Most people would agree that the most difficult part about landing a new job is the salary negotiation. It can be an uncomfortable conversation, but it has huge impact on your financial future. Wouldn't it be nice if you could get a sneak peek into what's going on inside the head of the HR rep on the other side of the table?
While we can't offer mind reading, we did interview an HR expert with extensive hiring experience and asked her what the negotiator for the company is generally thinking about during a salary negotiation.
Stacey Carroll, MBA, HRCP is the director of customer service and education at PayScale.com and she gave us her insider view and top tips for maximizing your salary from the start.
What Employers Think About During a Pay Negotiation
When an employer is deciding on compensation during the hiring process, Carroll says, there are three factors they're balancing to determine what the job should be paid.
1. External Market Pay
An HR professional will first find out the external market pay for a job. "External market pay" means what other companies are paying for the same job position. Employers want to keep up with their competitors by offering, at least, a similar salary range. But, they also can't spend so much that they are overpaying for the talent they need. Studying the market gives them a guideline.
Tip #1: Help yourself and the HR person out with this issue by doing some research on what the market is paying for the position you want. There are multiple sites online that can give you salary information, from salary websites like PayScale (www.payscale.com) to government sources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Not only will doing your research help you have an informed conversation about your salary, but it just may impress your new employer
2. Internal pay alignment
The HR professional you're talking to has to figure out how the salary for your job fits in, or aligns, with other similar jobs inside the company. HR folks call this concept internal alignment. In other words, you can't have two people who have similar skills and responsibilities making dramatically different incomes. This means that you won't likely get hired for the job at a higher salary rate than a current employee doing the same work.
Tip #2: You should not only ask what the salary range is for your position, but also the internal hiring range. That helps you know what the company is thinking that they would pay for a newly hired employee in the job
3. Budget constraints
The amount of money budgeted for the position is the third, and most important, factor. Budget constraints will usually override any internal or external analysis the HR person does. The company has set aside some amount of money for your position and, in some cases, that amount may be all they can offer.
Tip #3: Don't get too upset if you're disappointed by the salary you're quoted. There are other benefits you can look for. Know that the HR person is focused on staying both on budget and competitive with the market. They are under pressure to perform a tricky balancing act. If they are offering you the job, they want to keep you. If you want the job, respect their limitations and get creative with your total compensation package. More time off? Ask for it. A work-from-home day? It could be yours.
Carroll reminds job seekers that a pay negotiation is about multiple facets. It's not just about you and the job and negotiating with a HR professional. There are a whole host of other things that happen behind the scenes that affect what you're offered.