DiceTV: Negotiation Tips for IT Boomerangs

Negotiating compensation can be intimidating, especially if you’ve been out of the job market for awhile. Looking to jump in? Here’s how to get ready.

Returning job seekers often worry their technical skills won’t justify the going market rate, or that seeking more than their last package will make them less attractive than younger, less expensive candidates.

While it’s true flexibility can help you land a job, don’t sell yourself short. Depending on market conditions and your skills, you should shoot for ninety or ninety five percent of the going market rate. So do your homework and follow these tips to get a square deal.

This might seem basic, but negotiating with confidence requires knowledge. You’ll need a blend of human intelligence from local market sources – meaning people who work there – and data to come up with a targeted compensation range.

Next, know your values. Notice I said “values.” To negotiate effectively, you’ve got to recognize what you value in an employer, and what value you offer. For you, an easy commute could be worth taking three thousand dollars less in salary. For your employer, your eligibility for Medicare means less money for benefits. So think about time off, telecommuting or flextime as good trade-offs for money, depending upon what’s important to you.

Don’t attempt to negotiate until you know a job’s expectations, bonuses and benefits. If you have to name your salary, show flexibility by quoting a range.

Even before you get that far, crunch the numbers. Before you start negotiating, calculate the value of each component of your compensation. If you throw out the first number, make it ten percent above your ideal salary as a starting point.

Effective negotiations require give and take. So always know what concessions you’re willing to make before you start. That way, you can break a stalemate by yielding when you have to.

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10 Responses to “DiceTV: Negotiation Tips for IT Boomerangs”

May 20, 2009 at 2:09 am, OculusDexter said:

Recruiter1:
If your nickname expresses your profession, readers need to understand that you make your living getting employees to work as cheaply as possible so your company can compete successfully for contracts, so of course you are going to advise employees to cave on the compensation package, because it is to your professional benefit for them to do so.

The fact is, how much flexibility the employee needs to have depends partly upon whether they are currently employed. I have been in both situations. I have turned down jobs because I was working elsewhere and the new employer didn’t meet my offer so I stayed where I was. I have also been unemployed and like car dealers are doing today, slashing prices to move cars off the lot, I have taken a lower salary than I might otherwise have expected just to get some money coming into my bank account.

As for offering employers “extras” in hopes of raising their perceived value — it is not true that employers always know what they are looking for. i.e. They may think they’re looking for strictly a Windows support tech, but in 6 months when their CIO pulls the trigger on virtualizing their server farm, that new person’s VMWare experience that the IT middle manager didn’t ask for in the job spec is going to making the hiring decision look genius,

It may be a technology that the middle manager didn’t know was on the horizon for their company, or it could be something the middle manager didn’t even know existed, The key is for the employee to sell themselves. Sell benefits, not features. Don’t just list your skills; let the employer know why your skill will be worth more money to the company.

It is true that I have worked for companies who couldn’t care less about ROI, only the initial cash outlay, but those companies probably don’t have a very bright future. ROI is what Boards of Directors live for. They probably just spent $2 million on remodeling the executive boardroom, do you really think they care about an extra $10,000 per year if they can turn that $10K into $15K profit for the shareholders they work for?

I had a previous employer who hadn’t looked at their telephone system for years and I offered to do an analysis. The plan I came up with saved them about 110% of my salary every year. They didn’t realize it when they hired me, because “cost analysis” wasn’t listed in the job spec, but looking back, do you think they’d would rather have had me, or the person who just wanted to do his little Windows 8 to 5 workday thing and go home? I asked for more because I was worth more financially to them.

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May 20, 2009 at 2:26 am, alice said:

Too general and missing the point by a mile. Check the requirements that are now listed. Most companies they want God to work for them. Unless you worked for that company before, there is no way to make yourself a great and indispensible asset for them.

