The Salary Negotiation – Playing the Numbers Game to Win

So you are interviewing for a great new job, and now comes the question –

“What are your salary requirements”?

At this point in the process many people suddenly become intimidated, feel a raise in their blood pressure, and questions like the following start racing through their brains at the speed of light:

  • How much should I ask for?
  • What if my number is too high?
  • How can I be sure that I don’t give too low a figure?

If left to run amok, this line of thinking can induce severe emotional reactions, up to and including panic (sometimes in even the most focused individuals).  This in turn can cause the affected person to utter poorly worded statements, or create an uncomfortable pause in the discussion, which can ultimately sink the prospect of obtaining the job itself.

However, there is no need to feel nervous or over-emotional during this phase of the interview. There are some simple steps and methods which can help keep you calm and maintain your focus during the process.

1.  Do your homework.

It is an absolute must that you research how much the job pays before you go in and interview for it.  Look at how much the average salary is both nationally and for the region/area of the country in which you want to work.

While this may seem like common sense, it is astonishing the number of people who only have a general idea of what they should be getting paid for their jobs, rather than arming themselves with the knowledge they need to succeed.

2.  Be Generally Specific

At first glance this statement does sound a bit odd as it is a paradox.  However, it is a very apt approach for this situation, and the proper execution of this strategy can be very effective.

To accomplish this, you will need to give a number within the range you researched previously, but without actually giving a range.  This is to combat the fact that most companies are going to try to hire you for the lowest wage they think they can get you to accept (more on that in the next section).

For example, after doing your homework let’s say you determine that the job you are seeking should pay between an average range of $48,000 to $53,000, with some individuals even reaching $55,000-56,000 per year at the top end.  By having this knowledge at your disposal, you can proceed with confidence.

So, once you are asked the question by the interviewer – “What are your salary requirements?” you can respond to them confidently with a statement similar to the following – “I am seeking about $53,000 per year”.

The word about is key in the statement above.  While it does not seem to be that important, that word can have a significant psychological effect as it will subconsciously generate the idea of flexibility within the interviewer’s mind.  This occurs while still keeping the requested wage on the higher end of the spectrum, tipping things toward your advantage.

3. The Fine Art of Haggling

As mentioned previously, most companies will ultimately try to hire you for the lowest wage that they think you will accept, while of course not telling you that there is actually room for variation in the majority of cases.

When you state a wage requirement, typically many companies will come back with an offer that is on average $3,000 – $5,000 less than the number you gave.

So continuing with the previous example, by giving them the number of $53,000, you could reasonably expect that they will possibly drop the number down to about $49,000.

However, this does not mean that you have to accept this offer immediately.  Pay attention to the words used by the person offering the figure.  In particular, look for any words or phrases that are open-ended, or that indicate the flexibility you previously planted in their minds.

For example, if you are asked – “Would you accept an offer of $49,000?”  This is obviously an open ended statement trying to determine how low they can go with their offer.

You could respond with – “No, but I could accept $51,000”.

By making this counterpoint, it demonstrates that you are flexible, but not a pushover for the first thing that comes along, and this type of response keeps you closer to achieving your goals.  In many cases, the person making the initial offer will find terms like this acceptable and agree to them.

Finally, you must also be prepared to accept the possibility that there is no room to negotiate.  If this occurs, then you will need to make a decision, can you live with making the lower salary, or should you decline and continue your job search?

This is something that every individual must decide for themselves, so make sure that this scenario is considered and have your answer prepared in advance just in case.

4.  Ace the Interview

Through all of this, keep in mind that you still have to succeed in the interview itself to even have a shot at getting to the salary negotiation stage.  If you don’t, it doesn’t matter what salary number you have in mind, as everything else then becomes a moot point.

So keep your focus, and be sincerely honest when answering the interviewer’s questions as doing that will go a long way toward leaving a good, lasting impression on the interviewer.

Final Thoughts

Remember that the salary negotiation is only part of the interviewing process.  Do not let it distract you from the main task at hand, which is getting the job in the first place.

Also bear in mind at all times is that you must get as much of the salary as possible right from the start.  This is due to the fact that for most professionals raises have become just like dragons or unicorns – A mythical thing that people talk about but never see in real life.

Lastly, it is important to mention that there is a small chance that you will one of the lucky few who actually get the job they want at the wage they request.  If this happens to you, then big congratulations are in order as you must have impressed the interviewer immensely, well done.

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