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How to Negotiate the Salary You Deserve, Even If You're Desperate for the Job

Connel Valentine Apr 13, 2018


It's so tempting isn't it?

You've been on this job hunt for so long.

Any job at this point is a blessing.

Any figure they put on the table is a gift.

And even if the amount isn't what you expected, any sign of resistance could cost you the job right?

You don't want to appear too greedy, only interested in the money and not the job.

And worst of all, what if they take the offer back?

It's understandable you feel this way.

An unending job search does take it's toll on your confidence.

And then you start to feel you deserve less because maybe you are not as qualified for the job as you thought you were.

What if we told you that your eagerness (or desperation) to accept the first offer on the table would actually do more harm?

Surprised?

How you carry on the negotiation once you have an offer is also a demonstration of your ethics, values and personality.

You are still on the hot seat my friend.

Remember, money is not the biggest motivator. It's fear.

We are not going to tell you how to conquer your fear. That's lame advice. If anything, fear keeps you on your toes during a job search.

We are going to tell you how, despite your fears, you can still get the salary you deserve.

Don't sell yourself short. No one should.

Why is it so damn hard to ask for more?

We get it, it's not easy.

Only 37% of of job seekers make a point to always negotiate salaries, while the rest are potentially missing out on $500K by age 60.

That would buy you a townhouse in Ontario today.

According to statistics from www.womendontask.com, men are four times more likely to negotiate salary than women. And even when women do negotiate, they ask for 30 percent less than men.

The irony of the above statistics is that once the dust settles and the job is secured, 76% of people regret not asking for more during the initial interview.

By then, it's already too late.

You're already on the payroll and are now imprisoned by HR policies that dictate your pay raises. (5% for transitional moves, 12% for promotions, blah blah blah)

If you don't want their math to be your enemy, you have to make sure you get what is fair and what you deserve right up front.

Remember, a salary negotiation is not an argument. It's a professional debate.

The hiring executives have already spent time and effort on selecting you. A process they will not want to repeat.

And if they don't get you, they have to settle for second best. Who wants that?

The recruiter wants to close this deal as much as you do so that they can move on to the next vacancy.

The problems your position solves continue to plague the hiring manager's team.

They can't wait to have you on board.

Time is hurting them as much as it's hurting you. So it's the perfect time to negotiate.

Got the right mindset for the effort involved in a successful salary negotiation?

Let's dive in.

What to prepare for

The highest paid person on the team also happened to be well prepared for his or her negotiation.

Prep #1 What is the market range for your position?

Find out what the average salary is for the position you are seeking.You can easily Google this - "Average Salary for Marketing Coordinator in
Toronto".

Most likely you will get a couple of results from Glassdoor, PayScale or Salary.com

Take note of the complete range of the salary. In our above example, Glassdoor showed a range of $31K - $52K, with an average of $44K for a marketing coordinator in Toronto.Now you need to do a little math.

The 90% mark for this range is $49.9K [0.9 x (52K - 31K)] + 31K

Your goal is to target any figure at this mark or more.

Prep #2 Google the company salary ranges

Punch in "Salary for Marketing Coordinator at [XYZ Company]" and you may get a couple of results back from Glassdoor.

This would give you some assurances if the company you are about to interview at is within range of the market in Step 1.

Prep #3 Know your worth

When you buy a product, it's because you feel you will be getting more value out of it than what you paid for.

Similarly, when an organization is hiring you, they'd like to feel that they are getting more in return from you than they are paying you.

Be prepared to play the numbers game with quantifiable results of your achievements.

Sales and Marketing people can easily quantify their results. They know how much money they've made for their previous organizations, so their ROI is in plain sight.

For support staff, it's trickier, but not impossible.

Saving costs are a big part of your ROI too.

  • If you an HR recruiter, what is your cost per hire compared to your colleagues?

  • If you are in accounts receivables, how much money did you collect on time?

  • If you are in IT, how much money did virtualizing your infrastructure save?


When you have that dollar value in mind, it's leverage that you can use during your negotiation.

They tell you $52K, you show them how you annually saved $15K for your last employer, so paying you $58K is still worth it. (More on wording your negotiation later)

Prep #4 Know your expenses

It's very possible that they won't be able to budge from a specific figure.

