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How to get the salary you want
Sunder Ramachandran
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August 24, 2006

So, you've done your research and prepared extensively for the job interview. You have produced the perfect CV and cover letter. You have even practised answers to common interview questions. You are dressed right, have your references, and are on time.

But, have you prepared for that critical salary negotiation with human resources managers? If the answer is no, all that effort could go to waste. Here's what you need to keep in mind:

How much do you earn?

As simple as it sounds, most people don't know their financial status well enough. Write down your basic salary and add up all the benefits. Your current employer may be providing you free food, transportation and medical allowances. If these are not part of the benefits offered, you need to demand a higher basic salary to compensate for them.

Collect salary data

You can gather information about a salary range for any position through trade publications, industry associations, a network of friends and consultants. For instance, Business Today publishes annual salary surveys based on industries and positions.

What do you want?

Break your expectations into three categories -- money, benefits and hygiene factors -- and jot down your expectations against each. Money would include salary, incentives, bonuses and stock options. Benefits would include company car, travel, relocation expenses, etc. Hygiene factors would comprise job title, training, exposure, international travel, etc.
This will allow you to stay flexible and also provide alternatives to the employer during negotiation.

Do your homework

Get some basic facts about the overall state of the industry in which you are applying. A booming or sunrise industry will offer better packages. Check the company's profitability and market position. If you have friends in the company, try and find out the urgency to fill the particular vacancy. More information will give you an edge during salary negotiation.

During the interview

Many employers will throw the salary question in the middle of an interview. The trick is that most candidates are likely to agree on a lower salary figure due to their anxiousness to crack the interview. So, delay talking about compensation as far as possible. Say something like, 'I am keen on this role and your organisation, but I'd like to hold on to salary discussions until we are both sure that I'm right for this job.'

Negotiate the basic salary first

Many HR managers will try to engage you into discussing benefits and perks before getting to a consensus on basic salary. This gives the HR manager leverage in justifying why your basic salary should be lower. Always agree on the basic salary first, then move on to perks and other non-monetary benefits.

Get the lowdown on benefits

Benefits can often go up to 25 per cent of your total package. Do get details on medical and life insurance, travel allowance, pension plans, educational assistance programs, overtime allowance, dependant care for parents/spouse, paid holidays, profit sharing and stock options.

Keep selling

Continue selling yourself throughout the negotiation process. Keep reminding the employer of the impact you will make, the problems you will solve, revenue you will generate and unique skills and talents you bring to the table. Highlight your interest and enthusiasm to work for the organisation.

Wait for 24 hours

Don't rush into accepting any offer on the spot, no matter how lucrative. In fact, a good idea is to buy some time. Tell the HR manager that you are interested in working for the organisation and will need about 24 hours to consider the offer. Think about it� you will be spending 8 to 10 hours a day at the new job, so a 24-hour wait is worth it.

Relocation

Make sure you include factors like the cost of living, relocation expenses, housing and travel in your package, if you will be moving to a new city for the job.

What if you're a fresher?

Don't be so excited about being offered a job that you end up accepting anything. Ask questions about promotional opportunities, performance reviews and the kind of salary progression that can be expected in a year or two.

End on a positive note

The last step of salary negotiation is to set the groundwork for what kind of performance will lead to a larger raise or promotion in the near future. Talking about future performance and expectations will make a positive impression and help you end the negotiation on a positive note.

Get it in writing

Make sure you see everything you agreed upon with the HR manager in writing before you finally sign the offer letter. The last thing you want is a nasty surprise a month down the line.

That's all you need to negotiate your way to a fat package!

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-- The author is a training consultant and freelance writer based in New Delhi.




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