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Old 05-28-2006, 05:50 PM
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Westley Westley is offline
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Following are some comments from an email exchange I had recently regarding negotiating salary. The person was negotiating and was looking for advice on how to present it. I won't give you all the background, some of the comments it's not clear what I was responding to, but I think it's all clear in the aggregate regardless. Some of this may not be accurate in every instance, but gives you something to think about.

Also, generally, be aware that the advantage to email is that they will remember exactly what you said, but the advantage to speaking on the phone is that you can sound interested and such, and it doesn't sound different than what you want. Think about how bad it sounds to write in an email: "I want more money." Now, think about how it sounds in a conversation as part of the discussion about ho wmuch you like the company, how excited you are to get the offer, etc.

I would call the person that is coordinating (probably HR) and ask where they're at in the process. There's a lot of approvals and whatnot to go through to get numbers approved, so it takes a while. In my company, when we make an offer, if there's negotiation, the HR person goes back to the local office manager (who may be travelling that day) to get his input, then goes to the national director (who may have meetings that day) to get his answer (he decides), then runs it up two level higher to get simple signature approvals (either of them could have a vacation day).

If the company has told you that they will make an offer, but they have not actually made an offer (i.e., no numbers have been mentioned). Call and just say that you are checking in. I would make sure to start off by politely apologizing for bothering them, you're not trying to be impatient, but you are very excited about the opportunity, so you are just checking back to see what the status is. And, mention wat you are giving up. "I wanted to mak you aware that by leaving Company X, I am giving up (name as much stuff as you can). I'm definitely interested in your company, but I have a pretty good situation here that I am leaving behind as well, so I just want you to know where I am coming from. If there's any questions about any of that, I'd be glad to discuss it." I would recommend that you say that sentence exactly the way that I wrote it, if you can. Sometimes, a certain way of saying things doesn't fit your style of speech, but if you can, say that exactly. Then, also mention the one or two most important things that you are giving up - no more than a sentence or two. Something like "I do have four weeks of vacation here, so if I'm taking a step down on that, I have to take that into consideration, of course". Also, if they respond by pointing out (for example) that you only get two weeks of vacation, but the company has more holidays - 18 - than most, plus you also get to take a minimum of five sick days, so if you're never sick, that's additional time off, the response is "Great, that's good to know, thanks for sharing that with me - that's a pretty generous policy". Basically, while you're telling them all the good stuff that you are leaving behind, they are going to tell you all the good stuff that you are walking into, which is fair enough. Essentially, this part just boils down to sharing information so that everybody knows what you ar eleaving and what you are getting.

If they already gave you a number, and you made a counteroffer or rejected it, it's a little trickier, since you are clearly negotiating, but the conversation isn't that different. Also, if they gave you a number, and your response is about things that they cannot change (corporate bonus plan, for example), then they will probably be expecting you to give them a number - which is difficult, but not impossible. Let me know if that's the case, and I'll be glad to give what advice I can. So, if they offered you $X, and you essentially said "well, since I'm giving up benefits A and B, I was hoping for a little more than that", they are going to say "What amount did you have in mind?" and they will expect you to have an answer.[/font]
[font=Arial Black]Keep the entire conversation pleasant and upbeat, and the last thing you say is: "Thanks for taking the time to update me. I'm really excited about the prospect of working for (Prudential, Allstate, Tillinghast, whatever), and I look forward to hearing back from you (OR, I will get back to you by next Monday or whatever). Have a great day.

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Depends on what you are looking for and what the issues are. I would start the conversation something like "I'm trying to make sure you understand the entire package that I have at my current position and that I understand the entire package that is available at (the new company) just to make sure that I make the best possible decisions. I listed out some thing that I have at my current position, and...." depending on the details that you have, you may want to mention something that you are not sure if you are giving up or not - do you know their vacation policy? do you know how their bonus program/tuition reimbursement/etc works? - or you may want to mention something that you know you are losing - maybe you know that you will have fewer vacation days at the new position. Emphasize that you are trying to look at the total package, and do what's right for your family (don't say you're trying to do what's right for you, even if that's the case), and you just want to understand. The good thing about this strategy is, if you get to the end of the day, and they don't offer more money, but you still want to take it, you just tell them thanks, now that you understand their offer, you are excited to accept.

When you discuss specific pieces that the new company is worse than the old, ask if there's any flexibility (if that makes sense - there's guaranteed to be no flexibility in the pension plan, but there might be in the vacation days) and explain again that you are giving something up. If the points you raised are about when your next review/salary adjustment is (the start of our whole conversation), then bring that up - ask if there's flexibility for an earlier review and be specific - "if I am performing at an appropriate level, would I then be elgible for a full raise, similar to other actuaries?" If they have no flexibility (on pension, for example), and they have room to negotiate on salary to make up the difference, they will likely say so. They may ask you to name a number. My advice goes back to my previous PM: if you really want the job, don't be greedy. If you don't mind staying at your current job until something better comes along, you can be greedy. Assuming you're fairly young, you might be making $60k or $75k (I have no idea where you are on exams or experience) - you might present it something like this: "I am giving up 401k matches worth 5% of salary, vacation of one week (2% of the year), and missing out on an annual raise that would go into effect in just a month worth perhaps 4% of salary, so that's something like 11% of salary that I am losing. Now, I'm not discounting that you have already offered a raise of 5% over my current salary, but considering cost of living and the risk of taking on a new job rather than staying at a safe job, I was hoping to get to $X" and if $X is less than 10% above their current offer, I would be surprised if they didn't either go part way or all the way, 5% is very safe in my experience. BUT THERE IS ALWAYS A RISK IN NEGOTIATING RATHER THAN JUST ACCEPTING. In my mind, it's worth negotiating, but be careful.

Also, don't name a number until you have gone through all aspects of the offer. That is, if they ask you how much lost vacation is worth, say "well, I'm trying to understand the total offer, can you walk me through the rest of the details first?" At the end of the day, don't name a number unless you have to, and then balance a mild counter versus aggressive negotiating based on how much you want the offer.

If they offer you anything, get it in writing. Any HR person that is offended that you want all the details in writing is scamming you or incompetent. This shouldn't be a problem for them. "Can you send me an amended offer letter with the details we discussed?"

In order to give you more advice, I would need some numbers and the details of the email you sent. You may or may not be comfortable discussing those details with me. No offense if you don't want to tell me, it's very private, but if you want specifics, you can send me specifics.

Last edited by Westley; 08-13-2006 at 05:14 PM..
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