Understanding the Job Negotiation Process

Moving from job hunting to landing that dream job can be quite a lengthy process. Every step in the process, including the key component of negotiation, is interrelated to helping you officially receive an offer and accepting an offer based on terms that are satisfactory.

When Does Job Negotiation Process Really Begin?

Understanding the Job Negotiation ProcessHow can you tell if the job negotiation process has begun? Many assume it happens when a job offer is received. In fact, in subtle way, it starts as soon as you complete a job application.
Job applications not only ask for your contact information and employment history, but often also your salary information with the most recent employer and your desired salary for the new position you are applying for.

The information you provide regarding your latest earnings provide the hiring company with a guideline as to whether you are within range of what the company may be looking to offer for that position. While it is recommended for you to disclose your current salary information (if asked), the more sensitive area to address carefully is your desired salary.

In most instances, you will want to hold off on addressing your desired salary until much later in the interview process, whether the question is posed in an application or during an interview. You may be wondering why.

The early stages of an interview process should typically be focused on helping you better understand the position and what is expected of you in the role. At the same time, it’s a period for the hiring company to learn what you have to offer through your experience and skills. Having a better understanding of the responsibilities and role will help you to research and determine what a reasonable salary range is for the position. At the same time, the more impressed the employer is with you, the greater the advantage you have to negotiating what you desire.

Bringing up salary too early in the process may put you at risk. If what you are asking for is too high, the employer may dismiss your application. If what you are asking for is on the low end of the employer’s range, you may miss out on an opportunity for a potentially higher salary.

As a general rule of thumb, let the employer bring up the discussion of salary. In most instances, the employer’s disclosure of a number or salary range gives you better leverage in the job negotiation process.

Think about the scenario you would face if you brought up the discussion. The next question the employer would ask is what you are looking for. You then find yourself in a position to indicate a figure – one that may be too high for the company to accept or lower than what the company would have anticipated offering.

At all possible costs hold off on the salary discussion. And if you really do need to be the one to bring it up, make sure you are well past the early stages of the interview process.

What Can I Do If I Am Asked About My Desired Salary?

While there are circumstances where the question of desired salary is unavoidable, there are several lines of defense. You do not want to ignore the question; rather, you address the question with a satisfactory response and move on to a more important area of discussion. For an application, you may simply note: “Open for Discussion.”

Other lines of defense during an interview:

  • “I’m focused more on learning about the opportunity at this point, and I’m sure if I receive an offer it will be fair and reasonable…”
  • “I do not feel I have enough information on the position and responsibilities involved to provide an answer at this time…”
  • “I have not done enough research on the cost-of-living in this area to provide you with an answer, but if you give me some time, I can get back to you…” – for relocation package.

And of course, there may be situations where you will be persistently pursued about your desired salary. In such cases, NEVER offer a specific number; rather, provide a wide range that will allow for wiggle room.