Although I have a very keen eye for spotting a fair amount of negotiation tactics, I find negotiation, in most circumstances, to simply be a hindrance to the normal flow of business.
For a moment, tally up the opportunity cost that you have seen wasted by others who want to negotiate arbitrary, meaningless things like the cost of pens at Staples. You would probably have a good chunk of change if you summed up all that wasted time and energy.
Among many professionals, salary negotiation is a topic of inflated importance and is often written about in a very reckless, inaccurate manner by people who are off base to an extent that piques a tremendous amount of curiosity for me, both personally and as a sales recruiter.
It took me years to come up with these salary negotiation "rules" I recommend most job seekers follow. They are broad, but since I started KAS, I find them to be the most reliable, in the widest variety of job offer situations.
- Unless you need the money, don't negotiate for a few thousand dollars.
With a grin, I once saw a VP go back and forth with a 20 year old over $3,000. How this VP is still gainfully employed, I don't know. When two people who don't know how to negotiate get together, they get a perception that each does. Both sides of the table appear to pretend that the boardroom table is a stand at some country bazaar.
Therefore, before you go on the job search, make rules for yourself. Don't get caught up in situations like the aforementioned. At best, you will waste time or leave a bad taste in the hiring manager's mouth. At worst, you will lose what should have been a sure thing or a job you really wanted.
Tell yourself what you're going to graciously walk away from, what you're going to sit on and what you're going to sign the next day. Keep in mind that this number should shift in conjunction with how much you like the job, and its perceived strengths in terms of furthering your career progression.
If you love the job, remember that you only live once and weigh what luxuries you must give up and do your best to make a decision.
- You don't know the employment market well enough to negotiate
There are too many complicated variables that go into compensation.
When trying to gauge their worth on the market, job seekers tend to reference friends and old colleagues. What they don't understand is that their friend could have been at the right place at the right time.
For example, maybe the owner of the firm that hired your friend needed to hire someone and was very desperate to get a body in the organization. In this circumstance, about 20%+ compensation leverage went to the friend.
This is just one of 20 different variables that throw people off when asking for any given compensation package.
In any salary discussion, whether for a new job or a raise, citing an acquaintance's or colleague's compensation package is a weak argument. It's the equivalent of saying, "Bobby got chocolate milk, so I shouldn't have plain."
When it comes to numbers, the employer doesn't know Bobby; all they know is their budget and their company goals.
- Don't fall into the benefits trap
I always say to my corporate friends that if they get hit by a tank, they are sure as heck lucky not to have to pay the ambulance bill. If you're younger, odds are you don't require extensive health insurance coverage, beyond annual check-ups and some prescription coverage. For the majority of job seekers - especially those who don't yet have families to insure - keep benefits out of the salary negotiation equation, all other things being equal.
If you want to cut negotiations off and get a higher salary...
Be candid about the fact that you don't negotiate salaries. Now, the employer can trap you and ask for a specific number, but be vague and give a range. Let them come with the offer. If they come in way too low, walk away: undervaluing you is unprofessional on the employer's part.
Remember the emotions that go into negotiation
Before you go into heated salary negotiations for weeks on end over $12,000, remember that you're going to have to work with these individuals. The last thing you want to do is go into a new office with strange faces and feel uncomfortable.
People make snap judgments on others, mostly in the time frame of four to seven seconds. Strangers know when you are upset or disgruntled more than your own family does, often because they haven't become inured to your behavioral tics. This is not to mention that 80% of all communication is nonverbal. First impressions don't last a lifetime, but they do last and are hard to change.
The last first impression you want at your new job is a reputation as the new person who strained the budget unnecessarily.