Career Resume Consulting | Get Paid What You’re Worth: Keys to Negotiating
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Get Paid What You’re Worth: Keys to Negotiating

One Main Key to Successful Compensation Negotiation is Timing

Avoid premature income discussions

In negotiating a compensation package that will pay you commensurate with your talents, achievements, education and potential, there are many things to keep in mind. One of the key principles, though, is to avoid talking about salary until after the employer has offered you the job. Once the job is yours, you have an incredible amount of leverage and but if you talk about money at the beginning of the conversations, you can easily get weeded out of the hiring process based upon what you say.

You need to avoid the hard lessons I see others experiencing when negotiating every day. Here’s an example. A recent client relayed to me a story about when he was working at a Midcap Energy Company, where he worked as a Chief Operating Officer. He had been used to earning a sizeable income, but wanted to win the new job at a 20% increase. After two successful meetings, the CEO of the energy company said, “Steve, we’d like you to come on board, and I’d like to work out something attractive for you. What have you been used to earning?”

At that point, having been encouraged, Steve explained his current income package. To make a long story short, he accepted a position. However, he later found out that the last person had been paid 40% more, and the company fully expected to match it. The moral is that you should never negotiate based on where you have been. Even though you should negotiate using a “soft sell” approach, negotiation is like poker in one respect – you never want to lay your earnings on the table!

Premature discussions about money can be a real deal breaker
The more enthusiastic an employer becomes about you, the more likely he’ll be willing to pay more. Sometimes an interviewer will begin like this:

“Jim, before we get started, I’d like to know how much money you are looking for.”

Here is a possible response:

“Charles, I could talk more intelligently about my circumstances after I know more about the job. Will this job have line responsibilities? How many people would manual to me? What’s the P&L?”


“Charles, I wouldn’t take your time if I didn’t have a fairly good idea of the range you could pay. If we can agree that my experience fits your needs, I doubt we’ll have a problem on compensation. My concern is whether your needs call for someone with my background.”

Here, the idea is to remain gracious while avoiding a direct answer.

If an interviewer persists, say:

“I’d rather avoid discussing compensation. Challenge is most important to me, and I would like to talk money after we both feel I’m right for the job.”

If all else fails, give a range surrounding your estimate of what the job pays and check for a good estimate of what the job is paying in your local market. You can expect to start at the 25th to 35th percentile unless you’re an extremely high achiever and you’re staying in the same industry.

When asked about what you’ve made in the past, your answer might sound something like this:

“I was paid very well for what I did at my last job, because I was good at it. But what I made before might be an apples to oranges comparison to the job you have available. I don’t really feel comfortable talking about money before I have a good idea of the responsibilities of this job.”

Then you proceed with additional questions about the new position.

When filling out an online application:

When you’re applying for a posted position, there are some occasions when the employer asks for your prior salary or your salary expections. When this is the case, I recommend two things:

  • When answering your prior salary, leave it blank or if it requires a dollar amount put $0.
  • When answering a salary expectation question, enter “negotiable” or if it requires a dollar amount, enter a very broad range, say $80,000 to $175,000. This way, you are less likely to eliminate yourself from the process through your online answer. Your goal with this answer is to make it to the “next round,” which is a phone call where you can sell yourself to a human being.

Land your next six figure job in weeks, not months.

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