As your own agent, you've done some salary research, you've
visited Salary.com, and you know what you're worth. You know
what combination of compensation elements will make a
prospective position your dream job. Now you need to
negotiate to get those compensation goals and nail down your
Your dream deal
What's in a dream deal? It's that combination of
statistics and characteristics that, taken together, make up
your dream job.
Learn the typical range of base compensation for your dream
position in your industry, in your area.
Find your fabulousness factor: where your compensation
ought to fall within the market range, based on the unique
contribution you can make.
What benefits, bonuses, stock options, and other
compensation elements are appropriate for someone of your
background and qualifications?
Find out all favorable starting logistics including
relocation expenses, start date, a workspace or office
that's ready for you on your first day (a network account,
business cards, a name plate, and nobody else's "stuff" to
inherit), orientation, training, etc.
Get adequate time to consider an offer.
Know your happiness factor: the time you need to have a
life, the opportunity to be your fabulous self.
The company's dream deal
Although the company may seem to be a lot bigger than
you are, when you sit down to talk about salary, it's usually
just one-on-one. And you're not the only one who wants to
come away a winner - be assured that the company knows the
elements of its own dream deal. It's likely to look something
The spreadsheet factor: The company is probably aiming for
90 percent of the midpoint of the salary grade for the
position in its salary grid, or less if possible. If it's
an early-stage company, it may want to pay less in cash
compensation and more in noncash compensation such as stock
A standard benefits package for the salary grade.
A start date of tomorrow.
The productivity factor: a quick-and-easy process that gets
this job crossed off the task list.
The reality deal
In case you can't get your dream deal, you need a fallback
position: your reality deal. This is the minimum you are
willing to accept and still be part of the company. Be polite
but firm about your requirements; remember that the company
has a reality deal too. But the minute a company decides it
wants you, your price goes up. They have a position to fill.
And it's a seller's market.
Be the dream candidate
To the company, the dream candidate has many ideal
qualities, including the ability to negotiate. If a salary
negotiation is successful, both parties will be on the same
side at the end. Your employer - or prospective employer -
will want you to be a tough negotiator on its behalf, so it
expects you to negotiate firmly for yourself. So prepare
thoroughly. Walk into the negotiation like a winner. And
understand the criteria that would make a dream outcome for
both parties. If you can demonstrate in monetary terms how
the extra qualities you bring to the table are worth more to
the company, you are on the way to negotiating a win-win.
Niceness doesn't help in a negotiation. Don't be mean,
but keep a flat, unemotional tone during the talks, to avoid
giving away critical information about your reaction to what
is being said. This is what they mean when they say, "Never
let them see you sweat." Entrepreneurs have been known to
hold out for a little more from venture capitalists when
their electricity was about to be turned off - a tactic that
wouldn't work if the investors could actually tell that the
lights were growing dim. Negotiate as if you have nothing to
No issues, no rush, no nothing
It is relevant to you, but not to the company, that you
have higher mortgage payments, more dependents, or just
"deserve" more than other candidates. Give business reasons -
and business reasons only - to back up your bid. Be prepared
to walk away if you have to, and make sure that comes across.
If you are pressured during a negotiation, either ignore it
or directly question it.
And remember that silence is powerful - to speak is to reveal
information about your position. During parts of a
negotiation, exchange of information is important to
establishing the playing field. But sometimes it is to your
advantage to reveal nothing. Say nothing when you get the
offer you want. Say nothing when you don't like what you're
hearing. Let the silence linger, and see what happens. The
longer you hold out for what you want, the more you are
likely to get.
The famous Watergate criminal G. Gordon Liddy offers this
advice to people who are detained by the police: "Shut up."
He advises that if you are arrested and cannot resist the
urge to speak, to utter just these words: "I want to talk to
my lawyer." A less-guilty variation on Liddy's advice works
for negotiations too. In this instance, however, the words
you're allowed to say after a long silence in a negotiation
are these: "how did you come up with that number?"
Strategic silence is a good way to force the other party's
hand. But be careful: the person on the other side of the
table may use strategic silence too. If that happens, stay
cool, and shut up.
No going first
Wait until an offer is on the table before you start
negotiating. Your price goes up when the prospective employer
is sold on you. And never be the one to mention salary first.
If you go first and you're low, they win.
If you go first and you're high, they may think you're out
of their price range.
If you go first and you're just right, you may never know
whether you could have gotten more.
If you post a resume online and the form requires that you
state a desired salary, put $1.00. If you work closely with a
search firm, you may find it fruitful to discuss a salary
range with the headhunter, who gets paid for successful
placements. But it's better to get the recruiter to mention a
figure first; you never know what they might be able to get
Here's how you can counter an attempt to get you to say a
Company: "What were you looking for in terms of
You, version 1: "Something comparable to the market rate,
given my skills and capabilities."
You, version 2: "Let me throw that back at you. What were
you expecting to pay?"
You, version 3: "Are you putting an offer on the
Company: "Well, we need to know your salary history so that
we know whether we're in the right ballpark."
You: "The more relevant figures for this job are the going
rate in the industry for someone given the unique
contribution I can make. I'll let you know whether your offer
is in line with my expectations."
Company, yet another attempt: "But I just need you to give me
a starting point."
As one Salary.com visitor describes a recent negotiation,
"The interviewer just wasn't going to be the first to name a
figure. I held my ground through six or eight attempts to get
me to give a starting point. They kept arguing as if my past
salary history had any bearing on what they should pay me. I
was going for a big jump in total compensation in my new
position, and besides, I knew they were also testing my
negotiation skills. So I said, 'Thank you for your time. I
hope to hear from you soon,' and got up to leave. Before I
could get out the door, I had my offer."
When you're ready to accept an offer, do so graciously.
Since you won't accept something unacceptable, the offer you
do take should make you happy. Then it's time to show it -
and end the conversation. The negotiation is over. Nothing
else you say will change the outcome, and you don't want to
leave a different impression from the one you created during
the negotiation. After all, the next time you speak to the
person with whom you have been negotiating, he or she will be
- Linda Jenkins, Salary.com contributor