First rule of thumb: Don’t ever be the first one in the conversation to speak about compensation. More than likely, your first contact with the employer will get around to asking. If you bring it up early in the game, it is a big turn-off to employers. It will sort of define you being only about the money and not about the work and the company. I would say 90% of the time, if all else is clicking between the candidate and employer, they will make the money work – so don’t worry about it yet, get yourself the interview.
I am not going to delve into salary discussions for sales people or people who get a good portion of income from commission this time, it is much more complex. It is usually a different dynamic and process. I will speak about that one-on-one if you would like and then publish a post about it.
For everyone else, when the employer asks you your salary requirements, you need to be prepared to respond in a manner that makes you attractive to them but at the same time not undervaluing yourself. Since you did your homework, and personally know what you need to make to maintain quality of life and better, it needn’t be tricky.
Let’s use an example of 80-100,000 a year salary as your range. I know this is wide, but most people can tolerate a swing like this.
I would respond something like this: “While the salary is important, the long term opportunity is just as important to me. I am looking at other opportunities for similar positions to this in the 85-100,000 range.” This way, if they only offer toward the low end, you still can snatch it without looking like you lowered your standards if the opportunity looks like a great one, or conversely be more aggressive to ask for more if it makes sense, while not turning them off completely.
As far as bonus, when factoring that in as compensation, assume that you will only be able to bank on 60% of bonus, since most are tied to overall company performance. Even if you did great, but the company didn’t you will not make full bonus. So if the offer is 80,000 with a 10% bonus potential, you should safely expect to make about 85,000.
Also, before accepting any offer, find out exactly what your out of pocket is for health insurance, what the employer’s 401k match is and what are the funds they offer. Plus any other compensation type benefits: vacation weeks, stock options, profit sharing, pensions, etc. Compare these to what you are making currently or made before to see if the numbers truly add up to at least keeping you whole.
Finally, if the offer given is exactly what you want, don’t do the whole “can I think about it for a couple days and get back to you.” Accept it, because this is where your employer/employee relationship starts – the first time they get to see how you react in real world situations vs. the hypotheticals of the interviewing process. At the minimum, if you absolutely need to stew on it, promise to get back by 9am the next morning. If you unnecessarily drag it on, and ultimately accept a position, you have started the relationship off on the wrong foot.
If you feel like you need to ask for more, be polite and professional. “I really am excited about the opportunity, however, I was wondering if there was any leeway in the salary, say $xxx? If no, I understand completely and I will still consider it, but it would make the decision much easier based on my other opportunities. Don’t bring up personal financial situations as a reason, it’s not their problem and they don’t care.
Finally, if you need to decline, don’t do so in a “take this job and shove it” manner. You want to make sure no bridges are burned and that the opportunity to revisit should you need to is still available. You can say something like: “While the opportunity sounded like a great one and your offer was generous, I decided to accept another opportunity that more closely fit my career and salary goals (notice career first, salary second.) I think your company is well positioned to do great things, and wish you the best of luck. ”
I know I have laid out some very broad parameters, digging into this subject made it obvious I could easily write 4 or 5 posts. If you have any more specific questions, please comment or contact me and I will try to be more specific to your situation.