Ask Dwayne: What are some salary negotiation tactics everyone can use?

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In this answer eJobXchange career expert Dwayne Rahman tells you how to maximize your job offers by being a smart negotiator.

Q. What are some salary negotiation tactics everyone can use?

A. There are several tactics you can use in salary negotiations, regardless of your industry, geographic region, and job level. One of the most important tips I can give is that you must know your worth. What is the going rate for someone in your position and in your region, with your level of experience? You can find this information from a variety of places—online, mentors, former bosses who work at other companies, peers.

Once you know what the going rate is for someone like you, figure out your “break-it” number—that is, the lowest possible base salary you will accept. Identify this number prior to any job offer.

When coming up with your break-it number, it’s important to calculate what your out-of-pocket monthly health care costs will be. When you’re comparing two offers side by side, one salary may seem much more lucrative, but buyer beware. Don’t forget to compare employee benefits packages and your commuting costs (time and money). Evaluate the entire offer, not just the salary.

Here’s another salary negotiation tip: Try not to reveal your desired salary before hearing what the company offers you. Let them say a number first, then leverage that as a starting point. They may ask what salary you’re seeking, or you may feel tempted to give them a specific number, but instead, give them a range (you may end up shortchanging yourself more often than not by giving a specific number).

When candidates show recruiters they’ll stick with their intentions, it’s a win-win for both parties. Let’s say the offer is $80k. You ask for more, they push you to name a number, and you say in the $90s range. They come to you with $85k. You can say, “I really appreciate that, but given my experience and skills, I’m really hoping for $90k. I tell you what, if you can come up with $90k base comp, I’ll accept today.” The recruiter knows that’s what it’ll take to get you onboard—and believe me, often times recruiters want to fill the job more than you want to get it! Recruiters pour a lot of hard work—as well as their time and the hiring team’s time—into the interview process. If they can’t come up with the money for base comp, see if they can add a $5k sign-on bonus plus an additional five days off. (That’s another tactic everyone should use: Always ask for additional paid time off.)

Whatever you do, don’t accept a job offer on the spot. Always tell the prospective employer you need to think about it, and always ask for more (yes, even if you’re happy with the offer). Don’t worry about coming across as greedy; employers are more surprised when you don’t negotiate than when you do! It’s part of the negotiation process, that’s all.

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