In Career, Discussions, Salary, Style, Women

Negotiation 101: How to get the most money and benefits at a job interview

I negotiate at every, single, dang contract so I do this pretty often, except my numbers are by the hour, and not a full salary for the year.

By the hour negotiation means even giving up $0.50 translates into $1000 a year. I don’t take small amounts lightly.

Negotiation is all about human nature, playing ‘chicken’ and psychological warfare.

If you can memorize a few lines and practice delivering them smoothly, I can get you more money at your next interview.

At the interview

Them: What are your salary expectations?

Response #1: “Let’s get to know each other first”

“To be honest, I would like to hear more about the job, the responsibilities and the tasks to see if I would be a good fit for your culture and organization.

I am sure we can come to a number we are both happy with, once we both know more about each other.”

Find your OWN way to say these words above. The key is to focus on asking more about the job, the tasks, and THEN see if what they are offering for, matches what they are asking for.

For me, it makes no difference. I am the same person, selling the same brain per hour, so whether they tell me if it is Task A or Task B, I charge the same because the role requires all of my skills and expertise to solve either or.

No task is ‘cheaper’. They’re all expensive because you’re paying for my skills.


I love this quote that I came across that says something like this:

You are not paying me just for the hours that I am working, you are paying me for all the years I honed my expertise to solve your problems quickly.

I make it look easy because I worked like a motha to get to where I am, and I deliver.

Anyway, back to the response you are going to give them to sidestep the salary talk so early on in an interview:

Works because:

You are subtly telling them they are going to hire you (positive thinking! – but don’t be overconfident / arrogant and rub them the wrong way, although if you are a woman you could use a little arrogance to bring yourself up to a basic level of confidence).

It also shows you are also a team player that is willing to play ball to get to a salary you can both agree on.

What they may say:

“Well before we start, we just want to get an idea of what you are expecting”

If they keep coming at you, and still keep asking, break out response #2.

Response #2: How much money do you have? *hahahaha*

I actually say this. Half jokingly. I ask them how rich they are, because they’re going to need every penny to hire me.

With a little more finesse you’d say: “What have you budgeted for this position?”

You can also ask: “What is the budget range for this position that you had in mind?”

Any of those responses work.

Works because:

You are forcing THEM to give you the number first. Make THEM blink.

You both do not need to waste your time if it is too low, or your expectations are too high, BUT… make them name their range first and obviously go for that range (or over it, who says you need to stick within their ‘range’ if they’ll give you an extra $5000? :-P)

Just try. Can’t hurt. You could end up with more money, and that’s a win in my book.

What they may say:

“Well, based on experience of course, it may be different – this is our range from $X to $Y”

OR they may consider this a power struggle and refuse to give a number.

Response #3: You give a jacked up number

Have a number in mind, and add 25% to it.

It is better to give a higher than lower for a few reasons:

  1. People tend to lowball themselves salary-wise
  2. This sets the benchmark in their head for what YOU think you are worth
  3. If you take the lower salary, they’d be happy to get a ‘deal’ at 25% lower than what you wanted, and may even think they scored a higher quality candidate for a lower price.

This is all about price points and benchmarking. This is HUMAN NATURE.

There is only one point in my life where I gave a salary right off the bat without playing games, but I was certain at what the salary would be and I just tacked on extra money to make them sit up and take me seriously.

For 99% of the situations though, let me put it to you another way:

I show you this straw bag I have for sale, and I tell you it’s $30.

You’ll examine it, and think .. $30? I wouldn’t pay more than $10!

You’ll offer me $10 for it.

But let’s say I told you this bag was actually the IT bag of the season, and costs $250 at retail you suddenly have a much higher benchmark, and you would not be offering $10 for a $250 bag.

You’d offer let’s say.. $150 for it used.

Something closer to the $250 mark but not $10.

See what I did there?

Same bag, same seller and buyer.

Two different prices because of the benchmark you set & the perception. One offer at $10 another at $150.

Difference? $140 in my pocket.

Negotiation for salary and pay?

Same candidate, same company.

Two different salaries because of the number you give out (or they give out) and the perception.

After the Interview: Negotiation Time For Real

No more stalling, right? Time to throw out a number.

Now there are two ways to play this.

If they have NOT offered you a job but want to know what your price tag is, use this tactic and say:

“Well let me ask you – what would you offer me for this position now that you’ve gotten to know my background, my experience and my CV better?”


BAM.

No way out. If they come back at you again and ask for a number, then give them that Jacked Up Salary response #3 above.

Most of the time, they will throw out a number, and then the poker faces begin.

I am assuming you’ve done your homework and know what the job pays (roughly). You have gone on job hunting sites, and you have a good feel for what you think they should be paying for your skills.

So, here are a few scenarios:

They offer you a very low salary

YOU PAUSE.

YOU PAUSE, and let silence fill the air. Count in your head, very slowly, at least 10 excruciating seconds.

One one thousand, Two two thousand, Three three thousand….

