Sunday, May 16, 2010

Job Negotiating Strategies: (1) Bargaining From a Position of Strength

In marketplaces everywhere bargaining, in one way or another, is an essential element in consummating the “deal.” In the job market this refers to the negotiations that formalize the terms of the conditions of employment with a primary emphasis on job offer negotiations. Here my thoughts will be primarily directed towards the Software Engineering and IT positions below the executive level ,employment areas where I have been a personnel consultant for 25 years. However, I think these ideas and strategies pertain to most salaried positions regardless of industry or level

In this, and my 3 following presentations, I will be concerned with four distinct, but overlapping, bargaining, or negotiating, approaches to finding a new job: (1) bargaining from a positioning of strength. (2) equal bargaining,(3) bargaining from a position weakness, and (4) non-bargaining bargaining. Of course, these strategies are always somewhat impacted by the macro economic conditions effecting the job market, and here I will look at bargaining in a gradually improving post recessionary market. Finally in the four posts I will present key elements of each of these four bargaining types, starting with bargaining from a position of strength

In Bargaining from a position of strength, you have “all the right stuff” that the hiring company is looking for in terms of skills and personal characteristics. To make as near to perfect match as possible, the employer is very motivated to secure your services, often offering almost anything it takes to have you join there company. Also, you are highly valued by your current employer. Consequently, you have (almost) everything to gain and hardly anything to lose in your job search efforts. This is not to say anyone should haphazardly embark on something so life critical as a job search without conducting in depth research in your specific employments niche hiring conditions and deeply reflect on the notion that this is the right time to change jobs for you

In this scenario it’s ok to be quite confident, maybe even a little cocky, but you need to not come across as an ego maniac or arrogant no matter how good a fit you think you are. But, if the match is very good, you may perceived as “the answer” to some significant problem areas within the company, and, recognizing this, justifies you having a somewhat inflated, self promotional attitude in your approach to the hiring process. However a particular danger in this strategy, perhaps more than the others, is to not promise more than you can deliver in the particular role that you will assume in the new company. To this end, you must attain clarity in what you envision to be the scope of the position, how realistic are the companies’ expectations of you are, and, regardless of the high expectation, if deep down you feel you can at least meet, and hopefully exceed, the performance expectations of the new employer.

You can often hold out for a substantial bump up in salary because the hiring company’s perception is that they need you more than you need them. Often if you seem unenthused by the original figure, and the company appears to be determined to secure your services, they will come back with a higher starting salary amount and/or other concessions. Bottom-line, they want you bad! Also, you may able negotiate a sign on bonus, more stock options…and other incentives like an early salary review, some telecommuting…. At this point the situation may appear quite appealing if the company offers all, or almost all,that you want. However, before accepting, make sure to give close scrutiny to the entire offer “package” I have seen too many people fixate on the dollar number only, and then discover that some benefit (e. g., vacation, health benefits) or policy (e. g. flexible hours, non compete agreements) is not what they had thought, or imagined it, to be.

Once you have accepted the offer, a potential complication often arises if your present company gives you a counter offer that meets or exceeds what you have received elsewhere. The questions to ask yourself then are why they didn’t offer this to you in this first place, and if Ian m essential to the old company primarily in the short run or both in the short run and the long run. If you have any question that their intentions are not in your long term best interests, then politely tell your old company thanks but no thanks. Generally counter offers are good to avoid because they can sometimes limit, or even endanger, your future with your current company. Nevertheless, I have seen the minority of people who accept counter offers experience their career’s flourish going forward, particularly if the offering company is a direct competitor.

Finally, if you decide to proceed , I would get as much of generous promises of potential employer clearly delineated in your offer letter- and possible let a lawyer confidentially examine it as well. You may never have as much bargaining power as you do at this initial stage, so use this leverage in every way possible. Also, if you hadn’t already done so, research extensively the company’s reputation as being creditable in treating, and honoring, their employees well. Nevertheless, chances are that if your new employer views you as a very good to exceptional prospect, they will generally follow through on their initial conditions of employment; as long as you meet or exceed the performance levels you led them to expect.

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