotiate – before you are an employee. Once you are an employee they have you. Before they hire you, you have leverage in the negotiation process; they want you and do not want to let you go only to have to ramp up the interview process again.

3) Future increases are based upon your starting salary.

In today’s economy, the annual salary or cost of living increase is lower. But regardless of what it is, your base salary is used in the calculation of your increase and then the following year that new resulting number is used, which was as you remember based upon your initial starting salary.

4) More than just salary is up for negotiations

Of course we know salary is negotiated but there are a number of other benefits and options that can be negotiated.

5) Women negotiate less often than men.

Although it is not the only factor in the discrepancy between the salary of men and women, one of the factors is that women do not negotiate as often as men do. Too many women are leaving money on the table.

What to do to Prepare

Before you go on an interview, you need to know what salary you can expect for the job based upon your experience and geographic area. You also need to know what other benefits are important to you. You should have two levels in your head:
1) the minimum you will accept or you will walk away and
2) the level you expect.

Geography is important. For instance you can expect to get paid more working in New York or San Francisco than in Birmingham because of the cost of living.

To identify typical salary ranges for a job by geographic area, there are sites such as and These sites offer base salary, bonus information, and full package (salary plus bonus plus benefits). and other sites have salary information as well and some even give sample salary ranges for particular companies.

When to Negotiate

The right price is discussed at the right time. Some hiring authorities will try to get you to say during the phone interview what salary you are looking for or are currently earning, before they have even determined whether you are a worthwhile candidate. This is NOT the right time to discuss salary and that is why job seekers need to know about how to negotiate (and deflect salary discussions) before they start to interview.

Your best negotiating position is when they have decided you are the right candidate. When you are scheduled for a phone interview, the company is still trying to figure out “who are you?” You have little to no negotiating power.

After the phone interview or first interview they are thinking “we like you”. You have more negotiating power but it still not the right time.

After the first interview, when they call you in for a second interview, they are thinking “we love you” and you have more negotiating power but it is still not the most leverage you have. In fishing they say “the fish is not yet on the hook”.

When you have finished the second interview and they have identified you as the top candidate they are saying “we have to have you ” and that is the point at which you have the most negotiating power.

But as I said before, the company representative (Human Resource representative, internal company recruiter, or hiring manager) try to get you to reveal your salary requirements on the initial contact. So how can you keep from speaking too soon about salary? I refer to the techniques as the super power bands.

Before the Time Is Right

You could lose money if you speak about salary too soon so we need ways to deflect and deter salary questions until the time is right.

Picture a super hero with wide bands on the wrists that can deflect even laser beams. I want you to arm yourself with these power bands. When asked about what salary you are looking for or asked what you currently earn and expect, I want you to use these techniques.

Power Band 1: “I need to know more about the job before I could answer that. “

This is a very honest answer. You DO need to know more about the job to determine what salary you should get.

If I offered you $80,000 for the job of secretary, some of you would jump at it. Great, you are now Secretary of Defense of the United States. The job title, in this case secretary, does not give enough information about the work you’ll be doing to determine the salary you should be earning. By the way, the Secretary of Defense gets almost $200K.

Power Band 2: “I’m sure you will make me a fair offer based upon the work I’ll be doing and the experience I bring”.

Since everyone will be doing the same work, end with the phrase “the experience I bring” as shown above. Since it is the last thing you said, it will echo in their heads.

Power Band 3: “Salary is important to me. What is also important is the work I’ll be doing and I’d like to know more about…” and then ask a question about the job.

Do not say “salary is not important” or they may let you prove it. This technique redirects their attention away from salary and back to talking about the job.

Power Band 4: “Wow, you seem very concerned about the salary. What is the position budgeted for?”

This power band should not be used unless they keep pushing to find out your salary requirements and only after using the other techniques. This statement should be made with a quiet and calm tone of surprise and mild concern. If the real reason they keep bringing up salary is that they are concerned you may be more than they can afford, then they should be willing to share the salary range.

