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Negotiating Your Compensation – Part One

By Ford R. Myers
President, Career Potential, LLC

When it comes to compensation negotiation, there is a lot to say and a lot to learn! Therefore, this article is divided into three sections. Part One is below. Parts Two and Three will be featured over the next two months.

Let me begin by asking you a few questions

  • Have you ever heard people say that they “just can’t do salary negotiating?” Or, that “negotiating compensation makes them uncomfortable?” (Perhaps you’ve even said these things yourself!)
  • Do you find it easier to negotiate the price of a car, a house, or a business deal than to negotiate your own compensation?
  • Why is it that people have such a difficult time successfully negotiating their compensation?

The reason we can’t or won’t negotiate is not because we’re incapable of doing this, but rather because we just don’t know how! No one ever taught us how to do it, and we never learned “the rules of the game!”

This is a very serious subject, but for now let’s look at negotiation as a game. And as with any game, we can’t win if we don’t know the rules!

After more than 25 years working as a Career Coach, helping thousands of clients dramatically increase their earnings, I’ve identified 21 critical negotiation guidelines that I want to share with you right now. So, here they are:

  1. Do extensive salary research, preparation and practice beforehand
  2. Defer salary discussions until an offer seems imminent
  3. Discuss salary only with the ultimate decision-maker
  4. Get the employer to state a salary figure or range first
  5. Wait until a firm, written offer is on the table before negotiating
  6. Discuss salary only after you have fully described your relevant accomplishments
  7. Know your strategy before attending the negotiation meeting
  8. Always negotiate the offer, no matter how good it seems initially
  9. Finalize the salary first, before negotiating other items such as benefits
  10. Never misrepresent your former salary
  11. Don’t confuse salary with the full compensation package
  12. Avoid tying your potential salary to your old salary
  13. Use silence as one of your most powerful negotiating tools
  14. “Fit” is more important than financial compensation
  15. Leverage one offer against other offers if possible
  16. Be patient and disciplined throughout the process
  17. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate
  18. Never accept or reject an offer on the spot – do a thorough analysis
  19. You can only win at negotiation if you’re willing to “walk away”
  20. Be sure the compensation package you finally accept is a “win-win”
  21. Maintain a positive, upbeat attitude and enjoy the “game”

I suggest you review these “rules of the game” frequently throughout your job search – and throughout your entire career!

Remembering all these rules can certainly feel overwhelming. So let me give you a formula to follow, which will simplify the process considerably:

The Formula for Success

P + P = P

What does this mean? It simply means:

Preparation + Practice = Power

You see, the problem with most candidates is that they have no POWER in the negotiation game. They believe, and therefore act as though, the employer has ALL the power and they, as the candidate, have no power.

This is no way to enter into any sort of negotiation! Through your preparation for interviews and your practice of the techniques covered in this article, you will show-up with equal power and influence over the outcome of the negotiations.

In addition to knowing the 21 rules and your simple formula for success, you’re going to need to learn some of the specific responses to tough interview questions. Interviews can be very challenging in general, as I’m sure you know – but the most difficult part of the interview for most people is when the conversation turns to compensation! If you’re like a lot of my clients, you’ve asked yourself, “What do I say when the interviewer asks me how much salary I want? Or “How do I respond when if I’m asked how much I’ve been earning?”

This part of the process does not have to overwhelm you, or cause undue anxiety. In fact, if you’ll just learn the following guidelines and responses, you’ll handle yourself like a pro and generate very positive financial results.

The guidelines I’m about to share are for you to use when negotiating with employers (not recruiters).

In the first round of negotiations, the subject of salary may come-up for the first time. So, when you’re asked:

“What salary would you require” or “What were you making at your last job”

I suggest you reply with one or more of the following phrases:

“I think salary is a very important topic and I would be more than happy to discuss it once a mutual interest has been established.”  (Get back to discussing your accomplishments)

or, you could say

“Your company has a very good reputation, and I’m sure the compensation package will be fair enough to keep me motivated and productive.”  (By the way, what is the salary range for this position?)

or, you could say

“Based on my accomplishments, I would like to be paid at the same level as other employees of my caliber.” (What is the salary range for a person of my caliber?)

or, you could say

“Regarding compensation, I am flexible and willing to negotiate once we have developed a mutual interest.”  (Get back to discussing your accomplishments)

or, you could say

“If we decide that I am the right person for this job, I am sure we will be able to come to an agreement on compensation.”  (Get back to discussing your accomplishments)

or, you could say

“At this time, I am most interested in determining if I am the right person for this job. If there’s a fit, I’m sure salary won’t be an issue.”  (Get back to discussing your accomplishments)

or, you could say

“Are you making me an offer?”  If so, what salary range did you have in mind?  NOTE: Only use this response at the later stages of the interview process – perhaps in the 2nd or 3rd negotiation meeting.

So, why do I suggest using these specific phrases? Because they work!  I have coached many, many clients through successful salary negotiations, and they’ve consistently reported to me that these responses won them the compensation packages they wanted!

Be sure to read Part Two of “Negotiating Your Compensation.” Look for it in next month’s edition of “Your Career Advocate!”

About the Author:
Ford R. Myers is an award-winning career coach, speaker and author of the best-seller, Get The Job You Want, Even When No One’s Hiring. Ford’s firm helps clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve! He has held senior consulting positions at three of the nation’s largest career service firms. Ford’s articles have appeared in thousands of publications and web sites, and he has been interviewed on every major television and radio network. Ford has also conducted presentations at hundreds of companies, associations and universities. Learn more at


FORD R. MYERS is an award-winning, nationally-known Career Coach, best-selling author, and speaker. He is the President of Career Potential, LLC, a premier provider of career success services. Through powerful individual, corporate and government career programs, Ford has helped thousands of clients take charge of their careers, create the work they love, and earn what they deserve!

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