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Negotiating Your Compensation – Part Two

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 Two is below and Part One is available on our Career Advice Articles page. Part Three will be featured next month.

After the initial offer, you will enter into what I call “Second Round Negotiations.”

Your success at this point will depend as much on how you act, as it will on what you say! Here are some guidelines on how to behave and what to say once the employer has floated their first offer.

First, maintain a “poker-face.” Write down all the details of the offer. Then, break eye contact – appear disappointed and perplexed). Note that this is the first time in the entire interview process that you’ve deliberately broken eye contact. This will certainly shift the dynamics of the conversation – which is exactly what you want at this juncture. You’ll actually want to create an awkward, uncomfortable feeling in the room.

No matter how strange it feels, remain silent until the interviewer responds. She will only have three or four possible reactions, including:

– Well, you don’t seem too pleased with that number; what did you have in mind? (Or)

– I might be able to do a bit better, but I’ll need to talk with my manager first. (Or)

– That number is the absolute most we can possibly offer you; it’s at the top of our range

Just listen politely. Then, with the same look of confusion and disappointment on your face, you should say …

“Based on the level of contribution I offer and the commitment that I am prepared to make I really believe that your offer is on the conservative side.”

Or, you could say:

“In view of the accomplishments that I have shared with you and my 15 years of related experience frankly, your offer is not at all what I was expecting.”

If the interviewer is seriously interested in you as a candidate, she might then reply, “Well, what salary did you have in mind for this role?”

At this point, I suggest that you quote an increase in percentage terms (perhaps 15% to 20%), or state the actual dollar figure you want as a base salary – whichever option seems appropriate. Then wait silently to see what the response is!

Again, you should never accept or reject an offer on the spot. Ask for 24 hours to one week (depending on the situation) to consider it. You’ll want to talk it over with family, and give the matter a lot of consideration. Plus, you’ll almost always think of questions to ask and details to cover that you didn’t think of during the interview.

If you’re still in the game by this point, you’re entering into “Third Round Negotiations.”

Here’s what to do:

Go back to the Hiring Manager (not Human Resources) in person if possible, and say:

“This is a great opportunity and I am really excited about joining your company.”

Or, you could say:

“I am inclined to accept your offer, however there are three items I want to discuss (negotiate) with you.” (the two magic words here are “inclined” and “however.”)

“If we can reach agreement on these items, I will be prepared to accept your offer today.”

Note that you are stating your terms very clearly at this point, and making a commitment. So if you don’t mean it, don’t say it! Also, remember that the employer does not want to go “back to square one” and start the interviewing process all over again. That would be a huge waste of time and money for them. They’ve already stated that you’re their top candidate. They want you, and they really want to “close this deal” – today!

If your counter-offer is reasonable, the company will probably say, “OK, you’re hired.” Or they might negotiate you down a bit to a fair compromise that you can both live with.

Either way, you’ve got yourself a new job. Congratulations!

Getting back to the interview process, I want to review a very important topic with you. Many people ask me, “But what do I have to sell?” Why would an employer select me over other candidates?” The answer is that you need to sell your contributions – and these are best expressed through a clever tool called your:

Accomplishment Stories

What you need to understand is that:

  • The success of your negotiations will be in direct proportion to the quality of the stories you tell.
  • The employer is looking for “transferrable skills.”
  • These are the most important “features and benefits” that you can offer!

So, write at least seven to 10 stories from any time in your career when you felt proud of your efforts. Structure each story by answering the following questions:

  1. What was the problem, need or challenge?
  2. What did you do about it? (Not the company or team – you!)
  3. How did you do it, specifically?
  4. What positive results did you produce?  (Quantify if possible)
  5. What skills did you demonstrate?

NOTE: Skill words you can use include the following. (Select three to four maximum, per story, to answer question five above.)

Management, Observation, Communication, Leadership, Presentation, Persuasion, Analysis, Innovation, Team-Building, Problem-Solving, Follow-Through, Organization.

Whenever you’re at an interview, listen carefully for the employer’s greatest needs, challenges and frustrations. When you hear the skill words we’ve just reviewed (or something close), offer to tell one of your accomplishment stories. What you want to do is paint a detailed picture of a time when you successfully handled a similar situation. The interviewer will take notice – because they’ll understand how your proven achievements are directly related to their current business problems.

Negotiation Strategy

Simply put, your strategy is based on knowing exactly what you want out of the negotiation, vs. what you need. Most people don’t know the difference, which gets them into trouble. Let’s look at an example of this side-by-side comparison:

The bottom line is that you need to know in advance what you’re willing to trade, and what you’re not!

Make your own list before you enter into negotiations!

Now, you might be asking yourself … what’s negotiable and what’s not? The answer might surprise you!

Be sure to read Part Three 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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