Archive for the ‘Employment’ Category

Negotiating Salary

Friday, March 4th, 2011

One of the most difficult negotiations for anyone is the salary negotiation. It’s so personal  that we tend not to think of it in the same objective terms that we might apply to buying a car. In fact, many people don’t like to think of it at all, going in unprepared and hoping for the best. Rarely will they achieve it.

Salary negotiation doesn’t have to be awkward or arbitrary. Rather than grabbing a number out of the air—or passively accepting whatever the employer offers—here are ten tips on what to do and not do when faced with the question: “What salary are you looking for?”


Do your homework. With information so readily available, there is no excuse for going into a negotiation blind. If possible, find out what the salary ranges are in the company you’re applying to. If you can’t find that, an internet search will give you an idea of the pay scales being offered by similar companies for similar positions—or those that require a similar skill set. One excellent site that gives a range of salaries by both job category and location is If the job involves a move, a number of online sites will show you the cost of living difference in the area you are moving to.

Know your value. Take into account the skills/accomplishments you bring to the job. Then consider the value you bring to the company. This shouldn’t be an inventory of everything you can do or have done in life—but rather a list of qualifications from the company’s point of view. Salary isn’t a magical formula. An employer will pay more if you can show that you bring higher tangible benefit to the company.

Consider the whole compensation package. Salary is only one part of the package—and becomes a smaller percentage as you move up the career ladder. In a shaky economy, an employer will often be more open to bonuses than to high starting salaries as pay-for-performance poses less financial risk to the company. Items to consider in your negotiation include bonus, title, flexible working conditions, timing of promotions and/or raises, benchmarks, retirement, insurance, transportation, meals, and so on.

Be confident, but pleasant. It will rub off on the person hiring you. If you are confident (not cocky), you will give the person hiring you the confidence that they are making the right choice in paying a little more for a person who can deliver. That said, neither men nor women react well to women who are perceived as aggressive. Smile; show your sense of humor. Show an interest in them by asking questions—and listening to their answers. People are more generous when they like you.

Anticipate challenges and prepare answers. If this is a stretch position, a new field for you, or much higher compensation than your previous position, don’t just hope that the employer won’t notice it. The same holds true if you’ve been out of work for a while. Assume that you will be asked—or that you might be offered a lower salary as a result—and prepare a convincing and confident response that will give the employer assurance that you can handle the new position and are not a big financial risk. If the employer has genuine concerns, you might offer certain benchmarks or propose a higher bonus to salary ratio.


Put all your eggs in one basket. Negotiation strength really comes down to supply and demand—or who has the better substitute. If the company has many qualified applicants and you have only one possible job, you are in a weaker position than if you have a couple of opportunities. Having other options will also keep you from panicking and negotiating an agreement that doesn’t benefit you.

Lie. In this information age, lies are so easily caught and they will destroy your reputation. Instead, follow #5 under Do’s. If the employer asks you what your previous salary was, rather than lying, refusing to answer, or offering a range (which just makes the listener more curious to know what you are hiding), give the whole compensation package (not just salary) and, if necessary, an explanation. For example, “I was making X, but that was for a non-profit. Although I loved the work and the cause, I am switching to a profit-making company in order to increase my income to market range.”

Be passive . Don’t expect an employer to perceive your worth through osmosis. It is your job to show that you bring value to the company.

Undervalue yourself. If humility gets in the way of valuing yourself, think about the importance of those earnings to your family, to charities you would like to support, or to your lifestyle. When you have a specific aspiration it makes it easier to take the steps needed to achieve it.

Fear asking for more. The worst thing that will happen is that you won’t get what you want—which is exactly where you would be if you didn’t ask at all. More likely, you will get more than if you didn’t ask. Even if you don’t, the employer knows that you are hungry for more and will keep that in mind when raise time comes around. That said, you don’t want to come across as greedy or unrealistic. Just make your case, calmly, pleasantly, and with justification.

