8 Tips to Be a Better Career Negotiator

common negotiation errors

Whether its job hunting or asking for a raise, many of us don't like to negotiate. But as professionals it's become a required skill and you may only get one chance to make your case. Learn what it takes to be a confident negotiator.

During a job search and negotiating for salary are often the most critical times where you have to speak up for yourself because no one else will. Most of us negotiate all the time outside of work, like when buying a car or a home for example. Preparation, confidence and thoughtfulness are all required to build the right negotiating strategy, and the good news is that, like with any skill, the more you do it the better you will get.

At some point in our careers we all have to face certain obstacles like reassessing our skill set, searching for a new position, or plotting a career path. Negotiating skills falls into this category and they don't necessarily come naturally for all of us. Many of us have to work at being good at it. To help you get up to speed CIO.com worked with career strategists and hiring managers to help you avoid the common pitfalls that befall many IT pros as they negotiate for better compensation packages and new jobs.

What Do You Want?

Whether it's negotiating the finer points of a new job with a hiring manager or working with your current boss to increase your salary, before you get started, it's important to take stock of what is truly important. We're all different. For some it's all about compensation while others want more vacation or a better work-life balance to build family memories. Our experts agree that most anything is negotiable, like working remotely, immediate 401k contributions, commitment to ongoing training and education, or in some cases relocation reimbursement. Critically evaluate your needs and consider the entire compensation package before deciding more money will make you happy. Roy J. West, Founder and CEO of The Roy West Companies, advises his clients that they have options but need to be sure they know what they seeking saying, "…always remember, "Talent" has options. Those who are immensely talented have options. So, have crystalline-like clarity around what you are looking for in a company, a manager, salary and, then go find them."

Know Your Worth

Many candidates go into an interview without being able to articulate what makes them a stand out candidate or what value they bring to the job. To negotiate with confidence you need to know what differentiates you. "The biggest mistake I see is that IT professionals don't go into the negotiation with an understanding of how they add value to the business. When they recognize how their work fits into the big picture, and are able to supply metrics to back it up, it helps them quantify the ROI they offer. In essence, they need to show that they are a "profit contributor" as opposed to being part of an expense center," says Stephen Van Vreede, Solutions Architect and founder of ITTechExec, a company that offers services focused on career lifecycle management and personal branding.

Know the Industry and Company

If you're after a job with another company then you need to put your research cap on and find out all you can about the company, what their business is all about, the position you're hiring for, who the hiring manager is and whatever other information you can glean. The bottom-line is the better you are informed the more confident you will feel when negotiating.

There are many places you can go to learn about a company's culture, and what past employees think of them, at places like Glassdoor.com and Salary.com. But don't neglect sources like press and product releases, Google News and trade sites and magazines. "Business savvy IT pros tend to conduct more research on market trends and utilize that information to negotiate offers more actively. These hires are likely to have a deeper understanding of the value of their skillsets and use that to initiate a negotiation conversation," says John Reed, Senior Executive Director with Robert Half Technology.

For more information on how to research companies you're interested in please read, Top 8 Sites for Researching Your Next Employer.

Listen at Least as Much as You Speak

Hemingway once wrote, "When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen." If you have taken the time to research and prepare then you are eager to share but listening is just as important. Listen and ask intelligent questions to gain further insight to what their actual needs are and you may find common ground or an opportunity.

Negotiating Multiple Points

If you should find yourself in the position where you need to negotiate several points like location reimbursement, salary and remote hours make yourself a list and be prepared and have a thoughtful answer should any one of them be denied. "…be strategic in your approach. Make sure you cohesively address every item that you want to discuss. Have some alternatives mentally prepared. Know what you will ask for instead if they deny one of the items," says Reed.

Don't Take it Personally

Try not to get too emotional throughout the process. Sometimes it won't work out and that is part of the journey. Instead, experts say, focus on what separates you from the pack and the value that you will add to the role. "Remember that this isn't a personal affront. Your approach should be to focus on your value-add. Regardless of your position, you should be bringing more value to the company than they are paying you in compensation," says Van Vreede.

Make Sure the Timing is Right

"There is an aspect of "timing" when asking for a salary increase, so it's important to be mindful of the big picture," says Reed. No one is saying that you don't deserve the raise, but consider for a moment that you know your company has a hiring freeze and there was a workforce reduction recently. This is a good example of a potentially bad time to negotiate for a salary increase. If you find yourself in this situation you may consider dusting off your resume. If nothing else it will give you confidence to know you are lining all your ducks up in a row.

Get it In Writing

Most experts agree that getting it writing is a must, whether you're an IT contractor, a new hire or getting promoted. "I've seen too much over the years, so I would recommend getting the final offer in writing regardless of your employment status," says Van Vreede. If an organization won't give it to you in writing then you probably want to reconsider their offer.

Finally, read through the entire agreement before signing. This isn't a software agreement, it's the blueprint for your professional life and you should take the time to examine it.

Final Thought

Remember that a successful negotiation leaves everyone feeling like they have won something. Most times that means compromise for everyone in some fashion.

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