Negotiating a salary at a new job – first interview

“Will you work for minimum wage?”

Not a winning question when negotiating salary with an engineer.

“Give me all your money!”

Probably not a wise gambit for any job interview.

At some point in your job exploration the question of money has to come up.  Asking a recruiter what the job pays is fine.  Asking what your pay will be in a phone or first interview is a mistake.  They may have been given strict instructions to only mention $50,000, but have been told that they can go to $60,000 for the right candidate.  That happens all the time.

Timing is critical. Don’t negotiate salary, vacation or perks until they love you and are sure they want to hire you. You have no leverage for negotiations until you are the final candidate.

Money, Profit, Finance, Business, Return, Yield

When THEY ask you how much you must make to switch jobs, THEY are nervous.  So are you.  Here is an answer that works.  It doesn’t get you eliminated for asking for too much.  You won’t get paid too little for being too meek.  It leaves room for negotiating.  It gives them the information they need to make you a good offer.

The answer has 3 steps:

  1. the compliment
  2. the money
  3. the rules.

First the compliment.  This job and your company interest me.  I’d like to go to work for you.

Now the money.  Last year I earned a total of $70,000 and just had a raise to $73,000.

Finally the rules.  I certainly wouldn’t want to earn less.  I would like to be able to entertain your best offer.

This works for minimum wage jobs and CEO salaries.  If they ask a second time, tell them the same thing.  Let them know that you feel it is the company’s job to make an offer, not yours.  You just tell them the facts about what you are earning.  That’s all.  You can negotiate AFTER they have decided to make you an offer.  Then you will have some leverage.

How to think about salary – do this.

Write down three numbers.

First, what are you earning now?  Obviously you would take your current job for that much money.  You did.

Second, what do you really think you would be paid in a good but realistic situation if you switched jobs next month?  It should be a raise.

Third, if the ideal job came along, with you doing, learning and being exactly what you really want, with a great company and future, what is the least you would take to go there?  Is it a drop in pay?

You now have three different numbers you would work for.  So why should you demand to know what a job will pay before you find out which of the three possibilities it is?

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