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Posted by on Jul 9, 2013

Afraid to Negotiate Salary? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be

Afraid to Negotiate Salary? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be

There are two types of job seekers: those who are willing (and sometimes eager) to negotiate salary with a hiring manager and those who are terrified by the prospect.

I confess, I belong to the second group. To me, salary negotiation is scary. My first inclination is to take what the employer offers and avoid rocking the boat by asking for more. But I also know that salary negotiation is a normal part of the hiring process. At times, it’s even a necessary part.

And that means you shouldn’t be afraid to engage in a little back and forth the next time you’re presented with a job offer.

Most hiring managers are actually open to the idea. In a poll by The Creative Group, 63 percent of advertising and marketing executives said they are willing to negotiate starting compensation when extending a job offer to a top candidate. Only 28 percent said they are not. I’m sure those figures are fairly similar across most industries.

Think about it. Finding professionals with specialized skills is tough — in any employment market. If you were an employer, would you risk losing the perfect hire over a few thousand dollars?

But whether it comes naturally to you or not, you need to remember that there’s a right way and a wrong way to negotiate salary. Here are some tips:

Educate yourself. The first order of business: Know what your skills and experience are worth by doing a little salary research. That helps you determine whether the offer is actually low or if it’s more reasonable than you assumed. You’ll also be able to cite a specific figure if you decide to ask for more. That’s key to getting the ball rolling.

Thanks to the Internet, gathering the information you need is easy. Check out resources like the annual Salary Guides from Robert Half and the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Having hard data can be invaluable when making your case.

Consider more than just the money. Although salary is often the biggest component of the compensation package, it’s not the only part. Does the employer also offer healthcare coverage? A 401(k) plan? Cool perks or on-site amenities? Weigh every aspect of working for the firm, including things like training programs, flexible work options and the overall company culture. With the full picture in mind, do you still feel what you were offered falls short?

Keep it polite and professional. I can’t stress this point enough. Your goal shouldn’t be to win but rather to reach an agreement that both you and the company are happy with. Keep in mind that the person on the other side of the negotiating table could be your future boss. You don’t want to burn bridges before they’re built.

This also means not making unreasonable demands. Some candidates start with overly ambitious requests, assuming the company will “negotiate down anyway.” If you take this approach, you could set a bad tone from the start and actually weaken your claim that you deserve to make more.

Don’t bluff. Just don’t. It’s not worth the risk.

Know where the line is. There’s a limit to every hiring manager’s patience or ability to meet your demands. When you sense that you’ve reached that point, step back and determine if you can live with the offer. Trust that the person is being honest if he or she says it’s the final offer and don’t push for more.

If you’re still not satisfied, that’s OK. Be gracious, be appreciative and be honest about your reason for walking away.

Get it in writing. Always, always, always ask for a formal letter or contract that outlines the compensation package you and the company representative have verbally agreed to. Make sure it spells out your salary, benefits and any special arrangements, such as a signing bonus or extra vacation days. You’ll want this document in case a misunderstanding arises down the line.

A company may not always be able or willing to meet your request for increased compensation. But it almost never hurts to ask. As long as you do it the right way, that is.

Have you ever negotiated a job offer with a hiring manager? What was your experience like?

Photo Credit.

About Robert McCauley

Robert McCauley is a career expert with Robert Half, a leading specialized staffing firm that helps skilled professionals find rewarding temporary and full-time jobs in a variety of fields. Robert has been writing about the job search and careers for more than 10 years. Connect with him and Robert Half on Twitter and YouTube.

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