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Five Ways to Successfully Negotiate a Salary


Thursday, July 13, 2007.



By Brooks Hughes


In the job search process, many people tend to be the most anxious about interviews. But, for some people, an equally frightening part of the job search is the salary negotiation process.

Talking about money is something that can make even the most confident people feel uneasy. This important process can be done with confidence if you know how to go about it and have a clear sense of what you really want.

One of the most important things to do before you begin talking job offers or salary requirements is setting your expectations realistically. Those who ask for too much can give the impression that they do not understand the market and ultimately end up disappointed. On the other hand, settling for too little isn't a good choice either.

So what is the key to negotiating fairly? Experience and research can help, says Michael Morley, Jr., business manager with the Morley Group, a staffing and human resource management firm. "For the most part, people are fairly aware of what their market value is," Morley says. But he points out that, generally, the higher you go with respect to compensation, the more realistic professionals tend to be about their market value. This could be because they have more experience, learned from mistakes they have made, and have held enough jobs to have a good understanding of fair compensation.

Morley offers these five tips to help understand your worth and negotiate for it with confidence:

1. Do your research.
"There are a variety of salary surveys that you as an individual can access over the Internet," Morley says. Research professional industry associations and HR Web sites. He also suggests browsing job postings and classified ads. While ads don't always list salaries, you can often get ideas of a pay range companies are willing to offer.

2. Be realistic about your experience.
"You need to be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot do," Morley says. For example, you may be tempted to apply for a job that is offering a $60,000 salary, even if you don't meet the job requirements. One major part of being realistic about what you can make is being realistic about what skills you can bring to the table.

3. Be cautious about misinformation.
Certain advertisements can give job seekers false hope about salary and job potential, Morley warns. For example, education programs that promise that their graduates make a certain amount of money often turn out to be atypical or totally inflated. The bottom line is that you cannot always take everything you hear or read as the truth. Educate yourself to find out what the standard really is.

4. Focus on the big picture.
Morley says that he wants his clients to look at the big picture, not just one element of a job offer. "In a professional field, we caution people to not focus solely on compensation," he says. "The real thing to focus on is whether or not the job is right for you."

There are so many things to consider when taking a new job. From the company culture to whether or not the job is challenging enough, you need to weigh all of your options. "Compensation is important and it has to be reasonable and fair, but focusing on compensation alone is a poor way to do a job search," Morley says.

5. Be methodical in your decision making.
Use a simple list-making method, Morley suggests. On a piece of paper, write down all the things that are important to you in order of their rank. While cash for most is king, having a short commute and good medical benefits might matter more than a few extra dollars. Or perhaps you'd be willing to trade a couple thousand dollars for more vacation time.

Having this knowledge about yourself, the market and your personal needs will give you the confidence to negotiate effectively. Write down your desired salary and the benefits you most desire. Be ready to play hardball, but give yourself a little wiggle room. That way if you have to negotiate, you can still achieve your bottom line total compensation goal.

Brooks Hughes is the President of RightFish, a full service recruitment solution. He conducts in-depth research of hiring trends and candidate behavior to develop unique solutions to effectively meet client needs.


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