A better salary negotiation starts with a simple question

Bring home the big bucks.
Bring home the big bucks.
Image: Reuters/Ruben Sprich
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This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the known twists and turns in a salary negotiation process? Answer by Joel Postman, Former CEO, author of SocialCorp, standup comic, speaker, and speechwriter.

No one ever maximized their starting salary without a winning strategy. It won’t happen without a plan. The only way to get the best possible salary is to ask for it, or better still, require it. Here are some steps to get there:

  • Come into the negotiations smart. Know the market and what others in similar roles are paid.
  • Never ask what the salary is. You can, however, ask the salary range or what the position is scoped at—but if you do so, you run the risk of getting fenced-in early in your discussions.
  • Delay salary discussions until final interviews when you know the employer wants you—unless forced to do so earlier.
  • Never directly answer the question “What do you currently make?” Instead, answer something like, “Over the course of my recent career I’ve had a base salary between $165,000 and $185,000 and I’m expecting something similar.”
  • If you must disclose current compensation, mention all aspects of your comp. “I make $90,000 base, with options, 401K matching, and 20% bonus so my overall compensation is around $120,000.” This is perfectly legitimate and strengthens your bargaining position.
  • Another tactic is to disclose your current compensation and say something like, “I’m making around X right now, but I’ve gained a lot of useful experience in the last year. I’m hoping to get a 15 to 20% increase to justify a move. It’s not only about salary. I’m the right person for the position because… and I want to join your company because…”
  • No employer harbors any animosity for an employee who was a tough salary negotiator. Salary discussions are forgotten five minutes after they are completed.
  • Employers hate salary “auctions” (back and forth negotiations by a candidate playing his/her existing and prospective employers against each other), but employees must also look out for themselves. The world has changed. Break the rules. But be careful.
  • Never say: “I’m underpaid. My current employer doesn’t recognize what I’m worth.” You will come across as unprofessional, and as a whiner. And the interviewer will assume that if you’re hired, some day you will also speak poorly of his/her company.

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