5 Tips for Talking Money With a Potential Employer

Robert Half International

Discussing compensation and benefits with a potential employer when the economy is humming can be nerve--wracking; in a recession, it can be downright scary. But applicants should be ready -- and willing -- to bring up the topic with hiring managers. In fact, more than half (56 percent) of senior executive surveyed by Robert Half International said they are comfortable with applicants asking about salary in the first or second interview.

Following are five tips to help ensure you're well-prepared to negotiate compensation:

1. Do your homework

Conduct research to determine your market value, or, in other words, what the skills and experience you possess are currently worth. Begin by reviewing salary surveys and publications such as Robert Half's annual Salary Guides, talking to colleagues and recruiters, and checking salary comparison Web sites. Keep in mind that your geographic area plays a significant role in determining pay levels -- it's unlikely that an IT manager in Boise, Idaho, will be paid as much as one in San Jose, Calif., for instance.

2. Research the company

Is the firm in a position to bargain? Find out before attempting any salary negotiation. If you've been offered a job as a Web designer at a newly formed startup or a company that recently announced layoffs, your bargaining power may be limited. If the firm isn't able to offer the salary you seek, consider negotiating other elements of the compensation package, such as benefits, vacation days or flexible scheduling. Another option is to see if the company is willing to re-evaluate your compensation six months or a year after you start, assuming you've met performance expectations.

3. Look at more than money

Whenever you are offered a new position, make sure to consider all aspects of the job. Will you gain more responsibility or work on a high-profile project that will be a valuable addition to your résumé? These factors may make up for a smaller compensation package. Consider the benefits package, too. In addition to health insurance and vacation time, some companies provide perks such as tuition reimbursement or on-the-job training. Determine which factors are critical to you -- perhaps that you have access to a retirement savings account -- and on which ones you're willing to compromise.

4. Show them your value

Be prepared to show how the company's investment in you will pay off. Provide quantitative examples of your contributions to previous employers. Explain how your knowledge of a particular software program could save the business 10 percent in outsourcing fees or that your experience leading a product rollout will allow the company to complete the project more quickly. If you can provide a high ROI, you might be able to negotiate better compensation.

5. Get it in writing

Once you've agreed on terms, ask the employer to draw up a letter that outlines the specifics to the offer, such as the position's key responsibilities, salary and any special arrangements that resulted from the negotiations. Having everything in writing will prevent misunderstandings down the line.

Flexibility and an open mind are critical to successful salary negotiation. By researching your market value, assessing the company's financial position and demonstrating return on investment, you'll most likely find an offer that's agreeable to both you and your new employer.

Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 360 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com.

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