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Have a Job Interview? Prepare Yourself for Effective Salary Negotiation

Negotiating salary is not high on anyone’s list of fun things to do, and yet it’s one of the most important things you can do when considering a job offer. The more you negotiate, the more you’re likely to get—and I can assure you: if you don’t ask, you won’t get. Be prepared and know what your deal-breakers are. There’s always room to negotiate, as long as you are tactful and respectful and don’t appear to be giving ultimatums. Particularly in this economy, there may be more room for barter than you think.

What’s Important to You May Not Be Important to the Employer

Think beyond salary; benefits, vacation and perks may be negotiable. For instance, you may want to work at home one day a week or part-time, and an employer may be happy to have you do that or thrilled to pay you 80% salary and benefits. Consider asking for a different title, office space, flex time, or professional development compensation if cash is not available.

Your Lifestyle Choices and Debt Are Not the Employer’s Problem

Don’t argue based on need or lifestyle; negotiate based on your experience and skills and what you bring to the position. Don’t talk about the long commute or how much student debt you have or that you are making car payments or are hoping to buy an apartment. In a negotiation, focus on what you can do for the company and cite specifics that should push you to the higher end of a salary range.

Find Out Why They Really Hired You—and Use It Immediately

When you get the offer of employment, ask what stood out about you. Express how thrilled you are, and then say “Can you tell me what made the difference in my candidacy?” Let them tell you why you stood out from all the other candidates, because this is what you have to use as leverage in your negotiation. Don’t put off a negotiation, thinking that you’ll accept whatever terms they offer, prove how invaluable you are and then ask for a raise and other benefits. Remember: you never have as much bargaining power as you do once you’ve offered the job but haven’t accepted it yet. Keep asking: “is there any flexibility here?”

It’s hard to negotiate, but if you believe in yourself and in your worth and value to the company, it gets easier. The employer’s job is to get the best possible candidate for the lowest offer; your job is to advocate for as much as you can get. Remember that future raises and salaries are determined by your current salary, so stand firm. And consider which would make you feel sicker—engaging in a negotiation, or just accepting their first offer and then finding out that someone with your same level of experience hired at the same time is making much more than you are with far better benefits—simply because she negotiated!

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