Highly Effective Salary Negotiation Strategies

Posted by Jeff Pelliccio on Jul 23, 2012 8:48:00 AM

In Interview Tips

Even the most competitive and well-prepared candidates are often stymied by salary negotiations.  To avoid disappointment, we’ve asked the ICS recruiting team to come up with some simple rules to help you take control of one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the job search process. Our general rule is to think about the major issues associated with salary negotiations into three distinct parts: The Three R’s.

RESEARCH: Like almost every other aspect of a job search, the very success or failure of the entire endeavor rests with the quality of research you conduct from the outset.

“I estimate that candidates who do their homework in advance can eliminate up to 90% of surprises when it’s time for a salary negotiation,“ ICS recruiter John Liberatore says.  “When you eliminate surprises, you’re in the driver’s seat, can plan how you’re going to ask for everything you want, and react with composure no matter the hiring manager says, because information is power.”

The key is understanding the whole salary range—the going rate–for the position you seek, as well as understanding what precise value you as a candidate with a unique combination of skills, education, and experience bring to the table.  Salary ranges for most positions can be researched online at websites such as,, and  Industry and trade associations also often publish annual salary ranges for key positions, and having this information at the outset will enable you to set your parameters.

Once you understand that whole industry, research the specific company you’ll be negotiating with. You may be able to find clues to the compensation level of others at your level (especially in public companies), and you may also be able to research what sorts of perks they may offer in addition to salary. For instance, if they offer free, onsite daycare or tuition reimbursement or an amazing health plan, you can factor this into your ultimate decision about what might be a “fair” or “generous offer.” The key is getting all this information in advance so you’re not trying to do rough calculations in your head during the salary discussion.

An important and interesting aspect of your research should be thinking about the financial impact you have on your current organization. Are you a revenue generator or a cost center? Do you use your position to develop cost-saving measures, to design programs that bring in new revenue (or support the people who do), or to make your whole function more efficient? Take a look at your background and create some ‘case studies’ to show how your contribution is having a net positive impact on your company’s bottom line.  These are the specifics that are likely to give you traction when steering a salary manager toward the high end of your salary range.

REALISM: Once you have done your due diligence to understand the market, you need to make sure that you take a good look at your own unique combination of skills and experience through a lens of tough reality. If you have little practical experience—or if many of the other candidates competing for the job you want have a Master’s Degree when you have only a Bachelor’s, then you need to think realistically about what offer you can expect.

“You have to be realistic—and as recruiters it’s one of our jobs to ensure your expectations are grounded in reality,” said Matt Pfennig, the lead recruiter in ICS Chicago office. “The market is extremely competitive and smart candidates prepare for a salary negation by researching the qualifications of the top 5% of those who do their job—and then think realistically about where they fit.”

Hiring managers dismiss unrealistic salary expectations out of hand, so understanding where you are likely to fit among the  whole groups of candidates who could be hired will help you decide in advance what you consider a fair or generous offer.

RATIONALITY: You need to remove as much emotion from the whole salary negotiation as possible. As a general rule, the less emotion, the better the outcome for the candidate.  This means that you need to understand (based on the research and realistic assessment of yourself as a candidate) what the Hiring Manger is likely to offer.  Having done your homework, you’ll know whether the offer is the ballpark and, if it’s not, then what a reasonable counter offer might be.

“It’s almost always a mistake to tell a Hiring Manager about how high your kid’s tuition is, or how much you have heard a friend of a friend makes in this this same role,” says Matthew Walden, who leads recruiting at ICS in the New York office.  “It’s unprofessional to expect a Hiring Manger to care about your financial woes or hearsay about exorbitant salaries. Form an opinion about what a fair salary plus perks would be for the job you want and stick to your facts.”

By using ICS’s Three-R Approach to salary negotiation, you’ll dramatically increase the control you have over the whole situation.  At ICS, we help candidates at every step in the process gather the information they need to increase the odds they have a satisfying result from their salary negotiations.