Negotiating a salary is intimidating, especially when it is for a new job. For many, they are just happy to have an interview and job prospect – especially given the current state of the economy during COVID-19. The last thing you want to do is ruin your chances at a job by being too aggressive when talking dollars and cents.
That said, you don’t want to leave money on the table that is available to you and that employers are willing to negotiate for. The next time you go in for an interview and are asked about salary expectations, remember these do’s and don’ts.
1. Arm yourself with research
Do: In the words of Scar, “Be Prepared.” Take the time and research comparable positions in the area for those with your level of experience to get a feel for what the salary should be. Know the high- and low- end ranges of the salary so you can get a better feel for what your prospective employer should offer you.
Don’t: A salary is not like most goods you pay for where the price is the price. It is more like buying a car – there is some wiggle room. According to a study by Salary.com, 84 percent of employers expect job applicants to negotiate salary during the interview stage.
2. Consider benefits and perks
Do: Consider all aspects of compensation together when negotiating. For example, if your potential employer cannot budge on the salary, it may be willing to offer additional benefits and variable compensation packages.
Don’t: Never approach the entire compensation package sequentially. Meaning, once you have negotiated salary, do not suddenly move on and say, “Now I’d like to discuss benefits.” It should be wholistic and taken together.
3. Personality matters
Do: According to Harvard Business Review, you should not “underestimate the importance of likability.” People will fight for you if they like you. Confidence and politeness are not mutually exclusive: you can be both. That must come across in the negotiating process.
Don’t: Many people confuse confidence with arrogance; persistence with nuisance; and ambition with greed. Learn where one starts and the other stops, and make sure you do not cross the line when negotiating a salary for your new job.
4. Know your BATNA
Do: It is important to know your Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (“BATNA”). BATNA is defined as the “most advantageous alternative that a negotiating party can take if negotiations fail.” Put more simply, what is your alternative if negotiations are unsuccessful? Go into your negotiation knowing the lowest salary you would take. Consider what alternatives are available to you if the offer is not what you are looking for.
Don’t: Never lie about other opportunities or inflate your current salary in the hopes of obtaining a better offer. Lies have short legs, and they could prevent you from getting the current job or progressing down the road.
Final do’s and don’ts
Here are some final do’s and don’ts to consider when negotiating a job offer salary. Do get the offer in writing. Do thank the employer if an offer is made. Do demonstrate why your value warrants the salary you seek. Don’t feel obligated to take the first offer. Don’t bring up salary before the employer does.
Professor Deepak Malhotra offered a great session for Harvard students on negotiating job offers that you can watch here.
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