Executives negotiate millions of dollars on behalf of their employers for contracts, products, and services every year. Why then is it so difficult for most executives to negotiate their salaries when offered a job? Whatever the reasons, senior managers, directors and C-level executives are not immune from negotiating their salary for a new job opportunity.  

In the pre-screen or initial interview, the recruiter or hiring agent wants to screen you out quickly. So they start the interview conversation with a compensation question, asking “How much are you currently making?” or “What is your salary level?” If you answer too low, you may be perceived as not competent, lacking confidence in your worth or sophisticated enough to handle responsibilities commensurate with a higher salaried executive. If you answer too high, you knock yourself out of the running and the hiring manager rapidly moves on to candidates more in line with their salary range.

executive_compensationFirst of all you should do your homework and know the compensation range for this position so you can use this information to your advantage at any point in the interview.  

Second, to delay the “money” talk, answer questions about compensation something similar to:  “I’d like to find out more about this position first and talk about compensation should we both agree I’m a good fit.”  

Third, if pressed to give an answer about your salary, give a range that is within the salary requirements for the job. This should keep you in the running and moving to the next interview phase.

During the interview process, continue to express interest in the position, but don’t discuss salary before the offer, if at all possible. You want to create a sense of need – that the hiring manager has to hire you because you are the best candidate for the job – before talking money.

It is a well-known fact that executives who are currently employed have a higher perceived worth than someone who is unemployed. Your job status could tip the weight of the salary negotiations. Know your worth and what salary you want before talking to anyone. Also have in mind the benefits you want/need to entice you to make this career move. That gives you confidence in what numbers you are willing to negotiate and benefits you are willing to give up if necessary. And, this gives you leverage during the discussions.

Okay, the offer is finally on the table. But it isn’t what you want. Employers expect people to try to negotiate so feel free to express your disappointment. Once you have done so be quiet. The silence will be uncomfortable and cause the hiring manager to pierce the silence with conversation – hopefully with an attempt to negotiate. At this point, if asked for your target salary, present a figure above what you want, so the negotiations can land close to your anticipated dollar amount.  
Negotiating your salary can be a complicated and challenging process. There are many factors that can come into play, such as hiring bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, short-term incentives, flexible work schedule, etc. So consider everything as you go through the negotiations, balancing salary with benefits and incentives. As any good executive, you know it comes down to the bottom line whether negotiating a multimillion-dollar deal for a company, or your salary and benefits. Get what you are worth and more!


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