It’s al­ways a bit painful, but you have to en­sure you get the best pos­si­ble pay deal when ne­go­ti­at­ing with a prospec­tive em­ployer. Agree­ing to an in­fe­rior salary pack­age will un­der­mine your earn­ing ca­pac­ity for years to come, and ul­ti­mately leave you feel

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you came, you saw, you con­quered the in­ter­view­ing panel with your easy wit and im­pres­sive domain knowl­edge. Now comes the re­ally tough part: ne­go­ti­at­ing your salary. Here are some fa­tal mis­takes to avoid:

Un­less you are com­pletely thrilled with the of­fer, al­ways try to press the com­pany for a bet­ter deal.

1. RE­VEAL­ING YOUR MAGIC NUM­BER. What­ever you do, avoid be­ing the first to put an ac­tual amount on the table. If your salary ex­pec­ta­tion is too high, the com­pany might take fright and you could lose a job of­fer. If it’s too low, you end up be­ing un­der­paid. Force the com­pany to re­veal what they are pre­pared to pay, and use that as the start­ing point for ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The prospec­tive em­ployer will, how­ever, try to press you on your ex­pected salary, or your cur­rent pay, through­out the in­ter­view process. Re­sist. De­flect ques­tions about re­mu­ner­a­tion with non­com­mit­tal an­swers (“Pay is not my main con­sid­er­a­tion, I’m fo­cused on find­ing the right po­si­tion where I can de­liver the best value”, “I would first like to learn about what the job will en­tail”, or “I will con­sider any rea­son­able of­fer”). Or an­swer the ques­tion with a ques­tion: “What do you pay peo­ple in sim­i­lar roles?” Bottom line: Force the em­ployer to make you an of­fer first.

Never bring up com­pen­sa­tion dur­ing an in­ter­view as this sends the wrong mes­sage. In­stead post­pone all ques­tions about pay un­til you are one of the fi­nal can­di­dates. The fur­ther you have pro­gressed in the in­ter­view­ing process, the more time and ef­fort the com­pany has in­vested in you and the more lever­age you have.

If the com­pany is ab­so­lutely in­sis­tent and you can’t avoid of­fer­ing a salary ex­pec­ta­tion, men­tion a pay range be­tween two amounts that would be ac­cept­able to you, but make it clear that you are flex­i­ble.

2. NOT PREPAR­ING A DE­TAILED COUNTER-OF­FER. Un­less you are com­pletely thrilled with the of­fer, al­ways try to press the com­pany for a bet­ter deal. In re­sponse to the com­pany’s ini­tial of­fer, pre­pare a short doc­u­ment back­ing up your salary ex­pec­ta­tion with data on what your skills are worth in the in­dus­try. Do ex­ten­sive re­search on salary lev­els and es­tab­lish what peo­ple in sim­i­lar jobs are earn­ing in that city.

Im­por­tantly, demon­strate clearly to the com­pany what value you can add to its bottom line. For ex­am­ple, if you have a di­verse set of skills, show how the firm can save money by not hav­ing to out­source cer­tain ac­tiv­i­ties.

3. FO­CUS­ING ONLY ON YOUR NEEDS. Don’t ever jus­tify pay de­mands with your own fi­nan­cial re­quire­ments (for ex­am­ple, the fact that your salary needs to cover a stu­dent loan re­pay­ment, your large mort­gage or al­imony pay­ments). In all your ne­go­ti­a­tions, the fo­cus should be on how your prospec­tive em­ployer will ben­e­fit from your ap­point­ment.

4. GET­TING STUCK ON PAY. If the com­pany clearly won’t budge on a salary of­fer, and you def­i­nitely want the job, ne­go­ti­ate other aspects of the of­fer to sweeten the deal. This can in­clude ex­tra va­ca­tion, flex­i­bil­ity on of­fice hours and work­ing from home, a com­mit­ment that your salary will be re­viewed at an ear­lier date, sup­port for fu­ture stud­ies, bonus pay­ments, re­lo­ca­tion ben­e­fits and stock op­tions.

5. BE­ING TOO EASY. Through­out the salary ne­go­ti­a­tions, be en­thu­si­as­tic about the prospect of work­ing for the com­pany. Make eye con­tact, be po­lite and pleas­ant. Don’t talk too much, keep the ball in the prospec­tive em­ployer’s court as much as pos­si­ble, and don’t be too dra­matic: re­frain from large ges­tures and over­state­ments. But im­por­tantly, don’t try to please the in­ter­view­ers too much. Of­ten, new re­cruits re­frain from ne­go­ti­at­ing on pay be­cause they don’t want to hurt the relationship they are build­ing with key fig­ures in the com­pany. This is a mis­take: make sure you de­fend your own in­ter­ests.

6. THINK­ING SHORT TERM. It is im­por­tant to think about your re­mu­ner­a­tion tra­jec­tory and fu­ture with

the com­pany. Pi­eter Hu­man, di­rec­tor of the labour ad­vi­sory ser­vice Labour­wise, says uncer­tainty and potential dis­putes can be avoided by in­clud­ing a very clear per­for­mance agree­ment in your em­ploy­ment con­tract. The agree­ment should de­tail spe­cific in­for­ma­tion about salary hikes and tar­gets that will be re­warded. “These agree­ments have to be very clearly worded to ex­clude any un­cer­tain­ties.”

7. NOT DO­ING A DRY RUN. Be­fore par­tic­i­pat­ing in ne­go­ti­a­tions, first prac­tise what you are go­ing to say and make sure you are com­fort­able to talk about all is­sues that may arise. Role play the con­ver­sa­tion with a friend be­fore­hand and re­hearse your re­sponses to pos­si­ble ques­tions.

“The em­ployee should al­ways come pre­pared when dis­cussing salary in­creases, back­ing up all de­mands with con­crete ev­i­dence and num­bers about how value was added to the em­ployer’s bottom line.”

Pi­eter Hu­man Di­rec­tor of the labour ad­vi­sory ser­vice Labour­wise

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