The Art of Negotiation

By Darren Kaltved | April 27, 2021

Salary negotiation can be one of the most scary and challenging aspects of a job search, but like buying a car…you too can walk away with a great deal! It is extremely important that you know that the concept of salary negotiation is less intimidating than you may realize. Why, may you ask…well, this may surprise you, but most employers actually expect you to negotiate. It’s true…employers who provide offers tend to shoot low on their salary range; if they can get you at a cheaper rate than even what you may be worth they see this as a victory. However, the goal with any salary negotiation is making sure you get at least what you are worth…if not more. Before are a few tips to help you through the salary negotiation process; getting the offer you deserve!

The 3 P’s of Salary Negotiation

Preparation: Being prepared for this process is absolutely essential for successful negotiating. Start out by researching the average salary range for the position you received an offer for. While doing so, keep in mind the company and its culture (use annual reports, websites, reference materials available at libraries such as “Business Directory”); the geographical location (for instance, the standard of living in California is much different than in Minnesota); and finally your own market value (years of experience, education, and skills). To help you better understand your market value, try to compare yourself to an average applicant (someone with a similar degree, one field-related experience, and average skills). Then, determine what aspects of yourself (experience, skills, education) make you an “above-average” applicant. These are the factors you will use to solidify your reasoning for why you see yourself at a higher salary rate. In addition to the research you will conduct, it is also important to assess and reflect on your personal criteria for what you want in an offer package. Start by assessing the following: what are your must haves?, what are you “would like to haves”?, and finally what are your “can live withouts”? For example, your must haves may include paid holidays, your ideal haves may include profit sharing benefits, and things you would be willing to live without may include some evening hours.

Poise: This pertains to your ability to remain calm and confident in uncomfortable or frustrating situations. Here are some things you can do to demonstrate poise:

  • Do not reveal your salary requirements too early in the process. SPH Career Services can assist you in determining when the best time would be.
  • Convey confidence throughout the entire process. Remember, you would not have gotten the interview if they didn’t think you could do the job!
  • Show enthusiasm and appreciation for any offer they do provide.
  • Stay positive!
  • Finally, take your time when an offer is made – DO NOT accept the offer on the stop. If needed, ask for at least a day or two (if not longer) to think about it.This will not only allow the good news to settle in, but more importantly will allow you the time to “prepare” (see the previous section).

Professional: The way you negotiate is an example of the behavior the employer will expect to see on the job; this is where confidence and realistic expectations come into play. Things to keep in mind:

  • Understand the dynamics of the situation (for instance, you may negotiate differently if you have been job searching for a long time vs. if you have several offers to consider).
  • Remain focused and positive – you and the employer share a common goal – getting you to feel good about joining the company.
  • Be confident – remember, companies expect you to negotiate.
  • Ask questions – hearing how they arrived at their offer may give you clues about alternatives. Never accept or agree to something that remains confusing…the more questions you ask, the more clarity you will have throughout the negotiation process.
  • Detach yourself from the outcome – it will help you relax AND you won’t alienate your future boss.
  • Focus on the value of the total package. This includes the salary, benefits package, and in some cases signing bonuses or relocation assistance.
  • Know where you are willing to compromise (see “personal criteria” above)
  • Finally, know when to quit. If they are not budging…don’t push it.

Additional Tips

During the Interview Process:

  • Do not be the first one to approach the salary issue; always…always wait for the employer to bring it up.
  • Do not negotiate salaries until a job offer has been made.
  • If asked about salary issues before a job offer has been made, you may ask “What is the range for this position?”
  • Try to avoid mentioning past salary or hourly wage rates history or information – unless they ask for it.
  • Never stop selling yourself. Keep telling the company how you will benefit them throughout the negotiation process.

Once the Job Offer Has Been Made:

  • When a salary offer is initially given, respond by repeating the figure, then staying silent for about 15-30 seconds, as you think it over.
  • Remember that benefits are often (not always) negotiable, and increased or customized benefits packages can be used to bring the overall value of employer salary offers into line with your salary goals. If you don’t anticipate using a specific benefit, ask for another in its place or monetary compensation – it may not be an option, but it also doesn’t hurt to ask. Note: benefits cost the company 30-40% in addition to your salary. This is typically referred to as the “Total Compensation Package.”

After the Negotiation
When you think you have reached a satisfactory agreement:

  • Don’t accept a job, salary, or benefits offer at the table; remember to ask for at least 24 hours to think it over, then respond.
  • Always get the job, salary, and benefits offer in writing before formally accepting.
  • If the employer doesn’t offer a formal letter, write your own. Include details about the job, start date, hours/schedule, salary, and benefits…then ask them to agree to it by signing your letter.
  • Finally, not all negotiations go as well as one would hope so don’t be afraid to walk away. You’ll be more confident, and in some cases may receive higher compensation.

For additional assistance or if you would like to discuss your offer with one of our career counselors, feel free to contact Vic at victorm@umn.edu or Darren at dkaltved@umn.edu.

Happy Negotiating!

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