Salary Negotiation – Use What’s Available 

Figuring out how and when to talk about compensation in the recruitment process has been the nemesis of job seekers for decades. Ranging from advice snippets like, “Whoever talks about money first loses” to detailed outlines of how to broach the compensation topic with a recruiter or hiring manager, compensation has been a bit of a mysterious topic for people to discuss. Many times, job seekers are so grateful to get an offer, they just accept whatever is offered with little to no negotiation. 
We’ve had several opportunities to share with you some advice on how to approach compensation negotiation in a blog series (see blog post HERE). Overall, we also advised that money must be discussed up front, so a recruiter can confidently present candidates to hiring managers. To that end, creating your compensation range is very important (see blog post HERE).  

How to Gain an Advantage

So how does a job seeker use that information to his / her advantage? 
Simple: Directly ask about the compensation range in the interview. Of course, this probably isn’t the first question for you to ask, but as we advised in our compensation series, a candidate should be gathering information along the way through the interview process to gain insight about how to eventually approach compensation negotiation. 
The opportunity to ask the question may arise when the recruiter is asking you as the job seeker what the level of compensation is that you’re seeking. Or perhaps when you’re with the hiring manager and have been through the bulk of the interview questions he / she has for you, and asks you what questions do you have?    
You could respond with, “I saw that the salary range posted for this position is $85,000 – $125,000. What are the skills, experiences, or abilities separating candidates at both ends of the range?” 
That should trigger the interviewer to respond with information about their salary strategy for the role. They may disclose that the top of the range generally has an experience level of 10 years, while the lower range number is about 3 years. They may further describe the types of experiences candidates at both ends of the range may be able to present. Perhaps certifications are present in one case but not the other. The number of people supervised may also play a part as a determinant factor. 

Build Your Case

No matter what is shared with you, keep track of what is said and then figure out how to build your case for your eventual offer using their own words. Help them help you! 🙂 
The key is to gently press for clarity of logic for the range, and then determine how to best communicate what you have that justifies logically arriving at the dollar figure you’d be shooting for. Now, that may not be the top of the range that’s offered, but that’s already going to be factored in by the future employer as they determine what to offer you. Odds are high, however, that they have not paid as close attention to the details of the range differentiators as you will have. Thus, when you logically lay out the rationale for why you believe your credentials are worth “x” when they’ve offered “y”, they can easily see the need for a shift upward from their original offer. 
If you’re not in a location where pay range disclosures exist, you can also politely inquire, “I understand that pay transparency continues to gain ground. Given that advent, could you share the range for this role?” Usually, the hiring manager or recruiter knows the numbers and just needs to be given a reason to share. 🙂 

Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” – – and while this verse’s context is being able to testify of God’s saving work in your life, a broad principle can be extracted. That is, to be prepared with information to defend / explain your perspective. And asking questions is often what we need to do to gain access to that information. 

As with many challenges in the hiring process, a simple direct (but polite) question can often yield great results. Both parties want a quick end to the process of finding a solution (what you do best) to their need (what they need most!) Help them help you to that end!  

Dave Sparkman currently serves as the volunteer Crossroads Career board chair and local ministry leader. He is also the founder and managing director of Spark Your Culture, a corporate culture consulting firm. Prior to that he worked at UnitedHealth Group, a Fortune #5 public company, serving in the role of Chief Culture Officer. His unemployment experience came from the implosion of Arthur Andersen, where he served as the West Region Managing Partner, People.

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