Show Me the Money: IT Salary Negotiation Tips

 
 
By Deborah Rothberg  |  Posted 2006-07-13
 
 
 

Show Me the Money: IT Salary Negotiation Tips


Negotiating or renegotiating your salary is, to say the least, a delicate dance. You want the folks that control the purse strings to show you the money, and if your workplace is like most, theyd rather keep it in their seemingly gold-lined coffers.

Your company might be willing to bend a little, but will avoid disclosing how much from the outset. Youre worried about asking for too much, thus seeming presumptuous; but if you ask for too little, you may be selling yourself short.

But it doesnt mean it cant be done. With a little bit of preparation, advice from bosses and experts, and that old fallback, common sense, youd be surprised to find income negotiation wiggle room where it might have seemed impossible.

eWEEK rounds up tips from pros about when to negotiate or renegotiate, how to prepare yourself, what to never do and even when to fold your cards. But, with good preparation, that should be a lot less likely.

NEGOTIATING: GETTING THE RIGHT OFFER

Come prepared

While most experts suggest that job seekers come prepared for salary negotiations, researching your market value is woefully difficult in the field of IT, where titles can mean very little and skill sets everything. But tools are available to help get you started.

Dice.com offers a Salary Wizard for IT professionals powered by salary.com which gives users a range of base pay, bonuses and benefits from recent data.

Beyond salary calculators, having all your IT-related skills and accomplishments documented and ready to share is key when explaining to future employers your value to the company.

"Document your jobs fair market value… and be prepared to prove it," David Patton, editorial director of CareerJournal.com told eWEEK.

In addition, the current job market for IT is strong enough that job seekers can use it to their advantage.

"Given the demand for IT workers in this current market, its okay to expect some growth in salary," Susan Vobejda, Yahoo HotJobs career expert, told eWEEK.

When to broach the subject

Many experts suggest that job seekers avoid discussing salaries until they already have an offer.

"You want to avoid bringing up salary expectations in the first meeting. If someone asks you what your current salary is, youll want to manage their expectations and say which range you are looking for. In any negotiation, you want to avoid putting the first stake in the ground," said Vobejda.

But, just because you are put on the spot, it does not mean that the buck stops there.

"On job applications under salary requirements, put open, negotiable, or competitive. If a salary requirement must be given, then give ranges [usually begin your range at 10 percent higher than your last salary and add $10K to get your range]," writes James Powell, author of Mastering the Art of Salary Negotiation, on CareerBuilder.com.

Others recommend that job seekers be as specific as possible to avoid any confusion.

"Ask for a specific amount¾the more specific you can be in terms of your request, the better chance you have of obtaining a specific outcome," said Patton.

Its not tacky to negotiate

Even though you dont work in sales, employers wont presume you will take the first amount offered.

Click here for 10 ways to tweak your tech resume.

"As the saying goes, everything is negotiable. Employers will expect some negotiation from you when they extend an offer," said Vobejda.

If the number comes back lower than youd hope for, one tactic is to give specifics, such as "I was hoping for somewhere between $50 and $55K."

In addition, you can try to ascertain how much room for negotiation there is. Many employers will then tell you if there is simply no wiggle room.

"Maybe the employer has a very small salary range from where they can offer. But, you might be able to negotiate other benefits, from telecommuting to phone or travel reimbursements, relocation benefits and stock options," said Vobejda.

Others agree that a final salary offer doesnt have to be the end of the story.

"Be prepared if the answer is no to ask what needs to happen for you to earn a raise in the future, and try to get a commitment in writing," said Patton.

Next Page: Dont play hard to get.

Dont Play Hard to


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Another suggestion was to examine alternatives, such as a review at 60 or 90 days.

Dont blow it

One of the worst mistakes Vobejda sees new hires make is asking right away when they can expect to be promoted.

"A potential employer wants to know that a person is excited about the job at hand. If you seem too eager for promotions, they might think youre just in it for the title," she said.

Furthermore, you should never seem disinterested in the interview or play hard to get, said Vobejda.

RENEGOTIATIONS: GETTING THE RAISE YOU DESERVE

Start preparing early

Preparing yourself for a meeting to renegotiate your salary versus discussing an initial salary offer are very different processes because the people you are speaking to already know your work firsthand.

"First of all, when going into get a raise, youre renegotiating because theres a history and that history creates a different kind of approach.

"You know them, and they know you, and you therefore need to understand what you do for the company, what your goals are, and what youve accomplished since youve been there. You should understand your value," Marc Freeman, a strategic and sales planning consultant and author of the upcoming book "Renegotiating with Integrity: Its Not Business, Its Personal," told eWEEK.

No matter how long it has been since your last raise, or how overdue you perceive this one to be, Freeman warns people to watch their behavior.

"You should never go in feeling entitled or angry. Its always legitimate to negotiate and renegotiate as long as youre humble and respectful. If youre not happy with what youre getting, dont be mad about it because the person you are talking to is often just the messenger," said Freeman.

As with negotiating an initial salary offer, experts recommend people come prepared.

"Have a good idea of the salary range for your job. Ask your HR department. They typically have this data so theres no reason you shouldnt be able to see it. Ask them what the raise policy is in the company," said Stacey Epstein, senior director of marketing communications at SuccessFactors, a San Mateo, Calif., provider of talent management solutions.

Prove yourself

Many experts suggest you start readying yourself for a raise the day you start your job, studiously tracking your accomplishments.

"The biggest thing with asking for a raise is that many people view it as a one-time event. Its a year-long process," said Epstein.

"Part of it is demonstrating what you are contributing to your organization throughout the year, and clearly defining and documenting your goals with your manager.

Click here for advice on how to climb the IT ladder.

Its a good idea to sit down in the beginning and come to an agreement on your objectives, and what you will need to do to succeed. Then, when its time for you to ask for more money, instead of just coming in and saying I did great this year; where is my raise? you will have an arsenal with you," said Epstein.

Epstein also says its okay to frequently ask managers for feedback, such as how am I doing? and what should I be improving upon? She also tries to help raise-seekers understand how the process works behind the scenes.

"I have 12 people on my team—a lot of people to think of when it comes to raises. At other companies, there may be hundreds of people who compete for the same pool of money," Epstein said.

"If you document your accomplishments, your raise has less to do with the conversation and more to do with the evidence you have provided. If you negotiate with one of my direct reports, Im not privy to the conversation; I only know whats documented."

Once again, negotiating is acceptable. If a manager cant give you the raise you want, see what else they can offer.

"Find out how soon you can discuss this again. How about other forms of compensation, from extra vacation time to training and classes?" said Epstein.

Dont lose your chance

Some of the biggest mistakes people make are going in unprepared, or picking a bad time, said Epstein.

"If you corner you manager as you are both coming out of a meeting and they say no, youve lost your chance."

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