The ABC’s of Negotiating

dollar signsCongratulations! You made it through several interviews successfully and just received a call with an offer. Now what? Do people still negotiate in this tough job market? Should you negotiate with your new employer? And if so, how do you begin the negotiation process?

To be sure, people are still negotiating in this market, some quite successfully. Some trainees have expressed to me that they fear negotiating will drive the employer to rescind the offer. I would contend that being made an offer puts you in a position of power, but there are still some missteps you can take if you’re not adequately prepared. For example, you can turn the employer off completely and possibly change her mind about your candidacy if you request something outrageous in your salary or package. Generally speaking, you will need to do some homework before engaging in a negotiation.

Here are some pointers I can offer as you begin to think through this process.

A = Assess the value of the job in the marketplace.

To get a sense of the value of the job you have been offered, do some research and find out what the baseline salary is for similar positions in the same geographic location. While there are many websites out there that generate salary data, I still prefer to use one of the oldest on the web, http://www.salary.com. I like using Salary.com because you can search for salary data by zip code AND by job title. You can get very close to the specifics of the job you have been offered by clicking on job titles and viewing job descriptions in pop-up windows. These will include educational and experiential levels to help you determine the closest match to the job you were offered. The other reason I like this site is that it will give you a range of salaries, including the mean and median, for the position and geographic region you specify.

B = Bargain.

Once you have a sense of the salary level you can shoot for, it’s time for you to bargain! It is difficult to negotiate as soon as you get the offer, so I often counsel trainees to take the call, be gracious and excited, and then ask to call back at a later time that day or the next time. This way, you can collect your thoughts and get your ducks in a row.

In addition to knowing the salary level of the position you were offered, it is also important to be armed with details of why YOU are the best person for the job before you call the employer to negotiate. What is it about your background and/or experience that makes you uniquely qualified for this job? That is the information you will want to present when you are negotiating for a higher salary.

Language you could potentially use to negotiate is as follows:

“Hello, Dr. X! Thank you for getting back in touch with me yesterday. I was so pleased to hear the news of the offer, but there are a few details I would like to discuss with you. Given the fact that I bring X, Y, and Z to this position, I am looking for a salary in the X range.”

At this point, just stop talking. You don’t need to hem and haw about whether you’d still take the job if the offer didn’t change, etc. Just give the employer a chance to respond. Chances are great that she will not be able to give you an answer without checking with others first. If the salary is hard and fast for that particular position, she might share that with you immediately. Either way, you will be given the opportunity to respond once the employer gets an answer re: the higher salary you requested, or when the employer tells you that the salary will not change.

C = Close the deal.

Once the negotiation has ended and you and the employer have come to an agreement on the specifics of your offer, get the details IN WRITING as soon as possible. I have worked with a few trainees who neglected to get their negotiated package in writing and subsequently lost some of the perks they had successfully negotiated for.

If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail, consider meeting with a career counselor in OITE. Practicing this discussion will strengthen your negotiation skills—and may even increase the likelihood that you will get what you negotiate for.

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