|"Gimme, gimme, gimme
Job seekers don't realize they can ask for more-lots more
By Kim Clark
Belinda Clark, who is helping to staff a Miami-area nursing home, has
handled about 200 job offers this year, for nursing assistants, research
scientists, and everything in between. All but about 10 of the candidates
snapped up the initial offer without attempting to negotiate for something
extra. Clark is delighted but puzzled. The job applicants apparently didn't
realize the offers were usually just starting points. But, she says,
laughing, "I don't say anything if they don't.
"It's the delicious little secret of recruiters: Despite all the
headlines about a labor shortage, most job seekers don't push companies
increasingly desperate for manpower. A survey conducted this summer by the
Society for Human Resource Management found that 8 out of 10 recruiters were
willing to negotiate pay and benefits with job applicants, but only one
third of the job applicants surveyed said they felt comfortable negotiating.
Ask and ye may receive.
Of course, some job applicants, such as those applying for union jobs,
shouldn't or can't negotiate individually. But while the current hiring boom
is on, recruiters say the vast majority of Americans who change jobs can
bargain for better packages. Failure to do so will cost workers a lot of
money, says Larry Nadler, a professor of communication at Miami University
of Ohio, who has studied negotiation habits.
A 22-year-old who secures a $2,000 increase in annual salary at his or
her first job will, because of the compounding effects of years of raises to
follow, most likely generate roughly $150,000 in extra income over the
course of a 40-year career, Nadler says. What's more, if you don't negotiate
for what you want in that brief window between your receipt of a job offer
and your acceptance of it, you'll probably never get it, says Stephen
Pollan, co-author of Live Rich and an upcoming book on negotiating.
"You are never more powerful than when you are responding to their offer"
because it is the one time that the employer may want you more than you want
him, Pollan says. In especially lucrative and worker-short fields, the
negotiables are becoming the stuff of headlines. Top stockbrokers and
financial research analysts, for example, are demanding-and
getting-million-dollar signing bonuses. The variety of techie perks have
become almost legendary.
Some high-tech workers chat with headhunters to gauge how marketable their
skills are. When a job offer comes, they ask for things they'd like, no
matter how outlandish: season passes for a ski lift, money to move horses to
the new location, the right to hire an assistant, the right to take
three-hour lunches (as long as all the work gets done), and for one
Manhattan-based worker dreading the commute to Connecticut, a car and a free
New York City parking space. Even the recipients of the largess acknowledge
it's insane. It's a little less crazy outside Silicon Valley.
But the principles of market research and creative negotiating can work
for even entry-level, low-tech-job candidates. Employers often leave 5
percent wiggle room in pay offers and are becoming more flexible about
benefits and working conditions. Consider Andy Kovacs, who is hiring 120
retail clerks to staff a new Goody's clothing store in Gulfport, Miss.
Kovacs typically offers applicants with some experience about $6 an hour.
Most applicants jump at that, Kovacs says. They don't realize that he'd bump
that up by, say, 25 cents an hour "if they sell themselves."
Or take Stephanie Havemeier, human resources administrator for Business
Card Service Inc. of Burnsville, Minn., one of the nation's largest business
card printers. She says she can't negotiate entry-level pay, but "there's
room for negotiation" of other important fringes. The company might agree to
move the review time to three instead of six months to give the worker a
chance at a merit raise sooner, create a more impressive sounding title, or
pay tuition for a business-related course.
Workers can take advantage of this new flexibility only when they
overcome the stumbling blocks of naiveté, culture, and fear. The easiest to
overcome is naiveté, says Miami University's Nadler. Even he jumped at his
very first job offer, as a researcher for a Washington, D.C., think tank
nearly two decades ago. Then he had lunch with an older worker who explained
how he had negotiated higher pay for himself. "My jaw dropped," Nadler
recalls. "I didn't know you could do that." But just learning that you can
negotiate isn't enough to get many workers started.
Despite a culture that lionizes rowdy cowboy characters, most Americans
tend to shy away from conflict, Nadler says. Women, his research shows, are
especially averse to conflict. In a groundbreaking study a decade ago, he
asked students to pretend they were negotiating raises. He found that women
consistently negotiated smaller raises than did the men.
Even with all the practice in the world, it can be hard to overcome the fear
that you are going to ruin a great job opportunity by daring to ask for
more. Dana Zedd, who spent three years making and negotiating job offers for
a Chicago accounting and finance consulting firm, was surprised to find
herself terrified when she was on the other side of the table earlier this
year. She was tempted to accept the first offer from Tiburon Group, an
Internet recruiting firm she hoped to join. "You'd think, 'Duh, I should
know how to do this from being on the other side.' And in 90 percent of the
cases [in which applicants asked for something extra], we did give more
money, or another perk." Still, she was afraid of losing the opportunity by
being too demanding. A pep talk and strategy session with a friend helped
steel her nerves. She carefully told Tiburon how much she wanted to join the
company, but, she added, "I'm in a bind. You've offered me this, but..." She
felt a fairer offer was $10,000 higher. Eventually, she and her new boss
agreed on a smaller initial raise and a salary review in six months that
held out the promise of more than making up the difference. It was the first
time she had ever negotiated a job offer on her own behalf. "I was so proud
of myself," she says. Now, she tells every job applicant she meets, no
matter how scary it seems, "Never accept the first offer. Even if it is just
for a small percentage more, always negotiate."
