Doing Battle…Doing Business!


Careers expert Miles Cooper shares his favourite salary negotiation strategies with Care Appointments Scotland…

There are two schools of thought on when to bring up salary. One approach is to steer clear of salary talk until after you have a job offer. The other way is to find out in advance what the salary range is so that you don’t waste your time on something you don’t want. Both ways have proved successful for many many people. Talking about money is a very individual thing, and you have to figure out which approach is a good one for you.

If you are new to your career, or you’re struggling in a really competitive job market, it might be better to put off salary talk until after the job offer. Once you’ve sold the employer on your qualifications and your suitability for the role, you’ll be in a better position to talk about money.

On the other hand, if you’re accomplished and experienced in your chosen field, you will know your minimum worth, and you don’t want to waste your time applying for a job that is financially beneath you. It clearly makes sense to find out if the salary on offer is at least in the right ballpark before you go through the application and selection process. Maybe you don’t want to pin down the exact figure, but knowing what the range is could save both you and the employer a lot of time.

Whenever you decide to talk money, you will want to have your bargaining hat on! Almost everybody feels like they’re in a pressure cooker when it comes to bargaining, and salary negotiation is no exception. But it doesn’t need to be that way – a little knowledge can relieve some of the pressure and give you the confidence to be a strong partner in, what is after all, a business transaction.

Your perfect job won’t be so perfect unless it pays enough to support your lifestyle. Before you start looking for a new job, you should know how much money you need to live on, as well as how much you’d like to live on – there is, clearly, a difference!

Research the published salary surveys for your sector or industry and get a feel for what level of salary is typical for the type of work you are seeking, in your part of the country.

In small to medium size companies and not for profit organisations, salary policies are not usually rigid and often do not exist at all. In fact, many managers within small organisations confess to finding themselves in a quandary when it comes to setting appropriate salary levels. They want to offer competitive pay scales in order to attract good quality staff but they are acutely aware of increasing overheads. All too often the problem is that they don’t have time to keep up with the job market in order to know what the going rates are. Knowing the small business manager’s predicament can give you a head start in your negotiations: if you can provide the employer with salary stats for your profession this can inform him/her and support your request.{mospagebreak}

Show Time!
So, you have your figures all in order, your briefcase is loaded, and you’re ready to do battle with the employer – to tell him or her just what it is that you want. Before you plunge in, look over the following guidelines to be sure you get all you deserve from the transaction.

1. Deal with THE man or woman
As early as possible in the interview process, find out who the final decision-maker is with regard to recruitment, assigning job responsibilities and salary awards. Knowing who has the final say will help you develop a negotiating strategy specific to that manager, and hopefully you’ll be able to speak directly with her in the final stages of your negotiation, if not before.

2. Cherry Picking
When your salary negotiations start, remember this bargaining technique: cherry picking. Imagine that you and the employer are under a cherry tree. You’ve loaded lots of bargaining ‘cherries’ on the tree, knowing that not all of them will get picked. The manager, who is comfortable with, and proud of, his own bargaining skills, will likely pick a few of your cherries and leave the rest. Likewise, you can pick and choose from what he has to offer. In the ideal salary negotiation, you and the employer walk away smiling, feeling that you have both managed to get a good deal.

3. Schedule annual reviews
It’s in your own interest to have an agreed schedule for your annual reviews. Try to negotiate something like this: an initial salary review after your first six months on the job and annually thereafter. That way you’ll squeeze in more pay raises during your tenure in the post. Once your schedule is fixed, mark the date on your calendar so that you can remind your boss when review time rolls around, if he lets it slide. Prompt reviews are important since every day on the job should be bringing you closer to a pay rise.

4. Figure out the negotiation psychology
Having a few job offers on the table at once can increase your bargaining confidence. Try to market yourself to more than one employer so that you can compare offers and career opportunities. It will also give you an added confidence that could give you the upper hand in any salary negotiations.

