By: Jim Hopkinson, author of Salary Tutor: Learn the Salary Negotiation Secrets No One Ever Taught You
The moment of truth has arrived. After weeks of research, networking, perfecting resumes, meeting all the right people, and an intense interview, the topic of compensation is broached. “So… what were you looking for in terms of salary?” The question hangs in the air as your heart beats faster, your mouth goes a little dry; the anticipation is palpable. How will this play out? What do I say next?
If you’re envisioning a 25-year-old job seeker squirming in their just-purchased suit and you’re starting to feel bad for them, don’t.
In the scenario above, it’s the hiring manager that is the nervous one.
Salary Negotiation: A Two-Way Street
During any interview, common thinking says that all the pressure is on the job candidate… after all, they are the ones trying to set themselves apart from the crowd and impress the company enough to get hired.
But remember that the interview process is a two-way street. For companies with an important job to fill, extracting the perfect candidate from the legions of uninspiring “I’m looking for a company that will utilize my interpersonal skills” resumes can be a challenge. Once you have that person in your grasp, they pass your rigorous qualifications, and you want to -- need to -- get them on board as soon as possible, the final question is asked: Can you afford them?
Here are 5 salary negotiation tips for employers to consider:
1. Access the best candidates
Studies have shown that upwards of 80% of jobs are found through networking. So if job seekers are out there expanding their network and tapping into friends of friends, why aren’t you? You don’t even have to do it all yourself. Empower your employees to spread the word that you are looking for amazing new people to join your team, and reward them for quality referrals.
2. Don’t scare them off
Some employers try to screen out candidates before they even know their name. If your job description or application has hazard label warning language such as RESUMES THAT ARE SUBMITTED THAT DO NOT CONTAIN A FULL SALARY HISTORY WILL BE IGNORED, what does that say about your company?
3. Give them the tour
In my book Salary Tutor, I instruct candidates to defer premature salary talk by eager HR screeners by saying something such as “I’ve done my homework in terms of salary, but would really like to know more about the company before we talk details.” The key for them is not just saying the words, but believing them.
For example, what if they give a low number early, but upon getting a full description of the job’s responsibilities, they find out there is more travel than anticipated, longer working hours, and shrinking budgets. They realize they’d need a lot more compensation to take the job. Conversely, if they say a high number up front, then instantly click with their would-be manager, find out there’s a fantastic new project in the pipeline, and realize this is their dream job, they could be screened out for being “too expensive.”
So before pressing candidates for a bottom line number, make sure they’ve seen the big picture.
4. Do your research
Some employers begin salary talks by asking “What are you making at your current job?”
The problem with this question is, unless you plan on doing an extensive background check, you won’t know if the candidate is telling the truth, taking their salary +20%, or picking a number out of hat. Furthermore, if the person is unemployed (zero salary), doing some consulting (where rates vary dramatically), or changing careers, it can be difficult to compare the past with the present.
But most importantly, it doesn’t matter what they are making now. The fact is, you are the one offering the job. The assumption here is that you’re hiring because you feel an additional employee will bring in more revenue to your company, so you should have a number in mind that makes sure that the return on investment is worth it.
It’s up to you to do the research and know the market value of the employee you are looking to hire, factoring in years of experience, geographic location, and demand for the position. Fortunately, a host of online resources [including the HR Salary Wizard] make it easy to determine a job’s market value for bank tellers in Boise or software engineers in Silicon Valley.
5. Respect their research
The way a prospective employee handles salary negotiation should give you a pretty good indication of their character. Are they too timid to ask for what they’re worth? Do they get frustrated or demanding if your initial offer doesn’t align with their thinking?
Or, do they calmly and confidently approach this part of the interview like a business transaction? A candidate that has done extensive research on current market rates, shows you supporting documentation for the rate they are asking and ultimately knows their true worth and stands by it sounds like someone I would want on my team.
In the end, negotiating a salary can be stressful for all parties involved. But with the right preparation, employers can get their money’s worth when the moment of truth arrives to make a job offer.
Author Bio: Jim Hopkinson is a marketing director at Conde Nast in New York City, hosts a popular blog and podcast called The Hopkinson Report, and teaches a social media class at NYU. His book, Salary Tutor: Learn the Salary Negotiation Secrets No One Ever Taught You is available on Amazon.com. Learn more at SalaryTutor.com.