5 Tips For Negotiating Salary During A Recession

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In an economic climate where unemployment is at a severe level how do you negotiate for the salary you are worth when you do land your next job? What are some of the qualities you want to bring forward in the negotiation process? Is it a good idea to be assertive in this climate? Or should you just take what's offered and thank your lucky stars?

There is always more than one answer to these kinds of questions depending on the employer, industry, experience, job, who you are negotiating with. The truth is (as we've discussed in Career Lessons Parts I and II) that even in this economic climate, companies still need talent and when they find someone that has it they will do what they can to hire them. If you make a reasonable request for a salary that is within the realm of what they can afford and maintains fairness with other employees in the company doing similar work, then more than likely they will fulfill your request. Therefore, I encourage you not to jump at just accepting any offer. First, do your homework. Second, choose whether or not to negotiate. Third, decide if it is appropriate for you to accept the offer. I can already hear some of you suggesting that in hard times you will take what you can get. I do think this is understandable, especially in this economic climate. However, even in a changing economy I believe you can obtain the salary you deserve that is commensurate with the experience and value you bring to an organization.

Tips for effective salary negotiation:

1. Know your worth

Take the time to know your salary value. With salary calculators all over the internet it is easy to gather the information that will help you match research with actual experience. At you can gather numbers based on location, industry, job, level of experience. Of course, one of the most important factors that you won't get from a salary calculator is the value of your success and accomplishments. Research should also include information gathering specifically related to your industry and other people in the industry doing your work. For instance, If you are being considered for a Senior Financial Analyst role at a law firm, gather salary data for SFA's at other law firms and the one where you are being considered. This will help give you a realistic idea of what you can expect in an offer.

2. Know Thy Self

What is your bottom line salary that will support you in feeling valued and in meeting your financial needs? What are other factors you consider in negotiation? For instance, autonomy and creativity for some people are critical factors worth a couple of thousand dollars off of a compensation package. How heavily do you weigh a comprehensive benefits plan against your salary? What other non-financial elements will fulfill you in your work? Is it worth it to you to take 2k less for a position with a company down the block than one for which you have to drive across town?

3. Know Your Performance

When you are negotiating a low offer with a potential employer, and have total faith in your ability to succeed in the role, consider your willingness to base your raise or bonus on your performance. I suggest you be very specific by taking initiative in setting milestones and deadlines. Let the potential employer know that you want a higher salary, but are willing to receive it as a reward. Here's an example: if you reach or go beyond your milestones within the first 3-6 months, ask them to agree to give you the salary bump you are requesting.

4. Know the company
Knowing how badly the company needs to fill the role in question could support your negotiating. You could find this out a few ways. It may come across during the interview or by talking with other people in the industry or even by the date on a job posting (if a position has been open for 6 months they may be in dire need of filling it). I recently had a career coaching client who went on vacation. While she was away a company she interviewed with was desperately trying to track her down. For some reason they had an outdated resume on file (she had provided them with a current one) that had old contact information. Had I known how the CFO tried to track her down and how grateful he was when he finally got a hold of her before the offer was made, I would have encouraged her to ask for even more than she did.

5. Know When to Jump
I know that based on previous comments on my prior "career lessons" articles that some of you will label what I am about to say as Psycho-babble. That does not make it any less true. When the offer call comes in, and the person on the other end of the phone tells you how wonderful you are and how much they want you to accept the job; I suggest you take a breath, maintain composure, and ask them for a day or two to think about it. Even if you know you want the job. When you are at offer stage all the other candidates are placed far on the back burner. It is also possible that you are the only candidate out of the bunch to whom they would even consider making an offer. In this case, they can't afford to have you decline the offer. Asking them to give you time to make the decision helps put you in a powerful negotiating position by simply triggering a greater sense of urgency and desire to do what they can to fulfill your requests. It doesn't mean they will, but any employer worth working with will try. However, maintain respect during this process. Let them know specifically that you sincerely appreciate the offer, you are seriously considering it, and that you will call them back on a specific day and time to let them know how you intend to proceed.

Approach negotiating with diplomacy, respect, and professionalism. Possessing your facts, confidence, and faith in your value and ability positions you as an ally with your potential employer. This increases their desire to work with you, and do their best to fulfill your salary and compensation requests. Even in a volatile economy!

Please share your successful salary negotiating stories below.

Previous Career Lessons from My Recruiting Desk articles:
Getting the Meeting

In an ever-changing world Jason's coaching empowers you to start living life on your terms, creating a career and life based on personal integrity and authenticity! Learn more at and request a free copy of Jason's career coaching e-book: Swinging Through the Unemployment Jungle by e-mailing