Hi Jamie,

I’ve had a tough time negotiating my salary throughout my career and still do. In the beginning, I didn’t even know it was possible to negotiate your own salary!

I began my career as a Receptionist with a salary that I later realized was lower than it should’ve been. This then hurt my next salary within the same organization as a Specialist which I (again!) later realized was lower than it should’ve and could’ve been. Due to budgetary cuts, they had to lay off their entire Support Team which unfortunately I was on. I then focused on completing my Masters Degree, graduated with honors, and took some time off. I started to brainstorm my next career move and have recently been making more connections that will allow me to become the successful professional I always visualized.

Just recently, I got the opportunity to talk with a recruiter which considered me for a second interview in person. He asked me what my desired salary was and this time I did my research and gave him a fair number. He said it was within the company’s range which I was glad to hear as we spoke over the phone. Now the question do I secure this negotiation when I’m meeting with them in person?

I’m pretty nervous about it since it’s my first “second interview”, it’s the exact job I want with the salary that I need, I’m not sure if I have enough experience, and have a very difficult time being assertive and getting what I want when negotiating, especially when I’m under pressure mentally and financially.

What are your thoughts and recommendations?


Seeking a Better Opportunity

Dear Seeking,

You’ve taken the initiative to get an advanced degree, network, and look for a better paying job — I want to commend you for that. Knowing what you want and visualizing success are crucial steps before asking with confidence. And you’ve taken two big steps forward.

Here’s my advice to you. I wouldn’t worry too much about the face-to-face conversation with your recruiter. Instead, focus on getting a better understanding of this recruiter. In other words, use the opportunity to interview the recruiter and see if he is a good fit for your needs. You are interviewing the recruiter, just as the recruiter is interviewing you.

You have more power in this relationship than you realize, because the recruiter needs qualified candidates like you for him to make a commission. Generally, the hiring company pays the recruiter a percentage of your salary once you’ve been successfully hired.

The second interview is meant for you and the recruiter to check each other out. Most likely than not, this meeting won’t be the right time or place for you to secure a specific pay level for this job opportunity.

The recruiting process usually looks like this:

– either you or recruiter makes first contact about a potential job
– you and recruiter meet to discuss your resume and fit for that job
– recruiter discusses your candidacy with the company
– the recruiter passes along your resume / credentials / cover letter to the company
– the company decides whether to meet with you or pass
– if the company wants to meet with you, then recruiter arranges for an interview between you and the company
– there may be several rounds of interviews between you and company, all the while both you and the company report back to the recruiter about how the interview(s) went
– if there is a fit, company makes an offer through the recruiter
– if and when you have an offer in writing, then you may want to negotiate the salary and ask for more

So the recruiter acts as an intermediary throughout the interview and negotiation process. I’ve met some recruiters who were supportive of my salary requirements and willing to negotiate on my behalf. A high salary is in their interest as well, since they can take home a bigger cut once you’re hired.

Then there are recruiters who won’t be as supportive — who won’t go to bat for you. They are more incentivized to get someone hired fast and cheap so they can make a quick buck.

At the upcoming interview you may want to ask questions about the recruiter’s past experience working with candidates. Ask open-ended, diagnostic questions to learn about their working style, past successes, etc. An open-ended diagnostic question starts with who / what / when / how / why / where / when.

So some sample questions you can ask could be,
“Can you tell me more about how this process works and what your role will be?”
“What are the compensation policies of this company? What other perks and benefits are on the table that can be negotiated?”
“Have you worked with candidates who were looking to make a market rate adjustment for pay? If so, how successful were they? What was your role in the salary negotiation?”

As mentioned, you have power in this relationship and you can grow your bargaining power by cultivating BATNA (or Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreements). Basically what this means is: other options, recruiters, job opportunities or offers that you can pursue. If you have other options, you can also use them as a bargaining chip to negotiate for a better compensation package.

It’s wonderful that this opportunity seems to be a great fit with great pay, but don’t settle there. This is a sign that there are an abundance of other opportunities out there for you that may be an even better fit with way better pay for you. So keep your chin up and continue tapping into your network, researching and proactively cultivating other options.

Having these options under your belt will give you the confidence you need to be able to walk away if the fit isn’t right.

I would advise that you clearly delineate how your contributions resulted in positive outcomes for the employer. And make them specific with numbers, facts, and figures, i.e. 24% lift in patient satisfaction or retention, etc.

During the job interview, you’ll likely be asked to expand on these credentials or experiences. In other words, you’ll be asked to tell the story of your work.

How did your contributions create positive impact on the organization’s bottom line? What were the challenges and barriers? How did you overcome or resolve the problems and what were the outcomes? Did your work help the company make more money or save money, time and/or resources?

People want to hear your stories. You can use those stories to your advantage by showing them how you’re a great candidate who can do amazing things for a future employer.

This email has gotten long, so here’s the TLDR; version
– you have more power in this relationship than you realize
– screen / interview the recruiter at your upcoming face-to-face meeting
– salary negotiations will come later during the process, if and when the company decides to make an offer (and get it in writing)
– cultivate other options, or BATNA to grow your bargaining power
– prepare stories to show how your contributions at work benefitted the employer