I received a reader question concerning salary negotiation. Here is the answer based on my experience and other readings and discussions. I hope this helps people negotiate a better starting salary, because your salary and ability to create income is your greatest asset.
Interesting topic. It’s my experience that the employers ask for the current salary and offer a salary that’s based on the current salary. So it’s kind of a tough world if you are underpaid. My question is do you need to reveal if you have competing offers? If you have two offers though two different recruiters, how much can you reveal? The name of the firms that have offered? The name of the other recruiter? Would the two recruiters gang up against you if you do so? ~ Rudy
Rudy, These are great questions. In my opinion, salary negotiation is an inexact science. What works for one situation may not work for another situation.
Your salary offer may be based on your current salary. Some companies will require you to give them a W2 with proof of your salary for them to make you an offer. This is actually common in the government sector where there are finite pay bands based on your rank, and a step system of incremental increases. They may be willing to match your pay to one of these steps if you can prove you made more than their offer.
Other companies will pay you based on what the position is worth to them, or will pay you based on your degree, experience, certifications, etc. In this case, determining your value can be difficult to assess, especially if you are switching industries.
Your Offer May be Based on Current Salary
It’s my experience that the employers ask for the current salary and offer a salary that’s based on the current salary. You do not need to reveal your salary to the company you are interviewing with. If you don’t tell your prospective employer your current salary, they can’t base your new salary on your old one. There are ways around that such as requesting to be paid “commensurate with the requirements of the position and the skills and abilities you bring to the company.”
Another way to handle this is to make the other company give their offer before stating your salary requests. Penelope Trunk, the author of Brazen Careerist, recently wrote about how to answer the most difficult interview question – what are your salary requests? I highly recommend reading this article if you are even considering looking for a new job.
If you are underpaid, you can mention one of the reasons you are looking for new work is because you are underpaid based on the value you provide your company, the skills you have, the duties you perform, etc. Your ability to negotiate will improve if you have recently earned a new degree, certification, or other highly sought after skill. However, be careful with the way you negotiate this, as you don’t want it to seem as though you are only after money. Your best bet is to have a very good idea of your value as an employee and be able to back it up.
Do you need to reveal if you have competing offers?
You do not need to reveal if you have competing offers, however, it may be in your best interest to do so if you believe the companies will bid against each other for your services. How much information you reveal is up to you and should be determined by your situation. If you have an extremely sought after skill and you have companies in the same industry that are competing for the same work, dropping the competition’s name could work wonders in increasing your offer. If the industries are opposite, it may not do you any good to drop the name of the other company you have an offer from.
I recommend being careful using offers in your salary negotiation. While it can be a great way to get a company to increase their offer, you do not want to overplay your hand with this and seem as though you are only after money.
Stress that you are interested in the position, tell them why you are a great fit for the job, and express your salary requests and justify why you are worth that much. You probably shouldn’t go back and forth more than a couple times with the salary offer from another company. The person you are negotiating with could quickly tire of using companies against each other if you try it too many times.
How much can you reveal if you have two different recruiters?
I have never worked with a recruiter before, but I would be very careful here. Recruiters are working for you to find you a job and they get paid a commission for their efforts. It is much like using two real estate agents – they probably will not work with you if they know you are working with someone else.
You also want to be sure you have not entered into any exclusivity contracts with them, or made any commitments to use only one recruiter. This could lead to a sticky situation that could potentially have legal implications if you signed any exclusivity agreements.
I think the recruiting field has a lot of cross communication between recruiters and if the recruiters discover you are using them against each other, they may decide not to assist you in your search. Why should they put a lot of time into searching for a job for you if they may not be compensated for their efforts?
Would the two recruiters gang up against you if you do so? Possibly. Or they may just not help you at all.
Do your research and go with the best situation for you
There are a lot of places to get salary information. A great place to start is with on-line companies such as salary.com, payscale.com, and vault.com. They can help you determine your approximate salary potential based on industry, job title, and location. However, they are not always accurate and should only be used for a ballpark figure.
It will also benefit you to research salary negotiation. There are many free resources on the web – such as this article and many others – that can help you with developing better negotiation tactics, or explain the process.
In the end, if you are not satisfied with a job offer, you always have the ability to renegotiate or turn it down. But remember, there is more to a job offer than just the final dollar value. You should keep in mind the professional opportunity the position offers, the benefits package, location, vacation days, and other factors.
Good luck, I hope you are able to negotiate for the position and package you are seeking!
Photo credit: inlinguaManchester.