Brother Ron Barnes
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May the Lord continue to bless and preserve you.
Successful Strategies for
Negotiating Salary and Benefits

Strategies for negotiating your compensation


Now that you know your value in the labor market and how much you need to support your family, you are ready to develop strategies to get what you are worth. As you develop your strategy, remember that you want to create a win-win situation. Somebody once defined a bargain as a sale in which each party thinks he got the better of the other. While you want to get as much as possible for your talents, you don't want to create hostility. You want a negotiation which is both productive and congenial. Let's begin.

Always talk money LAST!

Many help wanted ads tell you to send resume and salary requirements. Never send salary requirements. These ads generate dozens of responses. Do you really want to get into a bidding war with dozens of other job seekers? You want to work for an organization that is looking for the BEST employee, not the cheapest. There are several ways to respond to ads which request salary requirements:

"Regarding your request for salary requirements, I am more interested in the opportunities for growth and professional development than a starting salary."

"My salary requirements would depend on the total compensation package including benefits and the opportunity to earn performance-based incentives. I am confident we can arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement during our interview."

"I applied for this position because I am very interested in the job and your company. I know I can make an immediate impact once on the job, but I'd like to table salary discussions until we are both sure I'm right for the job."

"My current compensation package is well within the range for this position and location. I am confident your offer will be competitive."

"My research indicates that a position such as the one described in your advertisement typically pays $____ to $____. I would be willing to consider a salary within that range, depending on the responsibilities and expectations of the position."

The point is to shift the focus from money to the job itself. If you are working at a job in which you are happy and productive, the rewards will come. If you are miserable working for an organization which has no respect for you and demands as much work as possible for as little money as possible, the job won't last and the money won't matter.

The time to talk about compensation is toward the end of the interview when you and the employer are sure you are interested in each other. It makes no sense to talk about compensation for a job you are not going to get or a job you are not interested in.

The employer may, however, try to pin you down on salary prematurely. One of the basic principles of salesmanship is "The person asking the questions is the one in control of the situation". It's your life and your career. You deserve to be in control of it. If you get a request (or a demand) for a salary figure during the scheduling phone call or early in the interview, first thank the person for the question:

"I appreciate your interest in my application. Since you are asking about salary, you are obviously interested in hiring me. This makes me very happy because I am very interested in this position."

You maintain a positive, upbeat atmosphere. You are not offended by the question, you are happy to know they are interested in you. But you are not going to let the other person take control of the situation. If you are applying for a sales or management position, the manager probably appreciates your determination. After you show your appreciation for the question, you then ask a question which puts the focus of the discussion back where it belongs:

"My compensation package would depend on the responsibilities of the job and your expectations. Could you tell me more about exactly what the job entails?"

"I am more interested in the total compensation package, including benefits and opportunities for growth. Assuming that I perform beyond your expectations, where could I expect to be five years from now?"

"What really matters to me is finding a job which matches my personality and talents. Could you tell me a little more about what you are looking for?"

"Depending on the management philosophy of the company, overtime hours required, training and support available, medical and dental benefits, commuting and travel time, how well it fits with my long term career goals and opportunity for advancement, bonuses, commissions, and other profit-sharing type compensation, my salary expectations range from $______ to $______ [Give a VERY WIDE range]. Is that in line with your budget?"

Getting down to business

The interview has gone well. You and your future employer realize you can be a benefit to each other. The job is one you will enjoy and the organization has a solid financial base and a positive work environment. NOW it's time to talk about compensation.

When negotiating your compensation package, you want to consider the whole package. You need money to pay for food, clothes, housing, etc. But as a tax advisor with many years of experience, I can assure you that money is the worst thing to work for. Every time you put a dollar in your pocket, Uncle Sam is going to have his hand in there too. For everything you buy, you need to make the money to pay for it AND the money to pay the taxes on the money you made. To buy $100 worth of groceries, you are going to have to make at least $120. This is a very conservative figure. People in the middle and upper income brackets pay much more.

It works the same way for your employer. It costs the employer at least $110 to pay you $100. Your employer has to match your Social Security and Medicare tax. He must also pay for unemployment and Worker's Compensation insurance. The more your salary goes up, the more his expenses go up. Negotiating a package with less salary and more benefits helps both you and your employer. Since this is a complicated subject, I have created a separate page to discuss benefits.

Click HERE for the discussion of benefits.

The employer makes you an offer. Now what?

1. Thank the employer for the offer. Assure him that you are anxious to work for the organization.

2. Make sure you have covered all the issues. Do you understand the company's policy on promotions and salary reviews, travel expenses, health insurance and retirement, relocation and other issues? Review the section on BENEFITS and bring a checklist with you to the interview.

3. If the offer is lower than you expected, explore ways to "sweeten the deal". Click HERE for an excellent discussion of counterproposals. Explore non-monetary benefits such as title, opportunities for further training and travel, future salary reviews and access to technology.

4. Explain that you must discuss the offer with your family. Everybody understands that when you announce   your new job, the first question you will hear is, "How much will you be making?". Your employer knows the offer must satisfy both you and your family.

5. Get it in writing. Explain that you want to make sure you and your family understand all the details of the salary and benefits package. If the employer is not willing to make you a written offer, maybe there are some things he "forgot" to tell you.

6. Set a date for future negotiations. The date should be as soon as possible. There are probably other candidates the employer is considering. You don't want to give them too much time to underbid you. You also want to verify the means of contact. Will you be communicating by telephone, email or in person? Make sure you have telephone numbers, email and snailmail addresses and any other contact information such as best times to call.

7. Thank the employer for his time and interest. Assure him that you are looking forward to working with him and the organization. You are going to be working with this person. Keep it friendly.

8. Discuss the offer with your family. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle from top to bottom. Label one side "accept" and the other "decline". In the "accept" column, list the advantages and disadvantages of accepting the employer's offer. On the other side, list the advantages and disadvantages of declining. You now have a tool for evaluating the employer's offer and identifying issues for a counteroffer.

9. Contact the employer and let him know your decision including counterproposals.