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10.6 How to Negotiate without Alienating Your Prospective Employer

Learning Objectives

  1. Learn the strategies that work well with recruiters and hiring managers when you do want to negotiate.
  2. Conduct research, so you can back up any request and thus minimize conflict of any kind.

In the previous section, good communications skills were highlighted as a way to effectively negotiate an offer with two prospective employers. In addition to good communication skills, you can employ other strategies.

When negotiating for increased salary, it’s imperative to make the business case for why your skill set deserves the pay you request. Share market data that shows how much people with this skill earn (your research from step 3 will give you this information). Show how the skill will add to the company’s bottom line (your assessment of your strengths from step 2 and your interview skills from step 4 will enable you to do this). If you lack years of experience, focus on what you can do from here on and keep the discussion centered on the skill as opposed to experience to maximize your negotiations.

Case in Point

Kevin is a master’s level chemical engineering major. He received the offer he wanted: to work on a government base, focused on a fascinating project for which he was perfectly suited. He received an offer for $53,000.

Kevin was disappointed and thought he should have received $65,000. When he asked his career coach how to raise the offer to $65,000, the coach asked where he came up with the $65,000 figure. Kevin didn’t have anything to substantiate the figure, other than to say he thought it was an equitable amount given his advanced degree and his 3.8 GPA.

Kevin was instructed to conduct research as to what a chemical engineer, with a master’s degree would be able to get in the market. He checked with his career services office, and he was told $60,000 was the going rate. He did a Google search regarding what a chemical engineer in New York City was apt to get and $60,000 came up again. He then spoke to a peer at his college who was working for a similar company, doing a similar job, and she was paid $60,000.

Kevin was now confident that $60,000 was the number to reach. He wanted to contact his employer to discuss this, but practiced with his career coach in advance. Once he was comfortable with how to present his case, he made the call:

Kevin: Hello Mr. Duffy, it’s good to talk with you again. I wanted to thank you again for the offer you gave me for this position. This is exactly the type of work I was hoping to do once I graduated and I’m very excited to begin.

Mr. Duffy: I’m glad to hear it. I’m very excited to have you join the team, and I’m hoping you are calling to accept.

Kevin: I do want to accept and I want to be excited about the position. I’ve done a bit of research and found that my skills, in today’s market, call for a base salary of $60,000 versus the $53,000 offer I received from you. This was supported by my college’s career services office, by a salary survey of chemical engineers conducted just two months ago, and by my peers at my university. Is there any way I can get the offer raised to $60,000?

Mr. Duffy: Unfortunately Kevin, my hands are tied. I have a budget that allows for $53,000 and I cannot move from that point. In six months, however, I am able to give you a performance increase, should things go well, and there is a possibility that I can raise your salary by $10,000. In addition, we offer you the opportunity to get your PhD, on premises, and at no cost to you. I hope that is of interest to you.

Kevin: It absolutely is. I have great confidence that my performance will be very strong and that I will be able to contribute quickly and significantly. I do have great interest in obtaining my PhD. I thank you for discussing this with me and I would like to formally accept the offer. Will you be sending me an offer letter?

Mr. Duffy: I’m so pleased. Yes, your offer letter will be sent out tomorrow and I look forward to receiving the signed copy back from you. I am anxious to have you join our team!

Kevin: I am as well. Thanks very much!

This phone exchange communicates five very important things:

  1. Kevin is professional when communicating with Mr. Duffy. He is polite and thanks him once again for the offer, reiterating that this job is exactly what he was looking for.
  2. Kevin then makes his case for a higher salary. He doesn’t just state he wants a higher salary for the sake of wanting it. He gives three legitimate points for why it should be $60,000.
  3. Once Mr. Duffy states that he cannot give a higher base salary offer, note that Kevin does not interrupt.
  4. Mr. Duffy then states that while he can’t raise the salary, he is able to give an increase six months into the job. He also adds that Kevin has the opportunity to get his PhD. Kevin may not have ever known about the potential to increase his salary six months into the job. This is a vital information point that can be very lucrative for Kevin.
  5. Both parties are pleased with the outcome.

Market your skills, especially if you have unique abilities. For example, if you speak more than one language, that can be seen as a benefit to an employer, especially when dealing with customers. Think about how that differentiates you and market that skill in terms of how it benefits your future employer.

Highlight how your background strengthens your candidacy. If you’ve had internships and part-time jobs that added to your skill set and will ensure that you contribute readily to an employer from day one, make sure you discuss that information with them. The key to impressing a potential employer is to make the case why your skills outmatch your competition by showing them why and how—even if you have to volunteer your time.

Demonstrate how your skills can benefit your employer now. If you’ve completed work via an internship or a previous job that has direct usefulness to your future employer, share it with them (as long as you don’t share confidential data). Demonstrate that you can do the job right now, and that you have familiarity with the process. That could nudge you ahead of your competition.

Always negotiate professionally, and always be prepared to hear no. This way, you are encouraged by what you can achieve through the negotiation process. Never engage in aggressive negotiating behavior because it can backfire and cause you to lose the offer completely.

Use your references. You were advised to gather recommendations in advance of your interviewing activity. Sharing testimonials of a job well done can only support your candidacy in a very positive way.

Remember the famous phrase, “It’s business, it’s not personal.” It can be difficult to separate business and emotions; however, highlight your accomplishments by their business impact, including costs saved, revenue generated, and profits increased. Be very clear about how your contribution leads to bottom-line impact.

Good negotiating is a valuable skill you will always use in your career, so strengthen this skill sooner rather than later!

Key Takeaways

  • Solid research lays the groundwork for solid and successful negotiation.
  • Practicing your negotiation with a colleague or classmate can help tremendously in the actual negotiation session.

Exercise

  1. Role-play to negotiate for $5,000 more in base salary and a performance bonus. When role-playing the hiring manager, be especially tough in your negotiation stance.