I have been looking into new career options recently, and I have done some recent job searching and interviewing. Thankfully, the companies haven’t yet asked me the most difficult question to answer – “What kind of salary and compensation are you looking for?”
I know what I would like to make. I also have a good idea about what I am worth and what the position is worth. But I am not positive about my assessments. If I give a number too high, then I could scare the potential employer away, and if I give a number too low, then I am selling my self short and not earning the salary I could earn.
How much am I worth as an employee?
I have not received a formal offer, but in the event I do, I will have to negotiate my salary. There are some on-line companies that can help you determine your approximate salary potential based on degree, industry, job title, and location. However, they are not always accurate. Some of the sites I have visited are salary.com, payscale.com, and vault.com. In my opinion, these sites are good resources to get a ballpark figure, but shouldn’t be judged at 100% accurate.
Using these numbers as a starting point, you also need to consider other factors. Your value is reflected by how much your prospective employer needs your skills, experience, and background, the scope and responsibility of the job, and the scarcity of your skill set within your given industry and geographic area. A computer programmer in Silicon Valley will likely earn much more than a computer programmer in Tupelo, Mississippi. Likewise, many for profit businesses pay better than non-profits, even if the job description and responsibilities are similar.
Should you divulge your current salary while negotiating?
How do you answer the question, “what is your current salary?” What a loaded question! What if you are underpaid? Should you answer truthfully, and let your new company give you a modest raise over your current salary, but still potentially leave you underpaid for the position you will field if you are hired? Should you lie about your salary and bump your salary figures $5-10k and hope to get a raise from a higher starting point? What if you know what your peers make and you aren’t in the same ballpark?
I believe you should either answer truthfully about your salary or tactfully skirt around the answer. In no circumstances do I think you should lie. The interviewing company is considering you as an employee, and this involves a level of trust which you will break if you lie. There have been many people let go shortly after being hired – all because they lied in their interview or on their application. Lying isn’t worth the risk.
How do you tactfully avoid divulging your current salary?
One of the keys to salary negotiation is not to give your number first. This puts the other side at an advantage. My plan is to state that I desire a salary commensurate with the skills and abilities I bring to the company – not based on my current salary. This is actually a standard salary negotiation tactic, but it is a good way to effectively put the ball in their court.
If the company presses the issue, you can choose to deflect the question by asking how much has been budgeted for the position, ask how much they pay others in similar roles, or just ask them what salary range they are willing to pay. You need to get the other side to determine what the position is worth to them (which they should already know), and hopefully divulge that information to you. Using this tactic is by no means lying – you are using their needs to your advantage.
How do you negotiate a higher starting salary?
Eventually, one side will have to give a number. From there, it is your goal to get the highest salary package that you will be comfortable with. Keep in mind there is more to your salary package than just the final number you negotiate for your salary. You also need to consider benefits such as 401(k) plans, pension, medical benefits, professional opportunity and growth potential, commute, nature of the work, vacation days, flex time, tuition assistance, etc.
Once you have begun exchanging numbers with the HR reps, it is up to make a case for your salary request. You will need to remind them the skills and experience you will bring to their company and reinforce their desire to have you on their team. You can also quote current market rates for similar positions. Your best bet is to be honest and be firm.
Be flexible when negotiating salary
No two negotiation situations are identical. Some companies are willing to negotiate for certain positions more than for others. In the end you have to go with what you think is best for your situation.
Back to my situation: I’ll be sure to make updates as soon as I know more about my current situation. Hopefully, I will be able to put these negotiation tactics to good use soon. If you have any other tips or comments, I would love to hear them. Right now, I am open to anything that will help me negotiate a better salary and compensation package!
Photo credit: mciarleg