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Secrets of negotiating pay

New rules for locking in higher compensation

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in Hiring,HR Management,Human Resources,Salary Negotiating,Workplace Communication

If you’re selling yourself as a new hire (and it's a seller's market) , you can put a gentle squeeze on employers to grant you the financial package you want.

Candidates for mid- to high-level positions now try to finagle signing bonuses, extra time off, generous stock options and even telecommuting deals where they can split time between home and office. These elements take on more importance nowadays because once you’re hired, you might get stuck with paltry merit increases or face stingy salary caps.

According to the executive search consultants and human resources managers we spoke to, you need to straddle a fine line between asking for everything you want and appearing greedy. Here are some negotiating tips:

Treat the first offer as a mere starting point. Don’t expect the employer to shower you with goodies right from the start. Most recruiters would rather secure your services for, say, $50,000 plus standard benefits than buy those same services for $60,000 with exceptionally generous perks. “If an attractive candidate wants to negotiate within reason, that’s fine,” said one hiring manager. “But I’m not going to give anything away unless or until I’m pushed to do so.”

Build your case with precedent. Making extreme demands out of the blue won’t endear you to your new company. But if you research the market and offer a sound argument as to why your salary or benefit requests fall within what’s considered customary, you’re on firm ground. Check with trade associations or professional groups that represent your industry; they may maintain job banks that include pay information or databases on salary. If you talk with current employees during your interview or decision-making process, ask them what perks the company offers. You may learn that, when prodded, the organization routinely pays club dues or private school tuition for executives’ children.

Work around “official” policies. If the employer balks at your pay requests by explaining, “That’s just our policy” or, “We’ve got to stay within our official salary grades,” don’t settle for a dead end. Some employers, especially in high-tech businesses where software developers and other technicians are highly coveted, may fork over a higher sign-on bonus instead of upping the salary. Or the company may promise to throw in annual side payments for a set number of years—sometimes called special grants—that may combine with a base salary and normal bonuses.

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