You can still negotiate other terms.

Just like a business, it's favourable for you to either increase your revenue (your salary) or reduce your costs (your expenses).

Consider life expenses that could potentially be covered by the company.

If you live in a city far from the office that requires you to commute, how much is that worth?

I lived in Brampton and had to commute to Toronto every day. That cost $3.6K annually.

Other areas you could consider expenses being paid for are educational or medical expenses.

The organization is more likely to cover expenses than give you a higher wage.

Remember, they are also factoring in salary increments and bonuses which is tied to your base salary. The more they pay you, the more they pay in annual increases.

Win-win!

Prep #5 What is your walk away point?

Finally, you must mentally decide on a value that you can walk away from.

This is important because you don't want to be pondering and caught off guard in the middle of a negotiation.

Know when a figure is too low for you to take the job.

Keep in mind the value of yours expenses from the previous step.

What is your walk away point if they don't cover expenses? What is your walk away point if they do cover some expenses?

Now that you know what you need to be prepared for, it's time to talk about how you will battle it out with the hiring executives at the job interview.

How about the online job application?

Oh yes,  a quick note on that.

If you are asked to provide your previous employment salary details on the application form, don't.

Instead, put your 90% target salary in there that you calculated from point 1 above.

Then put a note at the end of the application stating that "All values for previous salary indicate my targeted salary for this position."

It is unethical for companies to ask for previous employment salary, as that information is confidential to the company you worked for.

Also, revealing your previous salary would completely eliminate your leverage for a negotiation. The reason is coming up.

During the interview

The curtain has drawn on the negotiation.

Let the professional debate begin.

First, let's cover what to avoid and be cautious of during a salary negotiation.

Unskilled, untrained, unethical hiring executives are a job seeker's worst nightmare!

Avoid salary talk early on

You want to avoid bring up salary talk in the beginning as much as possible.

Why?

Because at the first round of interviews, the hiring executives are in elimination mode.

They have more candidates to purge through than they would like, and you don't want to be talking salary when they are looking to purge down candidates to a select few.

They are fishing for reasons to not short list you, and salary is one of them.

The key here is to wait for them to fall in love with you. This could happen at the first round or the third, depending on their hiring process.

With time, they will see the quality in you.

And yes, they will pay for it too.

So how early is too early to be asking for a salary? The key is to first understand the hiring process.

If the hiring manager is asking you for a salary in the first round, your first question should be "I understand that my salary is an important factor for you to consider, but first I'd like to understand what the hiring process is going to be like? Will there be more interviews after this?"

If they state that there will be more interviews, then it's too early to discuss salary.

But if this is a one-shot interview, then it's appropriate to discuss salary on the first (and only) round.

However, even in one-shot interviews you have to time it just right.

Ask yourself if you've been given the opportunity to speak to your experience, your accomplishments, your strengths, tell stories of how you tackled problems.

Were you given an opportunity to ask questions yourself about this role and the challenges faced by the company and team?

If the interviewer's first set of questions are "Tell me about yourself", "Why do you want to work here?" and then "What salary are you expecting?", that's usually a warning sign that it's far too early to negotiate.

Now you might feel concerned about deflecting the question.

After all, you really want this job, and any sign of resistance will not work in your favour.

You might be tempted to blurt out a figure right away to play it safe and keep the conversation going.

But giving a salary figure without knowing more about the role and the organization and the value you bring to the organization is premature.

It's like to going to a restaurant and asking the greeter, "How much for a meal here?"

Understandably, her response would be "Depends on what your eating."

Would you be offended by that response? Of course not.

You may also be tempted to lower your figure to increase your chances of getting the job.

However, while you see it as increasing your chances, the hiring manager sees it as selling yourself short.

"Where else is this person going to sell themselves short?" they may ask themselves. "Certainly not while working for me."

Red Flag!

Do you see how diminishing your value works against you?

You can respond to an early ask for your salary expectations in one-shot interviews like this "Salary is an important discussion for this role, I understand that. But first I'd like to get a better understanding of wether I'd be a good fit for this position, in terms of how I can contribute to the team's challenges and problems, and then I'm sure we can come to a mutually agreeable figure."

