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Truth works when negotiating pay

Question :

I am not actively looking for a job, but was approached by a firm and asked to come in for an interview. The only way I’d leave my job would be for a substantial raise. Before I go to the interview, I want to be prepared to make the best of the situation should it present itself. So my question to you is how do you effectively negotiate a salary? It’s been my experience that the power is stacked against you; the hirer will typically usually ask my current salary, what I expect to make in the new position, and then peg the negotiations to that lower number. So how do I gain ground in the situation? Can you refuse to answer those questions? Do I lie? I feel like those are both bad ideas. Any strategies or advice you could pass along would really help.

Posted by Brian on Saturday, 13 Sep 2014

Comments :

I don’t think you should assume they will “low ball” you on salary, but the best strategy is to be prepared. First thing is: never lie. The employer will find out and they may ask for salary proof. If this ends up being a job or company you want, it will have been a big error. 

In your first interview, you can certainly share your current compensation details in general. Ways to answer might include telling them your base salary and the type of commission structure, or setting out the level of your on-target earnings including bonus. 

You can choose the way you phrase the answer, but if you are pressed for more details, make it clear your goal in responding to their outreach is to learn more about the opportunity. You can tell the interviewer, in a friendly way, that you do not want to discuss salary until you know more and understand whether there is a mutual interest. 

If you want to benchmark the compensation for this role, look on job boards and the websites of relevant recruitment firms to see if you can glean salary levels.

Also go to the career services office at your university and see if they can give you data for this job title. Many universities track their alumni in terms of jobs and salary and may be able to give you good information. 

Assess your skills relative to the job and think about your fit for the company. If they really want you, they may have the budget. Don’t let any low offer affect your feeling about appropriate compensation.

No matter what happens, part on good terms, and you may want to stay in touch as the employer may come back to you.

On a more strategic note, you should assess your current firm and role and think about what you like and don’t like. Make sure that if you leave, you leave for the right reasons. 

Of course, we all work for money, but think about your job, your colleagues, work culture, location, work/life/school balance and really understand what you value. 

I think sometimes people move or change jobs just because someone asks them. Make sure it is overall the right opportunity for the right reason.

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