If the salary range they share is within your acceptable range (or more), then you can simply reply “we are in the same ball park”.

If, however, the range they share is significantly lower than you expect for the work you will be doing and the experience you bring, then you can say “oh, now I see why you were so concerned. That is low for my level of experience and skills. A brief pause at this time, allowing for a moment of silence, may result in them saying they can possibly do better. If not, you may offer to recommend candidates that have a lot less experience. There is no need to waste their time or yours if the salary is not even a negotiable level.

When the Time Is Right

When you are the final candidate and the company makes you an offer, say “hmm” with what I term a Mona Lisa smile (neither a smile nor a frown) and pause. Let silence fill the room.

Do you know what is happening in that silence? The other person is mentally sharpening their pencil and thinking “he didn’t jump at that amount. Well I do have that extra amount I can offer and I’m sure I can go back to my boss and get a little more if I need to.” Already, without saying a word, your salary is going up.

Then express interest in the job, agree you believe it is a good fit and mention that since this is an important decision you’d like time to think it over. If you are married, you can add that you would like to talk it over with your spouse. You will not lose the opportunity because you asked for a reasonable amount of time to think about it. I suggest giving a specific date and time by which you will get back to them so they know you are not playing them.

Closing the Deal

When you get back to them, reiterate that you are interested in the position and the company and agree it is a fit both ways. Repeat what you heard them offer (to be sure you heard them correctly) and then ask if they can do any better on the salary. They will either come back with a higher counter offer or they will say they cannot.
Regardless of what they said, say that you see and then negotiate for anything else that is important to you. Do NOT accept the position before negotiating for everything that you want; once you accept the job you are now an employee and do not have the leverage you did.

If the company cannot offer more in salary at this time, propose that they give you a salary review in 3-6 months. During that time you will be proving yourself to them. Have them agree that if you meet or exceed specific expectations that they will make up the different in the salary at that time.

Another way to offset a salary that is lower than desired is what is called a signing bonus. A signing bonus is nothing more than an amount of money given up front to the new employee. This amount, however, is not factored into the salary, bonuses, or future increases.

A very important step is to get everything that you agreed upon in writing. Regardless of what they have agreed to verbally, it is only “real” if it is in writing.

True Stories

I had a client who was in the final interview when she was asked what she was thinking of salary wise. She had researched it using the online tools and told him so. She was just about to share what salary range she had discovered when she heard my voice in her head saying “hold your cards close” so she instead said “but tell me what you were thinking”. He offered $30K MORE than the range she was about to quote. The lesson is not to be the first person to speak the amount; it could cost you money.

The hiring manager had already mentioned that they have a standard policy of two weeks of vacation for the first few years of service. She shared how she currently uses her three weeks of vacation to visit her ailing parent up north. She said to no one in particular (as if to the room itself) “I wonder how we can work this out” and the hiring manager said he knew of a way and proposed it. The lesson here is to have them be a part of the solution.

Another client was reluctant to negotiate but I had covered this material with him and asked why he would leave money on the table. The company e-mailed him the offer and he contacted them back after “thinking about it” and he asked if they could do better. He was in my office when he received a text asking him to call them, they had a revised offer. What is the expression: nothing ventured, nothing gained?

Additional Resources

Of course there are numerous valuable resources on the topic of negotiations. It is a life skill and one that needs to be honed. Do not stop with what I shared here; this should only be the beginning of the process of your learning to negotiate.

By Judi Adams

Judi Adams is the Affordable and Successful Job Search Coach, author of an Amazon hottest new release “Found a Job Yet? And Other Questions NOT to Ask!”, and keynote speaker. Judi is also the creator of the YouTube video series The Five Deadly Sins of the Job Search that can be found on using FoundaJobYet in the search field. Her blog has been read world-wide since 2009. Judi’s clients have had phenomenal success finding jobs they want by following the steps she outlines for them. For more information on her new “advantage program for students” and RightChanges other services, go to

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