By about the 3 thousand number, they may feel the need to fill the silence with speech.

They may hastily think they offended you and say: Well, what do you think it is worth?

I once had an interviewer tell me to not ask for more than $50,000.

Know what I did? I asked for 30% more by dangling other offers from other companies in front of their face, and got the job at $65,000.

Believe it or not, interviewers like and respect you more if you ask for more money. It means you know your worth.

It may be very uncomfortable to not say anything for 10 seconds so practice. Just stay silent and look like you are thinking.

Then respond:

“Well that is lower than I had expected, given the tasks and duties you have listed, and I was expecting $__________”

They offer you the salary you wanted

Wow.

Before you start jumping up and down, control yourself, there is still money left on the table that could potentially be yours.

Pause and pretend you’re trying to pick between your 3 favourite ice cream flavours.

(Mine are Pistachio, Strawberry and Vanilla by the way)

Then tack on another $10,000 – $15,000 on top of the salary and say:

“That is a good offer, but I was expecting $______________ to be honest with you.”

From there, they can either say: NO WAY, or they can say – well we can work with that.

From my experience, at a certain level ($75,000 or higher), there is always a little money lying around.

There is at least an extra $2500, or $5000, and in my case, an extra $15,000 at one point, where you can boost the base of your earnings with a few uncomfortable pauses and sentences, and then it is over.

Wham, bam, thanks for the extra dough.

They offer you MORE than you wanted

Ultimate DREAM scenario.

Rarely happens but it has, when people don’t do their research *COUGH COUGH* and go in there blind, not knowing what they are worth and may THINK it is more money but really it is just a lowball offer for the actual job.

(DO YOUR RESEARCH is what I am trying to say.)

AGAIN. PAUSE.

There is STILL MONEY ON THE TABLE.

Their first offer is never their best so squeeze out another $5000 – $15,000 from them (they may be desperate to find someone and are also playing poker), and walk away with even more than you could have imagined.

This scenario is ideal, and I have only used it once when I went into an interview thinking it would be $120,000 but then I decided to tack on another $10,000 because they smelled very desperate and overeager.

My thought was — Everyone has a little $10,000 lying around on the table especially at these salary numbers. What’s the harm in asking?

In a few sentences, when they asked what I was expecting, and in this rare scenario, I didn’t play a game with them having done my research, and I gave them my number of $130,000.

They took it, because they had no choice (it was my specialty) and I knew it. I made myself a little over an extra $1000 a month in pay in a few seconds.

It is kind of like when you are buying something at a garage sale (actually, that’s an excellent place to learn how to negotiate).

You pick up a tchotke for $15. You examine it, and you offer a third of the price, let’s say $5.

You then haggle back and forth knowing that only YOU could want something like this, and you get it for $5 or $7.

But you aren’t paying $15, that’s for damn sure. That’s their FIRST offer and it is not their best.

I had the same feeling when I was in that interview. They just were too eager, and gave their hand away.

So, I asked for the max.

What you don’t want to happen, is that you give out your “max” and it ends up being lower than what they were willing to pay.

You need to take them to their limit, stretch it, which is why I am telling you to ask for 25% more than what you think. Even if they only end up giving you 5% more, that is still more money than you had initially wanted.

What if the job won’t budge on the salary but it is AMAZING?

Your call.

Personally, if this is a title bump, and a responsibility bump you can put on your CV for the next job, GO FOR IT.

Experience matters a lot more and can be used as leverage at your next job to ask for even more money than you could have dreamed of.

Let’s put it this way —

I started with an offer of $50,000 from the recruiter. I stayed firm, used other firm offers to force them to raise the ante, and they ended up giving me $65,000 because I was blunt and told them I’d join whichever company gave me the most money as I had student debt to pay.

After getting $65,000 and a measly $2000 raise after 2 years, I quit with that experience in-hand, and dove off the deep end to freelance.

I quadrupled my salary to $260,000 that year, and cleared my remaining student debt in one cheque.

This all sounds great right? But it was scary AF and I just kept practicing and practicing with deep breaths and feeling the words.

But most of all, it was because I had information that the job I had now, was a real stepping stone off into the REAL money that could be made — not by staying as an employee in what I did, but learning as much as possible in the 2 years I had with them, and catapulting that into a SIGNIFICANT salary bump by turning to freelancing work.

I negotiated hard at my first offer and didn’t accept their first bid.

I used that time wisely to gather intel and ask people about the industry and its longevity, and then hustled like a #%@ to learn as much as possible in the 2 years I had there (that was the minimum vesting time required for their company retirement fund match in case you were wondering and I was not going to give up that free money..)

Then, I quit. Took a leap of faith off the cliff, and landed on all fours and then some.

All of it? RISKY AF.

Calculated risks however, are better than not trying at all. What’s the worse that could have happened? I would have just joined another company in the same position, with a higher salary than when I left at $67,000 (naturally), and it would have been an EVEN BETTER position than what I had, the day I quit.