Avoid disclosing your current/previous salary

It is unethical for hiring executives to ask you this question. But some still do.

If you reveal your existing salary, you will essentially lose any negotiating power you have with them.

Why?

Because most hiring executives assume that a 10-15% pay increase is substantial enough for you to make the move.

Once they have zeroed in on that number, it will be hard to make them budge from it. Asking for more then puts you in the "being unreasonable", "asking for too much" category.

All companies (that I'm aware of) keep their salary details confidential. The hiring executives know this.

You can use this fact in your response to this question:

"I won't be able to disclose my previous employer's salary as that information is confidential, as I'm sure it is at this organization as well. I hope you understand that. I'd rather focus on what you have budgeted for this position and base it on my skills and experience. Can we talk about that?"

If your current position was commission based, or you're changing careers, your current salary doesn't really apply does it?

Either ways, under no circumstance do you reveal your existing salary.

Recall earlier that we covered how to handle this during your online job application as well.

Always keep the focus on your target salary.

So what's the right way of doing it?

So now that you know what to watch out for and avoid, let's talk about the ideal circumstance.

You have reached the late stage of the interview.

You are confident that you have spoken highly of your skills and experience, and have uncovered what is expected of this role.

And they love you! It's time to talk salary.

There are two circumstances where a salary discussion could come up:

  1. Before the job offer

  2. After the job offer


When asked about your salary expectations before the offer (during the interview) , you'd want to give a range that's acceptable to you. This demonstrates that your flexible to negotiate.

In large organizations, it's usually the recruiter's responsibility (rather than the hiring manager's) to negotiate salary, and that can happen after an offer has been extended to you.

After the job offer, they most likely have stated a specific figure. This is where you'd like to respond with a specific number.

Research has shown that providing a specific number actually increases your chances of getting the salary you want.

It shows that you are well prepared to negotiate.

What is that specific number? The 90% value you calculated in our Marketing Coordinator example in Prep #1 of your preparation. ($49.9K)

Let the negotiation begin

In the scenario below, we are going to assume that you are negotiating before the job offer, but the same strategy applies when they have offered a value to you after an offer.

"So how much are you expecting for this role?"

Research has shown that the first person to state a number usually does not come out on top of the negotiations.

Your response could be:

"Well, we've covered a lot during our discussions, and I trust you are comfortable with my skills and abilities to perform at this job. I'm sure XYZ Company will make a fair offer and I'm willing to be flexible within the market value for this position. Why don't we start with what's been budgeted for this position?"

If they dodge your questions and respond with wanting you to state a number first, then you respond with your 90-100% range.

They may respond by stating this is above their budget.

Remember, you have mentally prepared your walk away point. After your research, you may have decided that your walk away point is $45K.

So at this point you could then ask again "What is the current budget?"

The budget will of course be below your 90-100% mark, and this is where you start negotiating your cases based on your research.

"The range I have suggested is based on market research that I have done on this position. Is there anything that can we can discuss further to reach a mutual agreement?"

With this question, you're goal is to either get them to present a higher figure or start talking about other benefits.

They are not convinced and are sticking to their original figure (Strike 1)

You can now bring up your accomplishments once again from your preparation in Prep #3.

"If you recall, the marketing campaign I led for ABC client allowed us to retain their contract for another 3 years, generating $560K annually. I'm sure this is something I can bring to this organization as well. Is that something you would consider?"

They are still sticking to their guns? Tough crowd! (Strike 2)

You now shift the focus to your final Prep #4 point on your expenses.

"Can we then discuss other forms of compensation, as I have also thought about the expenses that relate to taking up this position and other incentive plans?"

This where you could bring up costs related to transportation, education, vacation, bonus, childcare and other allowances that you have researched in advance.

"I've considered that I will be commuting on public transit/car since I live in a neighbouring city. Would you consider covering commute/parking expenses?"

"Perhaps we could then discuss what is the current bonus incentives for this position. Would you be willing to offer a higher percentage in the incentive?"

Worst case scenario, is that they are hard set on their figure. Their first offer was their last. (Strike 3)

Personally, it doesn't sound like the kind of culture I'd be comfortable with. But if you really see yourself fitting in with this company, one final closing statement you could make to seek closure on this discussion would be:

"It sounds like there is nothing I can say to make you change your mind."

