Is there one right answer to how to be a winner in job interviews and salary negotiation? Not really. There are many ways to be a winner–or a loser, if you don’t handle the situation well.
I should note that before I became self-employed, I never negotiated a salary as high as 6 figures , so I can’t say I’m an expert on that, although I’ve talked to quite a few people who did. However, you don’t have to be aiming that high to realize you need to be on your toes throughout the interview process–if you’re looking for a job offer to consider and possibly negotiate.
If you view salary negotiation as like pulling the handle on a slot machine, you’re on the wrong track. Achieving a desirable salary can’t be left to luck. You need to be able to position yourself and be prepared to make your case. But NOT along the lines of, “Gee, I really need the money!” Hardship is not a convincing argument.
Arming yourself with salary-related information is an obvious first step toward negotiating effectively. How can you negotiate appropriately if you don’t know:
You need to have something your target employers want badly enough to consider paying you close to the salary you’re after. Unless you build a value proposition based on skills and/or specific experience you can offer, you’re going to find yourself at a serious disadvantage in any negotiation–or in the interview itself, for that matter.
Don’t know what your value proposition is? Don’t schedule interviews until you figure it out! In fact, you probably shouldn’t even submit your resume for job opportunities until you can define your value proposition. Is there a demand for what you can offer? If so, figure out how to articulate that effectively in every approach you make to a potential employer.
Remember, it isn’t enough to match what your competitors can offer. You need to exceed it in a meaningful way. For instance, if you don’t have an advanced degree but you do have an outstanding record of increasing profits by XX percent, you can bring something to the table that others with an advanced degree might not be able to claim.
Depending on the source you consult, you might want to bring up the subject of salary early on or not until you’ve made an impression you hope will motivate the employer with a strong desire to hire you. In the former situation, you’re supposedly saving yourself time and frustration by avoiding lengthy interviews that end up going nowhere because the employer’s target salary is not even close to yours.
Regardless of how you choose the timing–and whether you bring up salary or wait for the employer to do it–if you don’t reach the point where the employer really wants you and you know you’re definitely interested in the position, you have a problem.
Of course, you need to be dealing from as strong a negotiating position as possible, but once you’ve done what you need to do to get yourself there, keep one more point in mind: You need to have that old standby–a win-win outcome–rather than a winner-takes-all situation.