Negotiate Salary With Confidence
The most sensitive topic of the job interview process is how to negotiate salary. What if they aren’t expecting to pay as much as I want or need? What if they are looking for someone to work 50 hours per week on a 40 hour salary? These questions must be answered before you start, otherwise you may be in for a rude awakening. Work out salary requirements during the final interview prior to the offer. If you have a salary expectation, you must make them aware of it before they extend an offer.
Know Your Worth
Research salaries and know your worth before you even apply for the job. When you are interviewing for a job, you are selling yourself. Just like you research the value of your car before you sell or trade it in, you need to know exactly what the job should pay given the job description. If the company is offering less than the industry median salary, there may be any number of reasons. In my experience, it usually means the company is experiencing cash flow problems, so I would look elsewhere before accepting a job with a lower-than-average salary. But if you are willing to work for less, request additional vacation time or incentive pay.
As a contractor, all earnings are incentive pay. But when you’re working a salary job, you are paid the same amount regardless of how fast or efficient you work. There may be performance metrics related to your job that you must meet, otherwise you work 40 hours a week and collect a paycheck. As an employee, it is important to negotiate incentive pay, such as an annual bonus. Make sure the requirements for any incentive are clearly described and reviewed periodically throughout the year. There should be no reason you are denied any incentive if you follow the guidelines.
If you have vacation requirements, let them know that too. I always recommend asking for at least 4 weeks of paid vacation , matching 401k contributions, full health benefits, and at least the industry median salary. If you have the experience and education to back up your request, the company should have no problem providing it. Any company that seeks to pay you less than the industry average without providing additional benefits is no place you should be working.
A note on health benefits: Health benefits vary widely in pricing, and families are often left paying thousands of dollars a year. If you have a family, get to know the company’s benefits package before you negotiate salary requirements. If the offerings are not sufficient for your family’s needs, consider looking for a job elsewhere.
You Are ‘At-Will’
Having a job means you are working for someone else, plain and simple. While it makes for a consistent paycheck and helps pay the bills regularly, you are likely in an ‘at-will’ environment which means you can be terminated for any reason, without notice and without cause. This alone should be cause enough for you to review other job opportunities annually, even if you absolutely love your job. If the company isn’t providing you generous retirement contributions, more than 4 weeks of vacation time, and regular raises, you’re not getting what you deserve. You job search goals should always include more vacation time, greater salary and at minimum, match your 401k contributions.
Sealing the Deal
Now that you know what you’re worth, including time off and retirement contributions, it’s time to negotiate salary. This is where you lay it all out on the table. Confidently state your salary range and use the benefits as your negotiating chips. Start with a salary range that’s average to 20% over the industry average, so you can gauge their interest. They may not offer retirement contribution, so you may receive 10% over average instead. When you can agree on a total package, have the offer drawn up in writing, and give yourself an evening to review it. I recommend sending the accept letter before 10 the following morning.
A Final Note: Helping Your Career
People say you shouldn’t jump around. They say you should work at the same place for a few years before you move on, and when you do, leave gracefully. This is all great advice for people working in the 1950s, but today that just isn’t the case. The best way to help your career is to work with people that are better than you. That part is never guaranteed, but you can seek out teams that excel, and people that exude knowledge. It’s like playing tennis – you always want a partner better than you to improve your game. If the people you work with are weak, chances are you’re going to pick up the slack. Don’t do everyone else’s job and get paid for only your own, get out there and find a job where you are either well compensated for your additional efforts or given hiring/firing decisions so that any incompetence will be your own fault.