By Miriam Salpeter
Are you prepared to negotiate a job offer? New LinkedIn research shows 42 percent of professionals in the United States are uncomfortable negotiating; approximately 25 percent admit to never having negotiated in the workplace. The study also shows that many of LinkedIn's U.S. members (39 percent) report feeling anxious about negotiation, more so than participants from other countries do.
What's wrong with neglecting to negotiate? Employees who begin jobs with less-than-optimum salaries may never catch up to the compensation and benefits they could have earned if they'd played their cards better when starting. Since pay raises and bonuses build from the base salary, it's crucial to be prepared to ask for the best compensation package possible from the start. Don't be intimidated. Selena Rezvani, author of the book PUSHBACK: How Smart Women Ask-And Stand Up-For What They Want, reminds job seekers: "Too often, people approach negotiation inflating the other side's power and minimizing their own. Instead, set your sights high and be ready to stand behind your request. You can shoot for being firm but respectful, rather than downright deferential."
To succeed, job seekers need to take the lead. Here are some tips for getting started:
1. Know what you can live with. Keep a list outlining your needs. Ask yourself the following questions, and know the answers:
- What's going to make you love your job?
- What will make you proud to come to work every day?
- What would keep you at a company?
- What do you hope to earn? What is the least amount you'd accept?
Draw up a detailed list of what you "want to have" and "need to have."
2. Know about the company. If you have inside information, it can be easier to negotiate. For example, has the position been difficult to fill? If the job has been open for awhile, the employer may be more willing to negotiate with a qualified applicant. How unique are the skills needed for the position? If it's difficult to find someone with your special skills, you probably have additional leverage to state your terms. Following companies on LinkedIn is one way to tap into useful "insider" information. When employees at your targeted companies change their status, you'll be among the first to know that a position may be open.
3. Research your market value. What are other people earning? Rezvani reminds job seekers to consult their network. She suggests, "Enlist fellow professionals in evaluating your worth. Often, your in-person and LinkedIn networks are more than willing to quote industry salary figures that aptly reflect the current market. The bonus here is that consulting this group can also give you insights into your counterparts' negotiating style and preferences."
Use salary survey tools such as Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, and PayScale.com to identify what others in similar jobs earn.
4. Be creative. You can negotiate more than just your starting wages. Sometimes, employers' hands are tied regarding actual salary figures, but that doesn't mean you can't pursue more favorable terms about other important aspects of your package. Here are some examples:
- Vacation time, flexibility, tuition reimbursement, and the date of your next salary review
- Overtime, days off, and relocation expenses
- Company car, expense accounts, bonuses, etc.
- Benefits (health, retirement, disability, stock options, education assistance)
- Relocation expenses, and reimbursement for commuting costs
Virtually anything a company can provide an employee can be a negotiation factor.
5. Create a written proposal. Rezvani explains, "If you're asking for something that goes against the norm, take the time to draft a plan showing the details of your request. Employers are more likely to arrive at 'yes' answers if they have all of the particulars of your request at their fingertips."
6. Don't give in. Negotiate even if there's no precedent. Rezvani notes, "The very best negotiators don't shut down when they hear 'no' or face resistance. They insist on objective criteria, asking clarifying questions, and elongating the conversation rather than capitulating too soon. Realize it's okay to be the first one to ask for something; you don't need an army of people who want the same thing as you if your rationale is compelling."
7. Things to remember to hunt successfully in a stubborn job market:
- Never burn bridges-communicate in an open and thoughtful manner.
- If you aren't prepared to walk away, don't offer ultimatums.
- Look for the common points-use them to negotiate.
Career coaches have always suggested that networking helps land jobs. LinkedIn's research suggests a strong focus on networking may make a difference in the last stages of sealing the deal: Approximately 48 percent of professionals who visit LinkedIn daily report feeling confident about negotiating. Grow and maintain a strong network and rely on it in every stage of your job search.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to empower their success.