Bargaining power through preparation

For many applicants, the pressure to succeed and the feeling of helplessness may be two typical accompanying symptoms of salary negotiations, but the good news is that both can be avoided with a little preparation.

In general, the world won’t end if you don’t get this job. Life ALWAYS goes on. Of course, this is a truism, but if too many negative thoughts occupy your mind in some instances, it may be helpful to remind yourself of this occasionally. And the more alternatives you have arranged for yourself in case a particular job interview results in a rejection or lack of agreement, the less pressure you face during this interview. Moreover, your chances of success will be higher in this case, because you will be much more relaxed with your interviewer.

Know your lower limit

There are also very practical tasks for you during the preparation phase. It is essential that you have a clear idea of where your personal lower limit on the salary for accepting a new position lies before you enter into any negotiations about it. In other words: at what point you will refuse to take the job because the remuneration involved would not be satisfactory enough to you. Of course, you don’t have to reveal this during the interview, but you do have to know this for yourself.

If you fail to do so, you will not have any point of reference in case your negotiations take an unfavorable course. This can quickly be the case when all aspects of the offered job look very attractive except for the salary. In this case, there is a high risk that you will accept the new position at financial conditions that you will regret later and for a long time to come.

In this context, it is important to understand that there is always a lower limit, even if you have not consciously defined it. In most cases, it is a very low threshold at which your mind will raise an alarm, fortunately. This will probably prevent you from making a huge mistake but is not likely to rescue you from accepting a salary offer that is far too low still.

Even worse for a minority, the lower limit is practically zero. I call them “Generation Internships”. Some of them work without pay for years and earn their living with poorly paid temp jobs. Please do not do this to yourself, because a situation like this almost never improves by itself. If you find yourself already in this situation, the way out of this self(!)-imposed role of a victim must start with a revised approach to learning about open positions, where you can avoid competing with the members of Generation Internships as much as possible.

If you abide by these rules, the pressure to succeed should drop to a level that is no longer disruptive.

So, to summarize:

Before the start of any salary negotiations, I will make a clear decision on the minimum salary that would just be satisfactory enough to me to accept the position.

Self-confidence through facts

Helplessness can also be easily avoided if you collect data that provide substantiated reasons for your salary demands in time. You also have to think about the arguments to be expected from the other side and do research on them as well. A good source for this can be salary comparison tools of reputable providers on the internet.

In both cases, this should primarily relate to neutral aspects (customary salaries in your industry and the same locality, applicable collective wage agreements, etc.), but is not necessarily limited to such. You should, for example, also have detailed knowledge of the relevant finances of your current employment relationship. The mere knowledge of the amount of your salary may not be sufficient, as unpaid overtime, travel costs and times, meals, and other expenses may also play a role.

On the following pages, you will learn how best to use this kind of information to negotiate. However, the prerequisite for this is always having a sufficient amount of relevant data.

So, to summarize:

In order to be able to negotiate confidently, I will obtain enough information about salaries in comparable situations beforehand.

On August 18th, Mr. Kay-Dietrich K. from Hamburg wrote:

»Yes, it wasn’t easy but with Michael’s support, I was even able to enjoy the challenge. I got and accepted a great offer before we had even moved to the new place.«