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Beyond Black and White

Friday, January 14th, 2011

A few weeks ago I got a call from a friend asking for advice. She had just been offered a job she very much wanted, but she had a conflict with the starting date. The employer had told her to report in on January 3. However, she was spending the holidays with her family on the other side of the ocean and had a non-refundable ticket to return to the US only the following weekend. Should she agree to start on the 3rd or not?  “I could come back earlier, “ she said, “but that would mean buying a new ticket, which I can barely afford, plus missing my Mom’s 60th birthday party, which is a major event for our whole family.” The other option was to tell the employer she couldn’t start until a week later, but she worried that that would give her employer a bad impression of her seriousness, starting off her new job on the wrong foot.

My friend had fallen into the common trap of binary thinking—that is, thinking the only responses to an offer are yes or no. Either she could start on the set date or she couldn’t. Or, as she played it out in her mind, either she could fly back early, missing her family event, or she could show up to work a week late, raising questions about her commitment to the new job.

In fact, there were other options, had she only broadened her viewpoint a bit. The trick is to move beyond yes/no to “yes, if” (a more positive take on “no, but”). For example, in this case, the “yes, if” could be “yes, I can start on the 3rd, if I can work remotely for the first week.” After explaining the travel conflict to the employer she would emphasize her desire to get started as soon as possible. Were there any documents she could begin reading now to familiarize herself with the organization and the issues she would be working on so she could hit the ground running when she arrived in person on the 10th? Could she do any projects by email or over the internet? Would they like to have an initial meeting by phone? Were there particular computer programs she should be learning? Even if none of these proved practical, by moving to “yes, if” she would at least demonstrate a much higher commitment to the job than by simply saying no.

I often ask people what color is between black and white. They invariably answer gray. No, I remind them; every color of the spectrum is between black and white. It just depends on the light you shine on it.

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How to Get That Job Interview

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Although securing a job interview doesn’t strictly qualify as negotiation, your chances can certainly benefit from using the GRASP method to get your foot in the door. Most importantly, before you send that resume out, think hard about both your and the employer’s Goals.

Why do you want THIS job?  The answer may be that you desperately need a paycheck and haven’t thought much about where it comes from, but revealing that by sending out a generic résumé and cover letter isn’t going to take you  far—especially in this highly competitive job market with employers deluged with qualified candidates. To make a strong impression with the prospective employer, you need to be able to articulate in your cover letter why you want the particular position you’re applying for, or at least a position with that particular company.  Even if you are brilliantly qualified, your résumé won’t speak for itself; you will need to clarify why the job you are seeking genuinely appeals to you, to dispel the natural assumption it is merely a stop-gap until you can find something better.

Considering why you want a particular position—the type of work you most enjoy, the knowledge or skills you hope to gain, the lifestyle you’re looking for, your career path, your need for stability, challenge or excitement—will help you to separate the jobs you really want from those you are pursuing only because your friends of family think it’s a great opportunity. By knowing your own goals you will also be more articulate in expressing why you would be the right person to hire.

What do they want? Hiring a new employee is not a duck shoot. An employer is making an investment of time and money to find someone with specific knowledge, abilities or proven potential, who will fill explicit needs, blend into the company’s social structure, and stay long enough to make that investment worthwhile. That’s why organizations write detailed job descriptions and paragraphs if not pages about their vision and mission. They are looking for a specific person.

Look at the details in the job description—then adjust your résumé to emphasize how you are qualified to perform those tasks. The point of a  résumé is not to tell your life story, but to show that you have the skills and knowledge that employer is looking for. It’s a matter of selecting  which of the many things you have done in the past that is most relevant to the current position.

If you come from a job managing a sales team and are applying for a job as a general manager, for example, you might emphasize the size of the team you managed, your range of duties,  etc. If you are applying for a sales job, however, you might want to rewrite that entry to emphasize the sales targets you hit. If it’s an international position, the entry might focus on how your sales team covered three continents and involved considerable travel on your part. And so forth. Your goal is to show how you could credibly achieve the prospective employers goals.

Finally, spend some time looking at the employer’s website and other information you can find on the net to show the company philosophy and chief accomplishments. Then refer specifically to that philosophy or reputation in your cover letter. Remember that the person reading your cover letter is a human being—and like all human beings we are attracted to people who admire us. It will certainly get you more attention than will the person who just wants a job.

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