If they agree, you have your salary figure.

Remember your walkaway point. If it's below what you had in mind, it's time to graciously, walk away.

"Thank you for your time today, but I'm afraid we weren't able to come to a mutual understanding on my compensation."

Hopefully, it doesn't come to this.

Remember, they've fallen in love with you and are willing to (and expecting to) negotiate your terms.

Stick to your plan and you will come out on top.

Rules of thumb

I've explained the words you should use, but how you express those words are just as important.

I don't expect you to memorize the above. You will have to wing it to a certain degree depending on the circumstances.

Rule 1: Negotiate, don't argue.

If your salary negotiation starts to feel like an argument, you're doing it wrong.

It's a polite collaboration between you and the hiring executives.

Always keep three things in mind when negotiating - gratitude | enthusiasm | polite assertiveness.

These are values they would appreciate you having when you are actually on the team, so show it off now.

If you are negotiating a salary after an offer has been extended to you, gratitude and enthusiasm goes a long way in the neogtiation.

I remember receiving a call from a recruiter who extended an offer to me. But at the time, I was waiting for a much better offer from another company.

She spotted it in my voice straight away. "Aren't you excited?" she asked me.

Exhibiting enthusiasm and gratitude during your post offer negotiation is important.

Hiring executives, after all, want to hire people who want to work for the organization.

Rule 2: Never accept the offer right away.

Always, always ask for time to consider the offer after it's been presented.

Even if you agree with the offer, showing that you need time to look over it not only ensures you're looking at the fine print for your own assurance.

It also proves to the hiring manager that for big decisions, you take the time and due diligence to make sure everything is accurate.

A perfect demonstration into your work ethics when you have to make big decisions on the job.

Rule 3: If you have multiple job offers, make sure they know it

If you've followed a lot of the advice on our blogs, you should be spoiled with job offers.

Nothing adds more ammunition to your negotiating power than when you have multiple job offers on the table.

All of a sudden, you will notice they want you even more.

Make them green with jealousy so they show you more of the green on paper. (bad pun, I know)

Don't settle for less

As we stated earlier, it's hard to negotiate, especially if you're unemployed.

When you're just out of school or moving to a new country, it's understandable that you'll have a "take-what-I-can-get" attitude.

Desperation is always a turn off, during the interview and even during a salary negotiation.

You might be tempted to ask for less, thinking that lowering your rates increases your chances of getting the job.

But ask yourself this question - what percentage of time would you not buy a good quality product you knew you wanted to have because you could not negotiate a good price?

Apple prides itself on it's quality. When I bought my first iMac, the women at the Apple store proudly said "Apple never has discounts."

They know their value, and so should you.

Focus on marketing yourself as a good quality product and resource the company can use, and you will get the salary you want without compromising on your chances of getting the offer.

As long as you are asking for a fair market value, and you have been negotiating without being abrupt, rude or defensive, there is only one reason the company would turn down their offer.

Because they care more about what you cost over what you're worth.

Then, you really must ask yourself if you want to belong to such an organization.

I certainly wouldn't.

But it's hard to fight the desperation monster inside us, especially when the bills are piling up and our savings are depleting.

If this happens, at least do your career a favour.

Make sure you seek clarification on what projects you will be working on that will be strategic to the company's objectives during the interview.

Because while your salary pays the bills, it doesn't define your career. What you do defines your career.

Perhaps you are willing to compromise on your first salary if the projects you work on gets you in front of Senior Directors and Vice Presidents and C-Level executives.

One year into your role, when you've proven your worth to the organization, you can kick of negotiations again using the same strategies above.

Only this time, you would have proven your worth first hand to your hiring manager and his seniors.

Nothing is written in stone.

While HR policies govern salary increases in theory, the reality is everyone is earning a different wage. (That's why they keep it confidential)

Use the above scripts and guidelines to demonstrate to the hiring executives you know how to negotiate and get paid what you deserve.

Trust me, they will admire you for it.

The main reason employees aren't paid what they are worth isn't because they don't deserve it. It's because they don't ask.

After all, if you don't fight for your own worth, then who will?