Whatever you do, remain calm.
Nancy Patt, 36, moved to Denver earlier this year and began to panic after
four months of temping and coming up dry in her search for a good job. She
was just about to call her parents to pack her up and drive her home when
the University of Phoenix's Denver branch called to offer her a job managing
relations with state student loan programs-just her professional cup of tea.
Whatever hopes she had of negotiating anything better ended when she
screamed into the phone with delight.
HOW TO NEGOTIATE
Try, 'Pretty please with sugar on top'
Most job applicants err on the side of caution, but employers have many
horror stories about applicants who demanded too much and negotiated
themselves out of an offer. So, if you can muster the temerity to ask for
more, it is best to do so carefully and pleasantly. Recruiters and career
coaches say it is best to plot your negotiating strategy and goals before
you walk into an offer, follow these rules:
- Be timely. Don't start negotiating until you have a firm job offer and
a salary figure from the employer. And don't accept until you've at least
tried to get what you want. You'll never have a better chance because,
let's face it, you haven't let them down yet. Be enthusiastic but firm.
When you get an offer, respond with enthusiasm. But then add: "Let me go
home and think about it." Make an appointment to return the following day
and state your negotiating position in person, says John Challenger, CEO
of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
- Be reasonable. Ask industry associations and coworkers for the range
of salaries and benefits of your target job. Tailor your request
accordingly. Requesting something too far out of whack will lose you the
job. Ross Gibson, vice president for human resources at American
Superconductor in Boston, says he judges applicants by the way they
negotiate-and withdraws offers from those who come across as immature or
- Be consistent. Carl Kutsmode, founder of the Tiburon Group, an
Internet recruiter in Chicago, says he just withdrew an offer to a
database administrator who kept upping his price. "It became insulting,"
Kutsmode says. Be a one- or two-rounder. "Companies we work with typically
negotiate once or twice but won't go any further," Kutsmode adds.
- Be flexible. If the employer balks at adjusting the salary, think of
other ways to achieve both your goals and those of your prospective
employer. Robert Kenzer, chairman of Kenzer Corp., a New York-based
headhunting firm, says "companies love to set up bonus and incentive
plans" that reward their employees for helping the company improve
- Be gracious. Allow your employer to feel that it has won some
compromises. "You've got to live with these people after you join them,"
says Scott Kingdom, managing director of the Chicago office of Korn/Ferry,
the nation's biggest headhunting firm.
Would you move my motorcycles? While your prospective employer wants to
get you on board for as little as possible and you'd prefer to make as much
as possible, the negotiation shouldn't be treated as a battle, says Leslie
Prager, a career coach and coordinator of the career center at New York's
New School University. Think of alternative ways to arrive at your goal.
Prager has made a list of the 13 most common goodies to negotiate.
- Bonus: Signing bonuses are increasingly common. If the employer balks,
suggest a bonus for achieving certain milestones.
- Salary: There's usually at least 5 percent wiggle room in most offers.
- Severance pay: Going for a "parachute" (an attractive escape clause)
requires great tact but is increasingly common.
- Stock options or profit sharing: They're becoming one of the most
- Accelerated performance review: if you're confident that you need only
six months to prove you deserve a raise.
- Clothing allowance: typical only in the fashion and entertainment
- Computer, cell phone, laptop, or other home-office equipment:
especially common at technology companies but spreading quickly.
- Flexible scheduling: Nonstandard work hours can be one of the easiest
perks to win, since it doesn't cost employers cash.
- Relocation: Ask for extra if you have unusual expenses, such as moving
a motorcycle collection.
- Memberships: including dues for professional organizations and
- Telecommuting: Since most companies still handle this worker by
worker, it's a good idea to ask ahead of time.
- Tuition reimbursement: Most large companies cover some costs of
business-related coursework. But those planning to take several classes
might ask for coverage of books, fees, and non-core courses.
- Vacation: Both extra days and scheduling can be negotiable, as can
your start date."
<Note from JobFairy.com: Read the Jobsiderata page under the Humor
section... Our position is that when employers start to be honest about how
much they REALLY could pay you, then we'll start to be honest about what
we're REALLY getting paid. Ha ha, just kidding. The Statue of Liberty is
more likely to put down her torch so she can blow her nose than any of us
are to be stupid about compensation with a potential employer...>