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Home » Career Resource Articles » Is That Your Best Offer?

Is That Your Best Offer?

Expert Suggestions on Preparation for Computer Based CAT-09

Is That Your Best Offer?
How to Negotiate a Higher Salary and More Perks

Part - II

4. Taking on a short-term project can dramatically improve your bargaining power.

While you're holding informal discussions about the company's needs, you're in an excellent position to suggest that you take on a short-term project addressing a critical issue. (This is also a great way to make yourself stand out if you've entered the hiring process after stage three). Possible projects include:

  • Conducting a customer survey
  • Organizing and running a focus group
  • Evaluating and making suggestions on a proposed employee-benefit program
  • Exploring and reporting on better sources for contract manufacturing
  • Flow-charting operating procedures and suggesting a more streamlined processes
  • Scoping out a potential new business alliances
  • Finding new business prospects

Properly structured, such a project gives you several potential advantages:

You can demonstrate the quality of work, rather than relying solely on your r�sum� and the inferences people make when interviewing you. Of course, it's essential that the demonstration show you in your best light - that you meet the deadline, produce more than you promise, and provide facts and insights that are clearly worth having.

You get to operate on the inside, where you'll get a full picture of the firm's needs. This kind of knowledge will prove valuable later when you're discussing the job and what you bring to it.

You can charge a daily rate that may be substantially more than what you'd earn doing similar work as a full-time employee. So when the company does offer to bring you aboard, your frame of reference on salary - and theirs - is this daily rate, rather than the lower rate that might otherwise apply.

(Note: Your daily rate depends on the nature of the assignment. If you're filling in for someone and need considerable supervision, the rate could reasonably be from 100 to 150 percent of that person's salary prorated by the day (go ahead and ask if you don't know what the person's salary is). But if you're working on a high-priority project, adding your own expertise to the manager's, or improving business opportunities, for example, your rate can be considerably higher - as much as double a staff person's regular pay).

5. Know the market and develop alternative job offers.

Researching industry standards for compensation will help you advance your case. If you know what others are paying, you can use this information if the company seems to be giving you a lowball offer. This way you can express surprise - tactfully - at the proposed salary and have the figures to back up your reaction.


Even better is developing alternative job offers or hot prospects. You may well find something better, and the process will bolster your confidence and give the impression that you're a person in demand.

We know what you're thinking, but inventing alternatives is no substitute for developing real ones. Real alternatives have the ring of truth and allow you to cite specific attractions as bargaining chips. Imaginary alternatives tend to sound phony, and you run the risk that the hiring manager will invite you to take the nonexistent offer. Then you'll have to scramble to find a plausible reason for taking the real job after all, which makes your bargaining position mighty weak.

Knowing that you have real alternatives will also help you ask for what you want with more firmness. You'll be able to walk away from the negotiation without anxiety rather than accept unsatisfactory terms. After all, there's little point in accepting an offer inferior to one you already have - or expect to have - in hand.

6. Establish your priorities, and evaluate offers accordingly.

Salary usually isn't the only consideration when evaluating a job offer. Other factors that may be important to you include:

  • The quality of the learning opportunity
  • Rapport with your supervisor
  • Respect for your colleagues
  • The workplace atmosphere, whether intense or relaxed, competitive or mutually supportive, chaotic or organized
  • Other forms of compensation, such as bonuses or commission
  • Benefits such as health insurance
  • Perks and recognition
  • The company's prestige
  • The importance or value of what the organization produces
  • Career-advancement opportunities
  • Vacation and time-off policies
  • Flexibility of the work schedule
  • Location
  • Commuting distance and related considerations
  • On-site facilities, such as fitness and child-care centers

7. Be aware of what the employer can offer.

The forms of potential compensation are many. Some of the following confer other benefits, but they all boil down to money:

  • Salary (usually the base for figuring bonuses and raises)
  • Signing bonus (often given if you are being induced to leave a good job)
  • Moving allowance
  • Bonuses (best if tied to measurable criteria)
  • Early review for salary increase or promotion
  • Commissions
  • Health plan, and the company's share of the premium
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Stock award or options
  • 401(k) plan
  • Severance package
Learn as much as you can about industry-wide and company standards for each form of compensation before you sit down to negotiate.


8. Assess your power position realistically.

Just as you shouldn't underestimate your bargaining power (you don't want to shortchange yourself), it's important not to overestimate it. To overestimate is to court resentment and lead the employer to search for someone less troublesome. Your tactics throughout the hiring process should reflect, as accurately as you can assess it, your actual bargaining power.

Your bargaining power may shift during the course of your interactions with the employer. The company decides it needs someone with more experience than you to jump in at full speed; your power drops again. You perform admirably on a short-term project; your power grows. You flub it - sorry, your power vanishes. When the situation changes, you'll need to adjust your tactics accordingly.

If someone recommended you for the position or there's a recruiter involved, he or she may be able to tell you what's going on. But you need to learn to read the cues. Frequent calls, requests for references, and hopeful inquiries about your interest are all good signs. Phone calls unreturned for days, interviews repeatedly rescheduled, and vague put-offs don't bode well.

To avoid getting to this point, try to resolve any likely reasons for doubt early on. A less-than-glowing reference is better explained before the reference is checked than after. If an objection is raised by someone on the hiring team (too little employment continuity, the wrong kind of background) it's better to bring it up and discuss it, rather than letting it eat away at your bargaining power.

9. Never be the first to name a salary.

If you name a figure in response to a question about your salary expectations, it could be well above what the employer had in mind, and your interviewer's thoughts will shift to another candidate. If the figure is too low, you'll be stuck with less than what the employer was planning to pay - and you may even come off as suddenly less qualified to boot.

There's no need to fall into such a trap. The employer knows the responsibilities of the job better than you do, and so is better qualified to give it a dollar value. Once that happens, you are in an excellent position to discuss why you could bring more to the position someone else might.

10. Always negotiate with the decision maker.

You've just negotiated an excellent price on a new car and are ready to sign on the dotted line. Then the salesman tells you he has to clear everything with the boss. The boss (who remains faceless) sends word that he can't possibly go that low - his invoice price is just $100 less, not counting transportation charges. The salesman made a mistake. But he could do the deal for another $450, just to cover the transportation cost. He'll pay for your first oil change. What can you do? You've burned up most of your Sunday already, and you want to drive home in that sports car!

A word to the wise: Don't deal with intermediaries in your job negotiations, lest you end up in a similar situation. Intermediaries - human resources representatives, staffing specialists, recruiters, or occasionally someone delegated by the hiring manager - usually don't know as much about the job as the person you'll actually be working for, nor do they have the same concern about losing you if the negotiations go astray. They have a lot less latitude to take special circumstances into account. And they're often unaware of what can be done "creatively" - flexible working hours, extra vacation days, a signing bonus, or company-furnished laptop - to sweeten the pot.

11. Try to create situations that benefit you and the company.

Listen closely to what the hiring manager says and find out what his or her most pressing needs are. If you can meet some or all of those needs, the manager can probably meet yours. Suggest solutions that are mutually beneficial, that are less costly for the firm, or that let you meet each other halfway.

Finally, avoid pushing things so far that your deal will be resented. You may become the victim of over-eager scrutiny, be criticized unfairly, or otherwise find yourself made to be uncomfortable. You have to live in the climate you create.


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