It might not top everyone's list of priorities when choosing their next job, but compensation certainly is somewhere on that list. What's important is to know where it falls on your list.
Then, to successfully negotiate, be clear with yourself on needs and wants, understand the value of your skills and experience to a particular position in a given market, and be able to communicate convincingly with a prospective employer.
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These tips will set you up for success in your next negotiation. Get more advice from MOAA on this topic and other compensation-related issues at our Salary and Benefits Resources page.
1. Do Your Homework!
Know your salary expectations even before you interview for a job, because the interviewer might raise the issue. Do market research to find salaries for comparable positions in the same geographic area. Salary.com, glassdoor.com, and, for executive positions in the nonprofit sector, an IRS Form 990 on charitynavigator.org are good places to start, but the most reliable information comes from networking. Talk to people you know in the desired industry and in the target company if possible. Considering your current income and the salary range from your research, decide where you want to be and what your lowest acceptable salary would be.
2.Make Your Case
During the interview process, ask questions to discern the employer's biggest problems and expectations for the successful candidate. Then, in salary negotiations, you can direct the conversation back to how you are going to add to their bottom line.
3. Play It Cool
Let the employer raise the issue of compensation first. If possible, deflect requests for salary expectation so the employer is the first to mention a number. If pressed, be prepared to respond with a reasonable range grounded in research.
4. Negotiate From Strength
Your bargaining power is at its peak when an offer is extended, because that indicates the employer wants to hire you. Remember that you both want you in the job; your goals are to find common ground and maintain a positive working relationship. A good way to establish common ground is to provide a salary range that overlaps (on the high end) the employer's stated range.
5. It’s Not Just Salary
Don't forget to weigh the monetary value of fringe benefits and other intangibles. You may consider tradeoffs within your acceptable range, taking a lower salary but a higher quality of life. Hold a few perquisites in your back pocket – additional vacation days, for example – to ask for when increased salary seems to be a no-go. And after you and the employer have agreed on a starting salary, consider asking for a signing bonus and/or an early performance evaluation with salary increases based on predetermined achievements.
Remember, salary negotiation is not an adversarial process. You and the employer have the same goal, and you want to maintain a positive working relationship going forward.
(A version of this article was originally published in July 2018.)
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