Navigating the salary negotiation process can be tricky. You don’t want to overplay your hand, but you can’t afford to sell yourself short either. Many job seekers shy away from negotiating out of fear they’ll blow the deal.
But here’s a little secret: Most employers expect to engage in some back-and-forth discussion at the bargaining table. In fact, more than one-third of executives interviewed by Robert Half said they’re more willing to negotiate salary with top applicants than they were one year ago. Only five percent of hiring managers are less willing to negotiate.
Consider the following six tips for negotiating with finesse:
1. Understand your market value. Savvy salary negotiating doesn’t involve throwing out a ridiculously high figure and hoping the employer says yes. The best negotiators are well-informed.
Do your homework and support your request with concrete numbers from reputable sources. Review current compensation standards for PR professionals in your area and at your experience level by consulting publications such as The Creative Group’s 2013 Salary Guide. The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics is another valuable resource.
2. Look at the whole picture. Remember to consider all aspects of the deal, not just pay. An attractive healthcare benefits package, bonus opportunities, a retirement savings plan and perks such as tuition reimbursement or relocation assistance can make up for a lower base salary.
Also, don’t overlook the intangibles when doing your cost/benefit analysis. For instance, flexible scheduling, remote work options and a shorter commute can improve your work/life balance.
3. Research the firm. Before you start plotting your negotiation strategy, get an idea of how much wiggle room there is. Learn about the organization’s financial standing by reviewing its website and searching for relevant news stories in business and trade publications. If it’s a public company, look at the most recent earnings statements and annual reports.
Ask members of your professional network what they know about the organization, too. If you discover the firm or agency recently announced layoffs or a salary freeze, you’ll probably want to recalibrate your expectations.
4. Keep it friendly. Always manage negotiation discussions tactfully. You can make a strong case without issuing ultimatums or threatening to walk away if your demands aren’t met. Remember: You’re negotiating with someone who could be your future boss, not haggling with a used car salesperson you’ll never see again.
Be poised and pleasant, not adversarial. And be a straight shooter. Candidates sometimes falsely claim to have a more lucrative job offer from another company only to have the misguided bluff called and end up with nothing.
5. Ask to revisit the issue. If the company can’t quite meet your desired salary, ask if the hiring manager would be willing to re-evaluate your compensation in six months. The firm could be in better financial standing by that time, and your manager will have had an opportunity to see the value you provide firsthand. It never hurts to ask, and now’s the time to do so.
6. Get it in writing. If your salary negotiation is successful, make sure to get a contract detailing all aspects of the agreement. This includes compensation and any special arrangements (such as a signing bonus, extra personal days or early salary review) you’ve settled upon.
Finally, if you decide to turn down an offer, do it with class. Go out of your way to be gracious and appreciative. It’s best to give the employer the courtesy of a phone call rather than a quick “thanks, but no thanks” email.
The bottom line is that you want to do everything possible to leave the door open to future contact. Just because you weren’t able to come to an agreement for this particular position doesn’t mean there won’t be a more desirable or suitable opportunity at the company down the line.
The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing interactive, design, marketing, advertising and public relations professionals with a variety of firms. More information, including online job-hunting services, candidate portfolios and TCG’s award-winning career magazine, can be found at creativegroup.com.