Receiving a job offer is an exhilarating experience. The hard work of applying and interviewing has paid off. Before officially coming aboard, however, one more step remains: salary negotiations.
This process can be intimidating and take the shine off your excitement, unless of course, you are prepared for it.
Human resources managers conduct salary negotiations looking at the costs to the company while wanting to present an attractive offer to a candidate they seek. It is a delicate balance for both you and them. How should you conduct yourself in this process? The key steps are to "be prepared, be confident, avoid games, have realistic expectations, and, of course, negotiate." These were the main points shared in a recent discussion I had with Jeri Tackett, president of the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management.
Tackett recommended not just doing research before negotiating with the company, but before even applying for the job. Knowing ahead of time what the average salary range is for a particular position will help ensure that you are applying to a job you could ultimately take if offered.
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There are many online sites that offer "salary reports," but Tackett cautions against them, saying that many are not reliable. She points to industry associations as the best places for researching salary information. Keep in mind cost of living as you review salary range information, because salaries in Kentucky are often lower than the national average. You can use online "cost of living calculators" to determine a local salary range.
In addition to research, Tackett said "confidence" is crucial in the negotiation process. Confidently quoting a salary range — she stressed "range" — and then defending it based upon your expertise and the going rates of pay for that position will make your argument more convincing. Being confident also helps you "avoid games," she said. Tackett was clear that human resources managers are not interested in playing games with salary negotiations, but instead want a mature conversation in which both parties have realistic expectations and negotiate in good faith.
Once you make your pitch for a salary, be prepared to compromise. Asking is not the same thing as receiving. Human resources managers are not only looking at the costs of employing you in terms of salary, but the overall package including paid time off, health insurance and other benefits. It might be that a company cannot afford to pay what you are asking for or deserve, especially in this economy, but that does not mean the conversation ends.
Tackett recommends creative approaches such as proposing to "revisit the issue in six months" during a performance review, which is a great incentive to do well, or waiving a "benefits waiting period."
Being flexible and open to working with the human resources staff can go a long way to making you feel more comfortable with the package you agree to and ultimately in working for the company.
On the other hand, if you decide that you cannot accept their final proposal, be gracious in declining the offer of employment. Burning bridges is never a good job search strategy. If you end negotiations on good terms, that company may pursue you in the future if their situation changes and they can afford you. Of course, declining an offer means you are back on the job search, which has its own costs.
Whatever your decision, be comfortable with it. If you do accept, oh what a feeling. I hope that those of you out there job seeking have that feeling soon. Best of luck.