With successful negotiations, not only will you secure the highest compensation package, but you will also send a clear message to the hiring manager that you realize your self-worth in the company.

By Rose Curtis | June 2006

All aspects of every job offer are negotiable. Negotiating salary and other benefits is a vital skill that all successful IT professionals must possess. The key to successful negotiations is that you must understand upfront what your priorities and needs are and then be able to link your benefits to an employer's needs. With successful negotiations, not only will you secure the highest compensation package, but you will also send a clear message to the hiring manager that you realize your self-worth in the company.

The following negotiation tips and tactics will guide you through how to prepare for negotiations, as well as what to say and how you should say it to make sure you are given the best compensation for either a new job or a performance review.

Preparing for Negotiations

  • Know your baseline salary. Start negotiations with a firm understanding of the base pay for the type of position, market, and geographic area for where you are looking to work or are currently employed. There are many free salary calculators on the Internet¿including Dice.com's Salary Wizard¿that you can use to get a general idea of a fair compensation. In addition to your baseline salary, consider other financial factors, such as your cost of living. If you are still unsure about your baseline salary, ask recruiters, who know the pay rates that their clients are offering. Also, HR personnel can tell you if your current salary is fair for your level of experience, as well as what salary you can expect to receive with a prospective employer. Knowing the baseline for your salary will help you negotiate a better compensation package.
  • Determine Your Needs. Think about what is most important to you in a compensation package. Is it salary, vacation time, stock options, or health care benefits? How will a higher salary or more time off improve your life, as well as the lives of your family? Before you begin negotiating with a hiring manager, it is vital that you determine your priorities, so that you can effectively argue for your needs.

How to Negotiate

Once you begin negotiations, your prospective employer will make a counteroffer to your needs, or it may rescind the offer of employment if the company feels that your demands are unrealistic. To avoid having a job offer removed from the bargaining table, it is vital that you explain how you will benefit the company, linking your skills to its needs. Mention your professional experience, technical acumen, education, professional certifications, and communication and problem-solving skills as reasons you deserve a better compensation package - and why you would make a valuable addition to the prospective employer.

After you have determined the greatest benefits that you can link to the company's needs, follow these guidelines for successful negotiations:

  • Don't specify salary requirements. If possible, let the prospective employer set the baseline salary. It is to your advantage to start negotiations from a figure the company offers.
  • Don't be afraid to negotiate. As I mentioned above, negotiating salary and benefits is a powerful way to make an impression on a company as to what your behavior as an employee will be like. Practice discretion and research the baseline salary for your level, market, and geographic location. When an offer is made, don't accept it right away. Ask for a few days to consider the offer¿this will give you time to prepare your negotiations.
  • Show interest. Throughout your negotiations, reinforce your interest in the position, company, and industry.
  • Do not lie. If a prospective employer requests information about your latest salary and other benefits, do not inflate the truth in hopes of getting a larger pay package. Employers can easily verify the information that you provide.
  • Negotiate beyond the salary requirements. If the prospective employer cannot match your salary requirements, try negotiating other items. These include job description and scope of work, starting date, budget and resources, relocation expenses, company match for a 401(k), vacation time, education assistance expenses, professional and gym memberships, company car reimbursement, stock options, bonus, and medical, dental, and other insurance plans.
  • Silence is golden. Keep negotiations going by staying somewhat flexible in your demands. If one of your demands is met by silence, don¿t panic; let your prospective employer make the next move.
  • Don't give up. If the prospective employer cannot meet any of your demands, try negotiating long-term items, including an automatic pay increase after an annual review.
  • Get the offer in writing. Once you agree to a total package, get the final offer in writing.

Remember, your negotiations for the best compensation package will help form the beginning of your relationship with the company. By researching baseline salaries, determining your priorities, and following the simple guidelines above, you can successfully negotiate your way to the best compensation package possible.

Rose Curtis is a freelance writer living in New York City.