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Secrets to Successful Negotiations in the Job Search Process

Almost everything in life is negotiable. This is particularly true with your references, severance, salary and benefits. There’s a truth that has emerged time and time again: if you ask for it, you may receive it. If you don’t ask for it, then it’s a certainty you won’t receive it.

Negotiating References

One of the first areas to begin negotiating is with your prior references. It might sound strange to do this, but it can be a very important step in your job search process. If you’ve left your job on good terms, then it’s reasonable to expect your former employer to say good things about you when they’re called as a reference. However, in the case of involuntary unemployment, it’s critical that you know in advance what your former boss will be saying.

Within a week or two of your job loss, or at the earliest point beyond this, contact your former employer and ask for a brief meeting. The point of this meeting is not to negotiate getting your job back or to defend your position. This meeting is only to negotiate what they are going to say to potential future employers.

During the meeting, start with sharing how much you appreciated working there for the number of years that you did. Let them know that you would also appreciate it if when potential employers called, they would share specific accomplishments you had while you were employed. At this point, you will provide a list of those measurable accomplishments, as well as attributes about yourself, on paper, in bullet-point format.

These points are true, regardless of the reasons you were laid off, and providing this list to your former employer may help you get a new job much faster. You may even discuss with your former boss those areas needing improvement while employed there. This will allow you both to agree on the areas that could be improved, but don’t shed too much negative light on you.

You may be wondering why your former boss would be willing to listen to you? There are two important reasons why:

  1. In many cases, your former employer will be very interested in what you’ll be saying about him or her and what you will be saying about the organization. He will want you to put them into as much a positive light as possible. 
  2. Most employers really do want you to be successful at finding another fulfilling job as quickly as possible, and they know that good references will help make that happen.

With this in mind, have the courage and be willing to negotiate with your former employer.

Negotiating Salary and Benefits

Persistence: “There is no giant step that does it. It’s a lot of little steps.” – Peter Cohen

This is true for moving forward in the job search process. There is no giant step that will do it. It’s a lot of little proactive steps that will get you a job offer.  If you have been persistent and have had success now in getting an offer or two, you may need to negotiate on this end of the process.

Why is it that people are uncomfortable with the thought of having to negotiate? Many are afraid that negotiating is going to make them seem ungrateful for the job offer, especially in a tight market. Others may be afraid that it will make them look too pushy or too demanding. Some may feel that it will start the employment relationship off on a bad note, making the manager wonder if they made the right choice.

Interestingly enough, studies have shown that none of these concerns are valid. In fact, employers are expecting potential employees to negotiate in order to demonstrate their understanding of the process. Studies also support that many employers will feel that those who don’t negotiate are less of a candidate than those who do. If you show you’re good at negotiating on your behalf, employers will feel that you will also be good at negotiating on the company’s behalf should you be hired.

Negotiating salary and benefits should not be a confrontational process. Ultimately, it should provide mutual benefits, a win-win proposition.

You might be tempted to think that certain things are not negotiable, like…

  • the rate you’re quoted for a hotel stay, or
  • the interest rate for your car or home loan, or
  • the real estate commission rate to sell your house, or
  • the price of a medical procedure, or
  • the rate quote for a Certificate of Deposit at your local bank

It has been proven that every one of these is easily negotiable. Many things that don’t look negotiable can in fact be very negotiable. And in the job search process, remember that your worth in the position you’ve applied for really has nothing to do with what you were being paid in your previous position. Base your salary demands on the value and experience you will bring to the new position, as well as the market and geographic location of the position.

Best Times to Negotiate

Though negotiations can happen at any point in the job search process, there is a best time for it. The unofficial rules are: 1) Don’t bring up the subject of compensation until the end of the interview, and 2) You probably don’t want to be the first person to mention a proposed compensation figure. There are a few exceptions to these rules. You can learn about those here.

Within the guidelines of these rules, the very best time to negotiate is the time between when you’re offered a position and when you’ve accepted it. During this time period, you have significant leverage because they’ve already indicated that they believe you’re the best person for the job and they want you.

If you’re wondering what’s negotiable beyond wages and salary, hear the list by clicking here. You’ll also hear additional rules for effective negotiations.

For more tips to boost your job search, you will want to Get the Book that will help you become more successful at either finding or creating more fulfilling work.

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