By Debra Feldman
It can spring up near the beginning of an official job interview, or sneak up before the meeting is about to close. Regardless of the circumstances, poised executives are always ready to answer the most important question that surfaces in a serious dialogue between decision-makers and prospective employees.
Exact phrasing varies but the meaning is clear: "What will it take for you to join our team?" or "What is it going to cost to get you here?"
Does the very thought of being in such a situation make your hands clammy, your heart race, and your stomach churn? Would you prefer any punishment rather than confront this question? Unfortunately, accepting a job offer frequently entails negotiating the terms of employment.
Get prepared and save yourself some last minute angst. Here are a few tips to help you face the inevitable armed with confidence and good advice.
1. Do your homework.
Be prepared with facts and figures to demonstrate your value to the prospective employer. Know your worth in the market. Research what comparable positions with similar responsibilities command in your industry and location.
2. Make it clear that your goal is fairness.
You want to be compensated fairly with what your colleagues are paid for comparable responsibilities, and you want to be rewarded for superior performance.
3. Show that hiring you is not an expense but a smart investment.
Prove that you will be able to add to the bottom line through increased sales, cost reductions, revenue gains, enhanced productivity, etc. Have tables or charts to illustrate the impact your expertise will have, and use actual data where available.
4. Never reveal an exact number for your desired salary or what you're currently making.
Give a range that will allow you more room to negotiate for bonuses, benefits, time off, etc. because no two jobs are the same and no two candidates are alike. (See tip # 6 below!).
5. Have a bottom line in mind.
Think about what this opportunity is worth to you. What will you give up? Is there a necessity, must have, or uncompromising need? Then be willing to be flexible on the rest. Think about time off vs. salary, educational opportunities vs. conference attendance, etc.
6. Remember that this should be a win-win for you and your future employer.
Make sure that they understand that you want this job and you are confident that if you agree that you're the right choice, together you can make this happen. Take the focus off the dollars and put it on the chance to have an impact, find solutions, and move forward.
7. Work this out with your future boss rather than their HR staff person.
Only your future boss knows what they need and will go to bat to get this deal together for you. It's their budget -- show them your skills right from the beginning with your abilities to negotiate for yourself!