How You Negotiate Compensation Impacts Your Relationship with Your New Employer

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Recently we discussed how to tell if the compensation for the job you've just been offered is enough. Now, we're going to move into the area of the compensation process that can get a little tricky: negotiating a wage and benefit package. How you handle these negotiations could have short and long-term implications for your relationship with your new employer.

“Salary negotiations can be the trickiest part of the job search process and is often the aspect that most worries job applicants,” Lynne Sarikas, Executive Director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University, tells eFinancialCareers. “Job seekers certainly don't want to leave money on the table. It is also the best [and sometimes only] opportunity to ask for other concessions as well. This all must be done as a win-win to be successful.”

Here are some wage and benefit negotiation strategies:

Do Your Homework

A job seeker must do their homework in advance to be prepared for the process,” says Sarikas. “Also use your networking contacts to get a sense if the company strategy is to pay high or low versus their competition. It is helpful to have a ballpark expectation prior to receiving the offer. Also get a sense of the breadth of benefits offered from reviewing the company Web site and leveraging your networking contacts. You also have to be realistic about the current state of the economy and the job market.”

Let Them Bring Up Wage

“In regard to negotiating salary, the rule of thumb in any negotiation is
 he [or she] who speaks first will lose,” says Jon Mazzocchi, partner and general manager of the accounting and finance permanent division of the executive recruiting firm Winter Wyman. “If at all possible, you should try 
to find out the other person's hand first. They may ask at some point
 what you are looking for. The knee jerk reaction is to throw out a
 number, but if your number is too high, you might scare them away. If
 it's too low, you are leaving potential dollars on the table.”

Don’t Set Yourself Up

“Focusing too much attention on your starting salary may not be in your best interest and could perhaps be a deal breaker,” says Roy Cohen, a career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide. “These days, adding a new hire is almost never essential ... so assertive behavior may be viewed as confrontational. If you do manage to convince them that the salary should be adjusted – and it's a stretch for them – you will be evaluated every step of the way and with greater scrutiny for the value you are delivering. Because they are paying you a premium, there will be less tolerance for mistakes and less time for you to come up to speed.”

Look at the Entire Package

“Salary, while important, is just one component of the offer,” says Sarikas. “It is always a good idea to ask if there is any wiggle room on the salary. But more importantly, consider the full benefits package and your needs and priorities. If you can't get a little more in salary, it could be just as valuable to you to have an extra week of vacation. Maybe what you really value is the flexibility to work from home one day a week or a commitment to a specific level of training. Think about what matters most to you when considering what you ask for. Remember, you may not get a chance to ask again. 
If the company can't raise the base salary … ask if there is any flexibility for a signing bonus.”

Don’t Give Ultimatums

“Never engage in negotiation as an ultimatum – an either or – but rather as a collaborative process and a unique opportunity to create a package that makes sense for both you and for them,” says Cohen.