Before going into salary negotiations, ask yourself the following questions to understand where your psychological strengths lie:
– How much do I want the job I’m being interviewed for
– Aside from money, does this job fulfil my other requirements, such as career growth, social commitments, or educational advancement?
– Do I have other job opportunities (even offers) available to me?
– How do my other job opportunities measure up to this one?
– At what point am I willing to walk away from this negotiation?
To get inside the employer’s head, ask yourself the following:
– How desperate is the employer to fill this position?
– How many other candidates are in the running for this job?
– How do I measure up against the other candidates?
– Does this employer know about my other job opportunities/offers?
– Does the employer know how much compensation I’ve been offered by other employers? {mospagebreak}

Talking Money
Here’s a simple rundown on how to talk money:
– Get the employer to state a salary range before you mention yours. It’s a well-known poker ‘rule’ that the first player to tip his hand is likely to lose
– Don’t say “yes” or “no” to the offer until you’ve had time to think about it. The best strategy is to take some time to do your sums – even a day or two. Say something like: “I’m glad we’re both enthusiastic about my working here. I’d like to take your offer home and think about it. Could we meet tomorrow to talk more?”

Consider all the elements of your package (insurance, retirement plan, and all that good stuff) before settling on a salary. When all is agreed, get it in writing.

Counter Offers
Things might not fall into place immediately in your bargaining efforts. The employer may not readily agree to all your requests (remember, for an employer, cherries are never in season). Instead of signing a deal right away, he may make a counter-offer. If that happens, take some more time out, assess the situation, then return to the bargaining table with your response.

Take your time to be sure you’re making the right decision with regard to your long and short-term goals. Maybe there’s a way to compromise on one of your points and compensate with another request. If you find yourself wanting to make a counter-counter-offer, put together a package that feels like a win-win for both of you. Then, take a deep breath and go back into the ring with confidence.

The Written Word
When the negotiating is completed, get your agreements in print. After all, if an issue comes up later, the lady who promised you that you’ll get a shiny new motor when you reached your target may conveniently forget that she ever discussed it. Or, she may be long gone from the company by then. If your negotiated terms are in writing (either a letter of agreement or an employment contract), there shouldn’t be any problem.

Agree to Agree
A letter of agreement is sufficient for most new employees who aren’t going straight into executive or key positions. The letter should be written by the employer, and counter-signed by you.

Even though the letter seems simple and straightforward, it might warrant a quick review by an employment law expert just to make sure it protects you sufficiently.
A letter of agreement should contain:
– The terms and conditions of employment, salary, benefits, etc
– A clause that clarifies how any employment dispute will be settled, and who will pay the legal fees involved. It’s almost always preferable for you (the employee) to maintain the option to resolve an issue in court rather than be forced to settle through arbitration.
– A clear description of the reporting structure and your job duties. (This is especially important for those holding management level positions.)
– Any ‘gentlemen’s agreements’ that you’ve made with the employer that aren’t in line with company policy (e.g., you will get more than the policy-allowed number of paid days off)
– Be sure that your letter of agreement is signed by someone high enough in the organisation to authorise your agreed-upon terms, especially if any of those items go against standard company policy.

The Contract
If you’re going to be a key figure in the organisation, it’s to your advantage to have everything spelled out in an employment contract. Before signing on the dotted line, hire an employment lawyer to review it. Although a few hours with a lawyer isn’t cheap, imagine how much his good counsel could save you in grief and litigation fees, should an employment dispute arise down the road.
– Some employers and recruiters won’t let you pass “Go” in your job search without stating your salary range. Be prepared before contacting one of these employment people, by figuring out your salary strategy.
– Here’s an easy, yet impressive way to support your salary request: provide written materials. You could bring salary stats for comparable work in your field, your previous performance evaluations, and your letters of recommendation.
– Never lie to a prospective employer about your previous salary. It can be grounds for termination after you’re employed.
– Increase your perceived value by telling the employer of another job offer you’ve received (if, in fact, you’ve received one).
– Wear your salary range: dress the part, and let your body language speak to your professionalism. These outer trimmings will have an influence on how valuable you appear to your potential employer.
– While negotiating your employment arrangements, be sure to nail down the reporting structure for your new job. Once you’re on board, you don’t want any surprises about where you fit into the hierarchy.
– Ask your interviewer about the company’s policy for awarding salry increases. That way you’ll be able to calculate what starting pay will work for you in the long run.
– Consult a business-savvy friend to get objective support throughout the bargaining process. There may be times when you’ll need to brainstorm about your strategy, or get a boost for your self-esteem.