Knowing Your Price

At this stage of the game you're in tune with industry standards and local pay ranges and have correctly "encouraged" the interviewer to name the opening dollar figure. But there's one final ingredient you must have squared away before you make a counteroffer: How much cash and fringe benefits will it take to make you accept the position?

Michael Schatzki, owner of the New Jerseybased Negotiation Dynamics, recommends that you know your worst case or Least Acceptable Settlement (LAS) and your best possible result or Maximum Supportable Position (MSP). You come up with these numbers through your research on the industry and a serious study of your personal financial position. Plan to start the bidding at your MSP, but should the offer fail to rise above your LAS, continue job hunting.

Playing the Negotiation Game

As Job and Career Building points out, the first number the interviewer mentions is rarely the highest possible salary offer. But in the spirit of the negotiating game, you can't blurt that out to the person on the other side of the table. So when that initial salary figure is mentioned, your first reaction must be silence. According to authors Richard Germann and Peter Arnold, your silence signals two things:

1. You are carefully considering the offer.

2. You are not satisfied with it.

Words at this moment weaken your position because they require the interviewer to defend his or her offer. In fact, Haldane Associates has discovered that in more than 50 percent of all situations where silence is used, the interviewers cough up a higher figure without further discussion!

Tip: Always heed the advice Tom Jackson dishes out in Interview Express: Negotiations should never be angry or emotional, no matter how much pressure there is on either side. Assert your value so that the employer will view you as a highly worthwhile addition rather than as someone who is overpriced.

However, when a better offer isn't immediately forthcoming, one of two things will happen: The interviewer will either explain the offer or ask for your reaction. In the first instance, the Job and Career Building authors recommend you listen politely but continue your thoughtful silence as long as necessary. In the latter case, indicate that you are enthusiastic about the job, but the offer is on the modest side. Then suggest continuing the discussion at another meetingthe following day, if possible.

Unfortunately many job candidates interpret this tactic as "playing hard to get." Haldane Associates scoffs at this label, and so should you. In fact, this consulting firm has interviewed a number of employers who have stated that employees who handle themselves well during their salary negotiations were treated with greater respect and given more opportunities to advance within the organization.

Ending the Negotiation

Several clues tip you off to the fact that the employer has extended its best possible salary package. If the same figure is repeated after a day or two break, chances are good it won't change. Perhaps the employer may begin tossing in additional benefits without changing the figure, again signaling that the price is firm.

Once your salary has been decided, begin hashing out these areas:

Stock options

Vacation time

Performance bonuses

Flexible time (work four 10-hour days and take Fridays off; work 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. to avoid rush hours; job-share; or telecommute)

Parking privileges

Company car

Geographic location, if there is more than one office

According to the International Association of Corporate and Professional Recruiters, Inc., financial incentives, equity opportunity, and geographic location rank as the top three motivating factors respectively in evaluating a job offer. Time flexibility, health insurance policies, and maternal/paternal leave policies ranked fourth through sixth.

Tip: Whether or not you are satisfied with the salary eventually settled upon, don't forget Haldane Associates' most valuable advice: Always ask for a commitment to review your salary in six months, based on your demonstrated value.

Before you shake hands to seal the deal, ask for 24 hours to think it over. Such careful thought and responsible consideration can only be viewed as professional and will earn the respect of a potential employer.

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