You will never know how it feels, and you will never get better at it if you do not practice and TRY.

For ANY offer that you get and they actually offer it for real

So all of the above, is just them testing the waters of how much you want. That’s fine.

Now, you may get an actual job offer from HR, saying: We would like to offer you _________.

Do not under any circumstances, accept immediately.

Tell them you have to consider it carefully and you need time as there are other offers on the table.

“Thank you for the offer. I would need to consider this carefully as there are other offers on the table. Could I get back to you in a few days, perhaps _____?”

Then sit on it.

Think about the job, and depending on what they offered you salary wise, you may want to go back to them and ask for more money.

If it is not for more money, ask for more vacation time. Free time off = Money too!

You could call them up and say:

“I have thought this over very carefully, and I am interested in the job, and most of all, working for such a dynamic company. The only thing I am not certain about is the salary. Is there any wiggle room there?”

If they say yes and want to know how much, tell them an extra $5000 – $10,000 (at your discretion, I’d go for $10K more but that’s me trying to squeeze every dollar out), then from there, negotiate as much as you can.

Even if you only get $1000 more, that is MONEY. $1000 is still money, and still a win, in my books.

If they say unfortunately no, you can tell them:

“Well what about the benefits? Would there be anything you could do there, let’s say in vacation time or more personal time off?”

An extra week of vacation, can be calculated like this:

Job is $60,000 a year.

$60,000 / 52 weeks = $1153.85

Each week of vacation is at least $1150 extra in your pocket, if not more (I didn’t factor in the vacation you’d already get like 2 weeks or something, and this would bump up this number a bit more).

Oh no!

Worst case scenario happens — you were redirected, not rejected and …..

They don’t offer you anything

Thank them very politely and finish with:

“I really found your company to be very exciting and interesting for me, please let me know if there are any opportunities or positions in the future, I’d love to be a part of your team in the future.”

They may have offered the job to someone else, but you never know what might happen. Sometimes, the person doesn’t even show up for the first day of work (TRUE STORY!!!!), or something else happens and they have to decline the job even though they initially accepted.

YOU NEVER KNOW.

Do not burn your bridges, and be remembered as being polite, dynamic and confident.

You may end up getting the job after all.

OMG THIS IS SCARY

It is okay. You just need to practice.

A few tips:

  • Speak louder, it hides the tremor and nervousness in your voice if you are a little louder than usual
  • Practice in the mirror, with people…. with scripts!
  • Take the sentences above and make them in your own words so that you can feel the words and it comes out more naturally
  • Remember that if they offered you the job THEY WANT YOU – what’s the worst that could happen? They say “No” and you take the job anyway?? You have nothing to lose. They want you as much as you want the job.

So. Those are my secret tips. Any from you?

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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

Millionaire at 36 after getting out of $60K of student debt in 18 months, a little over a decade earlier, using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have paid my $600K home in cash (my half was $300K), my $180K casr in cash, worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K with an average lifetime savings rate of 50%. I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I am all about balance - between time and money, and also enjoying my money. I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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Posted on April 3, 2017

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5 Comments

  1. Audrey

    This was definitely helpful. A lot of times when researching information people can be very vague with giving true insight or use case. I just recommended this to a few different people. Thank you I am in the process of negotiations myself from contract to full-time. I will definitely be using this in my next conversation coming up.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      Oh I am so happy to hear that!! Good luck

      Reply
  2. Minty

    This was a very interesting read and you’ve provided a lot of valuable points. Also interesting is that I have may have a contract or review coming up as I have spoken up about having my wage reviewed considering it’s been about 4 yrs since my last review. I work as an oral health therapist dual trained as a dental hygienist and dental therapist with 10 years of experience coming towards the end of this year.

    What has initiated some action on my part is having accidentally seen the payslip of a fellow colleague granted who has maybe 10-15yrs of experience working in a similar role (as she is only singularly trained in hygiene). In my line of work once you reach a certain level of experience or gain a certain level of knowledge, any new experience or knowledge is very incremental and dependent on the equipment the practice supplies you with.

    I had expected a higher wage than what I was making for sure but the difference surpassed my expectations and I had never known anyone in that wage range, I’d say would put her in the 90th percentile of cohort. Where as I sit currently in the 65-70% percentile.

    Granted she may have much more aggressive negotiation skills from the experience she’s accumulated, so I would not say she is not deserving of it. But it has opened my eyes a bit and made me take action to ask for something more because obviously work can afford to pay more.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply
  3. LiNDA

    Good tips as always!
    I’m currently exploring opportunities and will use this with the recruiters. they too can be a little blah * rolling eyes* ….when stalling to disclose the range.

    I would think the more they get me is the more the commission would be, but it doesn’t always seem like the case.

    Reply
    1. Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      I think commissions are fixed – paid by the head, unfortunately 🙂

      But if you are talking about hourly rate, the less they give you, the more they pocket. The price to the customer doesn’t go down.

      Reply

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