Money can be a highly sensitive topic to discuss in any context, but even more so during the interview process. With a quality job on the line, you may hesitate to press a hard bargain for the salary you want.
"I think there are a lot of people who are reluctant to negotiate who think they'll lose the job if they do," says Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, a New York-based career management firm. But hiring managers anticipate attempts by candidates to secure a higher salary, and talks can be peaceful and productive, as long as both sides respect each other's preferences. "Negotiation is a collaborative, not a combative, process," Safani says.
Here are some tips that will help you get paid what you're worth.
Do your homework in advance. Before reaching the negotiation stage, research industry salary norms for the position you're applying for. Salary comparison websites such as Glassdoor and PayScale let you tailor your salary search by company, position, experience and city and request a personalized salary report.
For direct insight on how a company has handled matters of salary, contact a past or present employee through a mutual friend or social networking website like LinkedIn. "Employees who have worked there are the best source of that information," says Robin Bond, founder of Transition Strategies, a law firm that represents employees, and author of "How to Negotiate a Killer Job Offer."
Avoid or ask the question yourself. If salary is raised during the early phases of the interview, it's best to "table the conversation," Safani says.
"The problem with giving a salary too soon in the interview process is that it can sometimes end the conversation," she says. A figure on the high end of the salary spectrum could leave you in the too-pricey category. But a low-end figure could lead a hiring manager to conclude you're too junior for the position, Safani notes.
To respectfully turn the tables on the inquiring hiring manager, recite the average salary for the position and ask if the company adheres to that norm, Safani says.
Don't shortchange yourself. Your eagerness to work for the company could blind you to a raw deal. Safani notes that most hiring managers avoid making their best offer right off the bat. "[Hiring managers] have a range that they're working within, and they want to have some wiggle room in case the candidate wants to negotiate," she says.
Unemployment shouldn't soften your stance. You may think being jobless puts you at a severe disadvantage or eliminates your leverage. "People feel that they can't ask for anything because they're unemployed," Safani says. While you may feel like you're bargaining from a position of desperation, remember the "value that you bring to an organization compared to another candidate is the same regardless if you're currently using your skills," she says.
Take other perks into account. A salary coupled with other financial incentives could put you on par with or surpass what you're currently bringing home. "I look at a compensation package as having a lot of components in it beyond just base pay," Bond says.
Start-up companies in particular, Bond says, will partner salary with various forms of equity such as restricted stock units, shares, performance shares and options. If a financial stake in the company isn't offered, "you might want to negotiate some things that are not directly related to the position but will make it a better offer for you," Safani says.
Picking up the tab for your Internet or cellphone bill and membership fees to professional associations are benefits that can "sweeten the pot," she says. More vacation time, the option to work from home, relocation benefits and career counseling for a spouse who's recently lost his or her job are other items you can request, Bond adds.
Be delicate, but convincing, in your dialogue. Approach the talks, Bond says, like a long-term romantic relationship "that you care about and don't want to trample on." Opt for carefully calibrated words rather than desk-pounding theatrics. "You can't be demanding – you have to be persuasive," she says.