Salary Negotiation Know-How

Whether you're after a more lucrative job or are just trying to fatten your weekly paycheck, asking for a raise is an exercise in negotiation. And the first step is to know what you want.

"Look at the total compensation picture before you start to negotiate your paycheck, including bonuses, commissions, health insurance, medical and dependent care spending accounts, profit sharing, paid vacation, stock options and other offerings," says Allen Salikof, president and CEO at Management Recruiters International Inc., one of the world's largest search and recruitment organizations.

"All of these benefits can impact your total financial picture -- never evaluate your salary in a vacuum," he adds.

Salikof offers these 10 tips you should keep in mind as you head into salary negotiation talks:

Ask

You've heard of "Don't ask, don't tell" rules, right? Well, the first rule of salary negotiation is, "Don't ask, don't get." You're unlikely to ever get more than a cost-of-living adjustment unless you have the guts to ask for more. So get your arguments set, your nerves steeled and go for it.

Do Your Homework

Find out what others in your position make. Our Salary Wizard has information on many finance jobs. Also, check with trade associations, ask recruiters what folks in your niche earn, and browse through the job postings to see how your salary compares to those being offered to new employees.

Know Your True Value

Have you saved your company money, improved a process or met your quota? If you've had an impact on the company's bottom line, know the exact figure. You could even suggest that it's fitting for you to see 5 percent of that figure in your paycheck. Suggest the company tie your compensation to measurable bottom-line results. If your position doesn't have a specific line in the budget, be ready to prove that your work improved morale or employee retention. The key is to provide data that shows your value to the company.

Be Your Own Advocate

Make sure you bring your list of accomplishments to your boss's attention. You are the best source of information about you, and you have to be willing to step up to the plate and go to bat for yourself. Don't count on your boss to simply suggest you ought to earn more money or to notice you haven't had a raise in 10 years. You need to be willing to brag about yourself.

Plan Ahead

If you want an early raise, let your bosses know you'd like to discuss the issue so you can give them a peek at what you want from the next raise. Ask for a meeting to conduct a prereview discussion.

It's Never Too Late to Ask for More

If you've already had your performance review, ask for a different type of raise -- perhaps a merit increase or an accelerated performance review that's retroactive based on meeting agreed-upon objectives.

Wait Your Turn

Don't even think about being the first one to ask about money during an interview . Wait for your interviewer to put an offer on the table. What should you do if you're pressed to name a salary? Give the interviewer a range or a vague answer, like "The salary I expect depends upon the job's exact specifications. Can you tell me more about it?"

Know When to Fold

Consider other job opportunities and be prepared to leave your job if you can't get the salary you deserve. Nothing gives an employee more confidence in asking for a raise than having another job offer in the hopper. On the other hand, if you go into a performance review and don't get the raise you want, don't ever quit on the spot. It's easier to find a job when you have one than when you're unemployed.

Everything Counts

When calculating your salary, remember to include the value of benefits, such as bonuses, commissions, health insurance, flexible spending accounts, profit sharing, paid vacation and stock offerings. If a potential employer asks how much you make in your current position, you can honestly say, "My total compensation is..." and then give them the figure that includes everything.

Don't Underestimate the Value of Happiness

If you're happy in your job and the only thing you can't get is more money, maybe it's not time to leave. There's no way to put a price tag on having a job you enjoy.

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