Salary Negotiations: Tips and Tricks

“How the prospect behaves in courtship can be indicative of how they will behave in the job,” said the head of a global PR firm. “Do be reasonable and respectful,” “Don’t be super-needy.  Unless you are bringing in a huge portfolio of business – in which case exceptions can be made!”

“Ask for what you want before you get hired.  You get more when you’re dating than when you’re married.”   “If there are any intricacies at all regarding your deal, don’t be afraid to ask for it in writing. The job description is really fundamental and important.  When you get your deal in writing you should also get a clear statement of whom you will be reporting to.  And not a name, a job title.“

Many firms are looking for an entrepreneurial spirit; your willingness to accept variable compensation is one indicator of that attitude.   What this is based on will depend on specifics – but revenues and profits fluctuate, so there should be a way to craft something that can provide a variable upside for you.

There are other ways to boost your compensation beyond the base salary.  One firm offers all staffers a 10% commission on all new business they introduce.  This does make employees feel there is something extra they can aim for.  In that company 10% of staff are getting these commissions on top of their salaries.

Staff referrals can be an important source of hires for many firms.  For employees this is another good way to boost your income.  Existing staffers can get significant cash bonuses for introducing people who are hired – $3000 is not unusual.   (And so, job seekers, don’t underestimate the potential of making friends who work at a company you’d like to work at.)

As to the big question – how much should I ask for, there was a strong sense at a recent panel discussion on this topic that you should let the employer speak first.  Then come back with the highest package total you think is possible.  Remember there will likely be no raises.  And don’t fall for the old “we’ll review your salary in 6 months.” That line is less than worthless!

Do your research into what people at your level are actually earning – there is a lot of information to be found on the internet.  Find people at the company you are looking at, or its competitors, and see if you can get some actual salary ranges out of them.

The panel also suggested getting advice from a lawyer or an agent.  They know what is happening in the compensation field and can be a powerful objective guide and spine stiffener – even if you do the negotiation yourself.  There are up and coming lawyers who are less expensive than the big boys, so use your network to find one. I can say from personal experience that on the occasions I had a lawyer help me with my own deals they were so effective that I recouped their fees in just a couple of months.  My initial outlay paid off in orders of magnitude.

One final technique that is recommended by some is what is called the “Last Ask.”  When you have gone through the negotiation process and just before you get to the handshake, the Last Ask has you say:  “I am all set to do this, I just need this one more thing…” Employers of course hate the Last Ask, but it is a ploy worth considering.

Finally, however you proceed with your negotiation, bear in mind that this cannot be a confrontation: at all times you must remember to be reasonable and respectful.  If you can’t manage this at this stage of the relationship, then maybe that particular position is not for you.