When's the best time to customize your work situation to best meet your needs? Before you start the job.
When you get that coveted job offer, it's tempting to just say, "Yes," but now is your chance to negotiate—and preparation is key to success.
First, know your worth. To negotiate effectively, you need a realistic understanding of the value of your services in the marketplace. Factors underlying compensation differences include the kinds and levels of required skills, supply and demand of labor, geographic location, employment setting, organizational compensation philosophy, and the organization's size, profitability, employment stability, employee tenure, and employee performance.
Start by accessing the salary data available from ASHA:
Areas in which the cost of living is high have historically paid higher salaries. For example, if you earn $60,000 living in Rockville, Maryland, you can maintain the same standard of living on $40,400 in Greenville, South Carolina. You'll find some cost-of-living information available by region and state in the ASHA reports. A number of websites allow you to compare the cost of living in various areas. Search "cost of living calculators" to find a number of tools (e.g., bestplaces.net and money.cnn.com).
These guidelines will help you maximize an employment arrangement.
1. Avoid Disclosing Your Current Salary Early in the Hiring Process
If you're asked about your current salary, deflect the question with a response such as, "I do have an idea what my skills are worth in the marketplace, but I will be a lot more comfortable giving you a range once I understand your needs and what value I might add to your organization."
If that doesn't satisfy the employer, try providing a salary range based on your research and anchor the discussion around an approach or standard that is favorable to you. For example, you might say, "One factor to consider is what others are paying for comparable work. I have recently reviewed ASHA's salary survey data and found that the median salary for an audiologist in a hospital setting is about $80,000. Of course, San Francisco has one of the highest costs of living in the United States, so I would expect that your compensation program would take this into account."
2. Think Broadly
An individual's employment search often ends with acceptance of the highest salary offer, without sufficient consideration of the accompanying benefits package and other employment aspects. Medical insurance, life and long-term disability insurance, retirement benefits, and paid time off are important to consider. The cost, time, and quality-of-life effects of a daily commute are an important consideration. The office environment and organizational culture will also affect your job satisfaction.
3. Outline Your Point of View and Your Perception of the Employer's Perspective
Use that information to come up with several hours/salary/benefit options (see Step 5). A comparison may look something like this chart [PDF].
4. Generate a Number of Options That Meet Your Needs as Well as Those of Your Potential Employer
Having many options in a negotiation is valuable. Consider how the elements of an employment relationship might be packaged to meet your needs. Take the time to understand the offer fully and to look for any hidden elements of real or potential value (see chart [PDF]).
If the employer isn't able to offer a starting salary you think is fair, you might suggest a signing bonus or ask if you can receive a performance evaluation and corresponding salary increase in less time than is typical.
Keep in mind that you want to build a relationship of trust, understanding, and respect with your potential new employer. Use questions, not demands (e.g., "Is this salary offer negotiable?" and "Does the organization have flexibility in...?). Listen actively and confirm your understanding by asking questions (e.g., "Did I understand correctly that you are saying that...?").
Depending on the employment setting, you may find it helpful to negotiate an objective criterion on which to base a salary agreement. Most employers want to pay a salary that is fair and justifiable. An employer that doesn't have a system in place for determining a job's worth may appreciate your suggestion for objective criteria on which to base a decision. For example, you could suggest using ASHA salary data adjusted for the local cost of living.
You also can leverage any other offers you have by telling employers about them. Ask them to talk with you about why you should choose this particular job.
6. Put All the Issues on the Table at the Same Time
Otherwise, you risk creating a perception that you're difficult, especially if the person doing the negotiating has to get approval from someone else in the organization. Be sensitive to the appropriate time to stop negotiating—that is, when you perceive you have received all the employer can reasonably give.
7. Finalize the Agreement in Writing
Most companies make it a practice to provide offer letters; if the employer doesn't, send a letter expressing gratitude and confirming all the key aspects of the offer. A word of caution: Don't sign a contract with a "non-compete" clause without having an attorney review it; each state has different laws governing these agreements, and the courts' interpretation of them varies as well. If you decide not to accept an offer, be sure to end the negotiation on a pleasant note and send a thank-you letter. You may apply for another job through that hiring manager at the same or another company, or that person may recommend you to someone else who is hiring.