Getting the Salary You Want – Mission Possible

REGION – So you've been looking for a new position for months and you've finally received a promising offer at an interesting company.

Here's where a lot of new hires make a mistake that could cost them thousands of dollars.

"As people who have been looking for work a long time start to get back into the workforce, many of them are so happy just to get a job that they sometimes accept a lower salary than they have to," says Bill Humbert, a professional recruiter since 1981. "Some employers feel that they can probably get away with a lowball offer, and many job hunters will grab it just so they can have a job. The truth is there are ways to get the job and still get what you want."

Negotiating a salary is a give and take, more art than science. "Very few job candidates and very few employers realize that negotiating a salary is actually a sales process," says Humbert, author of RecruiterGuy's Guide to Finding a Job.

"In a town like Traverse City, with a lot of smaller employers, there's a good chance that the Mom and Pop business owners have more flexibility in negotiations," says Humbert. "They generally know what their neighbor is paying. And employees are probably aware of the range for the position they're seeking. But they may be able to negotiate hours, flex time or some other options."

Negotiating a raise is similar to negotiating an initial salary. Most companies truly value the effort and insight employees bring to their company, says Tonya Wildfong of Team Elmer's. "If it is economically feasible and you highlight your added skills and value, your company will give you the raise you deserve. That being said – timing is important.

"Almost 20 years ago an employee tried to negotiate a raise during our company picnic while we were busy serving corn-on-the-cob hot from the boiling tub of water to a hungry line of 200 people," says Wildfong.

"Needless to say, the people behind this person were hungry and did not appreciate the timing. Keep your negotiations within the business context or at least let it affect only you and the person able to give you the raise," she says.

American Proficiency Institute President Dan Edson advises new employees to be bold in salary negotiations. "If a company offers less, they should feel confident to say, I was looking for $XXX. Any chance you could start closer to my number? If the company really wants this person, they are likely to meet that number or compromise and start at a certain wage with an increase in 90 days if all is going well."

Vacation time is another area where employees are likely to be flexible, according to Edson. "If a new employee has worked elsewhere and currently has three weeks of vacation, that employee should ask if they could start at three weeks vacation instead of the typical two weeks that most companies begin with."

Steve Hawn, President and CEO of Frontier Computer Traverse City, learned an important negotiating lesson when he was a 20-year-old job seeker.

"I was applying for a job and salary with a construction company/warehouse worker," he says. "I interviewed with the foreman and didn't really have anything to offer that set me apart and was even well behind the curve as I had never done anything like this in the past so my work was cut out for me."

Hawn needed a certain salary to live and was wrapping up the interview. Knowing his chances were slim he threw out a last gasp effort.

"I said to the guy, now, when I get this job, there is something you've got to know about me and need to know it up front before you hire me," he recalls. "I said, don't expect me to come in here and wow you with all sorts of crazy results as I get started. You need to know that I'm not going to kill myself for the first few weeks only to let you down when I go back to doing normal hard work. Give me what I need money-wise, and I promise you you'll get a consistent effort and attention to detail, and it won't waver in the coming weeks.

"Not only did he hire me but he hired me for more than they were offering in the want ad." BN