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Negotiating for a New Job And Getting What You Want

Dear Coach Joan,

I’ll be graduating from college next semester and have already begun on-campus interviewing.

I was completely caught off guard when at the end of my first interview  I  was asked what it would take for the company to hire me! I didn’t see that question coming and  I didn’t know what to say. I floundered when they offered me a low offer and the meeting ended awkwardly.  Can you give me some ideas on how to prepare for next time.

Thank you very much,


Dear Jane,

First of all, congratulations on doing such an outstanding job on your first interview that you were basically offered a job, though they put the ball in your court and you weren’t quite in the ready position.  It should give you confidence though, as it means you must have really impressed them quite a bit!

The topic of negotiating for a job is quite similar in a distinctive way as looking for  real estate. The key words for real estate are location, location, location. The key words for job negotiating are preparation, preparation, preparation.

Many companies are aware that the smart college graduates are often excellent at preparing for the interview in terms of researching the company, developing good questions, making insightful comments and presenting themselves and their capabilities in a strong way. However, companies are aware that in the first round of interviews many candidates are not prepared to say what they want their compensation to be. Many candidates believe that a compensation discussion won’t occur for  several meetings out. That’s where the interviewer has the advantage.  They know what they want to pay; they know their bottom line and their top line and all of the possible ‘goodies’ they have to offer. When you are unprepared you often lowball yourself or agree to a package that doesn’t necessarily include the things that are important to you had you anticipated and thought through a realistic but optimistic negotiation stance.

The biggest mistake that most candidates make, other than a complete lack of preparation, is thinking that salary is only thing that needs to be considered. It’s up to you to know all the elements that make up a compensation package. You need to think about aspects of a total compensation package that might include any of the following:

  • start-on bonus
  • start date
  • training opportunities, allowing for the time and investment, depending on internal or external training
  • more paid/unpaid vacation days, special time off based on prior plans you’ve made, any days/times you want off
  • promotion plans with dates attached
  • company stock or stock options
  • higher base salary based on demonstrated skills/years of experience
  • better or different title
  • tuition reimbursement
  • bonus opportunities
  • shorter periods between salary review
  • specific benefits you’d like to have
  • work from home option
  • flexible work hours
  • transfer opportunities to the company’s other/international locations with dates attached
  • a car and or paid travel and expenses
  • special computer, phone or other electronic equipment, or specific tools/resources for your industry and job
  • extra marketing budget or extra funding for your projects
  • a certain office location, a certain kind of chair or desk, etc.
  • paid membership in a gym
  • paid membership in a club or professional organization (and you need to explain why this will benefit the company)

As you can see, this is an awfully long list and it can include other elements as well. I will ask my readers to write in with other things they have successfully negotiated for with an employer.

Jane, and readers, if you do find yourself again in an interview situation where early-on you are asked what it would cost to hire you, I would suggest that you say that perhaps the salary discussion is happening prematurely before you have a complete understanding of the scope of the position and how your  skills and experience align. Make the comment that you look at salary as a part of the overall compensation picture. When it is time for the compensation discussion, because you are PREPARED, you would share the list you’ve compiled that includes all relevant aspects of the compensation for that position.  From now on, when you begin researching for a job, make sure that compensation preparation is included in your homework.

A key way to find out about a company’s compensation strategy is to look at the web site, and any other compensation web sites that you can find. Another way is to find current or past employees of the company who are willing to share salary and compensation information with you. If you are working with a recruiter you can also inquire about the company’s salary and compensation practices.

Good luck to you Jane, and readers, let’s keep this conversation going.

Onward to bringing the best of you to work!

Coach Joan

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