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Timing in Your Negotiation of Terms of Employment

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Timing is critical in games; knowledge and skill are worthless unless they can be applied at the appropriate moments. In the context of job searches, the appropriate time to talk money is after you have been offered a job. You will undoubtedly run into organizations and interviewers who want to start talking about salary at or near the beginning of your dealings with them. Resist the pressure firmly but politely and with a sense of humor, if possible.

Some organizations ask for a detailed salary history in their advertisements for positions. If you run into such a demand, either disregard it or cross the organization off your list. There is absolutely no valid reason to ask for this information from applicants, particularly before they have even become candidates for a job. Your salary history says nothing about your potential value to an organization, and prospective employers are in no position to evaluate the significance of your salary history in other organizations as an indicator of performance or career advancement. If the organization's goal is merely to screen candidates whose salary expectations may be out of its range, the most obvious and simple means of doing so is to include a salary range in the advertisement. If an organization wants to develop a more accurate picture of appropriate salaries for a newly created position, it should get information by the same means you used do a little research with standard information sources and over the phone.

More likely, the organization's goal is to get someone as cheaply as possible their demand is a move in a game. If you come across such a demand in an advertisement and find the position so appealing that you want to apply for it anyway, indicate in your cover letter your willingness to discuss the issue of salary after you have become a candidate for the position. If you are subsequently invited for an interview, treat the salary question as suggested in the following paragraphs just as you would for other organizations.



When you are asked about salary expectations early in the selection interviewing process, there are many tactics for delaying the discussion.

One of them is to simply smile and ask whether you are being offered the job. If necessary, you can follow your question with a statement like, "I'd really like to learn more about the work I can do for you at this point; I'm sure we can agree on a fair salary later if we agree there's a good fit between your needs and my abilities." Or you can smile and reply, "I have no upper limits; what are yours?" Which, brings us to another principle of employment negotiations; get the interviewer to mention a figure first? If you go first, you will be proceeding in the dark and stand a good chance of either naming a figure well below the upper limit or so far above it that you will be crossed off the list. A salary range named at this point is still open to negotiation, so you do not lock yourself into anything by continuing to pursue the job, even if the range mentioned initially is unacceptable.

Even when the interviewer mentions an appealing salary early in the selection process, defer further discussion until after you have received an offer. A committed buyer one who has already made up his or her mind and is committed to a particular product is less sensitive to price than the shopper who has not yet made any commitment. When you are at the top of the candidate list when you are being offered the job you are in a much better position to negotiate than in the early phases of the selection process. In the early stages of selection interviewing, the organization may feel no more committed to you than to a dozen other candidates; if someone comes along who looks like a real bargain, your premature indication of an acceptable salary range may cost you an offer.

After an interviewer has named a range, you may want to reveal the results of your research. You might say, for example, "Well, that seems below the norm for the industry, but I'm very interested in working for ABC and I'm certain we can reach a fair employment agreement if and when you offer me a position. So, let's keep talking about your needs and talk money later." Or, if the interviewer mentions an appealing range, you might say, "That seems a reasonable range in light of my research, but right now I'm much more interested in talking about the job than about money: I'm certain you will offer me a fair salary if we all agree I'm the right person for the work you need to have done."
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