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How to Negotiate Successfully for Your Next Job

With the economy opening up, there are now many new job opportunities available. At Planet Forward, for instance, we are seeing a great demand for candidates in the construction, energy, manufacturing, and power industries. Whether you’re looking to move up the ladder to increase your salary or just need a change, there’s sure to be a position that fits you. But before you can jump to negotiation mode, you need to do some prep work, both in terms of what you want and what the job market may have to offer.

Why Do You Want A New Position?

Yes, this article is about successful negotiation tactics for getting that next job. But the first step is to clarify what you want – which includes the job itself, salary, benefits, and perks. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is it about your current position that you like or don’t like? (e.g., salary, benefits, commute, ability to work remotely, type of work, opportunities to grow, travel, corporate culture, leadership)
  • What would you like to see different in a new position?
  • What must you have in the new job versus would like to have?
  • What working arrangements do you want? (e.g., work from home, flexible hours, certain percentage travel, leading others)
  • What’s most important to you in terms of compensation and benefits?

Then prioritize. For example, if you’re interested in a higher salary, you might have to sacrifice on some of the benefits being offered. But if your spouse has health insurance, that might not be an issue. If benefits are most important, you may have to accept a lower salary, etc.

Honesty is essential. With yourself, your family (if applicable) and, if you are working with a staffing firm, with your recruiter. One of the benefits of working with recruiters is that they know the client’s needs and parameters, including how much wiggle room they have around compensation. They also know what the market will bear for others with your level of experience, skills, and background and can help set your expectations.

Ultimately, the recruiter wants a good fit – for you and for the client. Tell your staffing professional what you want and why. The more information they have up front, the better the chance at them matching you with the right role.

Spiff Up Your Resume

Part of the preparation for negotiation is sharpening your resume. If you’ve had a long career, for instance, you may forget to mention earlier experiences. Likewise, if you’ve been in one position for a while, past jobs may fade. Dust off any cobwebs and dig down, listing for yourself what you did and the results you achieved in each position. Can you quantify the bottom-line results of that work? Did you produce specific profit or revenue, or significant cost savings? Being able to show a new employer what you bring to the table will greatly strengthen your bargaining position.

Be sure to include certifications too. For example, engineers that have a professional engineering license are more attractive to employers because they’re able to charge their clients more money for that labor.

Making Your Case

As the saying goes, knowledge is power. To prepare yourself for negotiation, research your value in the job market. Use online job boards (e.g., Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed, etc.), salary sites like or Payscale, or even Google to find out the salary range for the type of position you want. What is the industry standard for the job? And for the skills and experience you have? What are the typical benefits offered, e.g., health, 401K match, tuition reimbursement, work from home? How much travel does the job entail? And if applicable, relocation cost. In this way you can anticipate what the employer may offer and when you negotiate, you’ll know you are within the industry norms.

When the time comes, look at the full package. Don’t get overly focused on salary. Look at all the other benefits or perks that you could ask for and know their value to you both in actual dollars and the work life you want. So, perhaps the employer can’t budge on salary but is willing for you to work remotely three days a week. Does that save you significant money and energy in less commuting time?

Some common benefits or perks are paid time off, 401K matching programs, profit sharing, or stock options. Take all these things into consideration when weighing the value of the offer. But also know what you need to pay your bills.

Now you’re ready to sit down at the negotiation table with the employer. Can you explain why you want what you do, and what the numbers look like? For example, “This is where I am with benefits in my current position. I’m paying much less out of pocket than what you’re offering. I must make up that in some way or else it’s not worth it for me. Are there other options we can discuss to help make up the difference?”

When you quantify those added benefits, it not only shows that you’re analytical, but it also justifies why you’re doing it. Ask yourself, what is my actual total compensation and benefits package? What do I really need? Then realistically, what could I get for what I’m truly worth? Then you have a case. You know deep down what you’ll take but also your goal and why. But it can’t be a huge difference from the market standards. To be effective, it’s got to be accurate and make sense for the employer.

What’s Happening Behind The Curtain?

Part of the whole negotiation process is knowing what is happening at the employer – what they most want, what they can and cannot offer in a compensation package. When you work with a staffing firm, you get a peek behind that curtain. The recruiter spends time discussing all aspects of the position with the employer before even bringing you into the picture. They’ll know what is negotiable and what is not. The recruiter also knows the industry standards for pay and benefits, and for the particular skillset and years of experience you offer. All this knowledge puts them in a better position to negotiate for you more effectively.

In the end, the staffing professional’s goal is to build a solid relationship with both the employer (client) and the job candidate. The staffing firm wants to send the right candidates to the hiring company to make them happy. But they also want to help you get the role you seek – and maybe help you get your next position as well.

Photo credit: Canva

by Joey Sekula, National Recruiter, Planet Forward