One of the comments I hear most often from executives is the struggle to negotiate their salary when the offer is presented. This is especially true for executives who have been conducting an executive job search for some time and wish to return to the workforce as soon as possible. Some think being too demanding when negotiating executive compensation might jeopardize their job offer.
Let’s take a look at three mistakes you can avoid when negotiating your salary.
The first person who talks dollars loses. Generally jumping out with a salary figure before you have an offer could be detrimental to the outcome. The interviewer has you pegged at a certain salary that could screen you out quickly. Why? Because sometimes executive recruiters use salary as an “indicator” dictated by the company, so you can be eliminated if your salary level is too high or too low. If you cannot avoid a point blank question of salary at the onset of an executive interview, try these strategies:

  • Turn the question around to the executive recruiter or interviewer and ask what the salary range is for the position. This will give you an idea if you are in the ballpark with your salary. If the range is lower than you expected, you may not want to continue pursuing the position. If the range is close to or exceeds your expectations, your response can be something like “My salary requirements are within that range. May we proceed with the interview and further discuss salary when we determine there is a good fit?”
  • If the interviewer insists on a salary figure before proceeding, then give a broad range to cover the high and low spectrum in the hopes that you are somewhere in the middle. Research the job beforehand to find out what it pays, so you can get a heads up on this range. This might keep you in the executive search process for a few more steps before anyone gets serious with an offer—at least long enough to identify if this position is right for you and something you want to pursue.

Don’t discuss salary in a cover letter. I know you may worry that not relaying your salary requirements when asked will threaten your chances of getting an executive interview. Some executive recruiters and hiring agents make it seem like you won’t be considered if this information is not presented; and that may be the case in some instances. However, if your resume shows that your talents and skills line up with what they are looking for in a candidate, you will likely be given consideration with or without stating your salary in the cover letter.  If asked to include salary requirements in the cover letter or executive resume, try something like:

  • “I’m happy to discuss salary requirements once we see if my experience and skills are a good fit for position you are trying to fill.”
  • “May we defer salary discussions until there is a possibility of a job offer? I’m sure once we identify if I am a good match, that salary won’t be an issue.”

Don’t forget to consider other types of compensation. When in the depths of negotiations, be sure to factor in benefits such as healthcare, retirement contributions, paid time off, stock options, etc. Would one or more benefits outweigh certain salary limitations? Maybe a perk like working from home would help to sway your decision. Be prepared with your non-negotiables and your wish list and see what results you can achieve during discussions after the executive interview.
The highest negotiating power you have is when you are being hired. Leverage what you know as an executive who has negotiated for million to billion dollar companies to cover all relevant salary considerations. A wise person once told me “You have to ask for the business to get it.” If you don’t negotiate and ask for more benefits/perks, you may not get them. That is something you will never know if you don’t ask.


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