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May 20, 2009 at 2:55 am, Sue said:

I find the point of negotiating on what matters to me interesting. I’ve been urging my management to allow me to work with flexible schedule, however, it’s been difficult. They insist that my job requires me to be in the office, in reality I really don’t need to at all because I work in IT and I have to log in to a remote server anyway. I find it frustrating because I feel what I’m asking for is really not a big deal to them, however, they’ve been giving me a hard time about it. In addition, I’ve learned that my salary is near the bottom in this area and that doesn’t help. I feel it’s not worth my time to commute that far for this low-paying job plus the headache and heartache of having a disrespectful and yelling boss.

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May 20, 2009 at 8:20 am, ACE said:

Excellent tips!

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May 20, 2009 at 10:13 am, dcr said:

I thought the first and golden rule of any negotiation was/is for both parties to begin from a position of honesty. From all that I¿ve read here, this seems to be the missing ingredient. Is honesty a ¿value¿? You bet it is. When neither party begins a negotiation without honesty, but instead, (as most seem to) start from a position of selfishness; oh well, you know the end result. Let¿s face it if this were the 1950¿s, salary negotiations would more than likely end with a win-win. In other words, the values of today are mostly based on selfishness and instant gratification. I think salary negotiations start out this way and end this way = lose-lose.

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May 21, 2009 at 12:04 am, CT said:

Mike! You are right on target! Thanks so much for being so eloquent! I’ve spoken to two companies lately that wouldn’t give me a salary range at all! They required that first. I give them a “price” I “would do the job for.” When I made that number less than my last position, I was screamed at, being scolded that “didn’t I know the economy was in a recession?” I asked for the position “range” after I had given my range, I was given only a set number – there was not a “range.” Interesting. If there is one number, I’m assuming that they think all candidates are equally qualified.

Hmmmm. My resume doesn’t reveal that my IQ is above Einstein’s. I have three, earned university degrees (none online). I’ve been in IT for more than 10 years and am in international biographical references (not purchased reference bios) throughout the world – for IT and several in other areas as well.

I really enjoy working with people! I’m great at creating camraderie and helping to pull together innovative solutions! I’ve done so many areas of IT within so many industries, that I can slip in anywhere there is a need -and I’m cross-functional within all corporate levels, too. I’m a great manager, I have great respect and appreciation for everyone I work with – and I put in many more hours than are necessary just so I know everything is working toward perfection.

Every time I’ve been hired, I’ve immediately been asked if I could ALSO do “such and such projects” at the same time as the position(s) I was hired to do, and I’ve always agreed, very happily – and have gotten them all accomplished ahead of deadline and under budget. But, unfortunately, I have never been paid more for the additional job responsibilities nor the titles I’ve moved to. After years of doing it, I can tell you that it does take a lot of energy from the rest of your life and it can put stressors on your health. It would be nice to be compensated – in some way – for the extra miles I keep going for an entity called “the Company.”

What I’m seeing now is that companies have problems they can’t solve (due to cutbacks in staff) or worries that the person coming in will know more than the hiring manager in charge of the project, and they feel I could be a direct threat. But my delight is seeing something work perfectly, with the end users and stakeholders smiling around the entire project!

Thank you Mike!!

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May 21, 2009 at 12:07 am, CW said:

Sue – “out of sight = out of the staff’s mind” could hurt you. Could you log into Skype so they can see you working? Best wishes!

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May 21, 2009 at 12:38 am, Chazzz said:

(1) Do not start out talking about money. The fiction we all maintain is that we thrive on challenge and opportunity and the money aspect is secondary.

(2) Defer any talk about money if possible with vague comments like “I’m more concerned right now about making sure there is a good fit between my skills and the job.”

(3) Understand that a company will only pay up to the dollar value of the job they are hiring you for. This is part of the reason that finding a good match is so important. It’s the best way to get the highest salary.

(4) Money is not everything. There are two possible reasons for a position with a high salary – Either the skills are rare and valuable or the working conditions are so awful that only lots of money can retain a worker.

Chazzz

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May 25, 2009 at 2:49 am, WD said:

After selling they great value that I¿ll bring to the company when I get to the negotiating phase I have found that most employers tend to low ball. They want it for cheap. When on occasion I have shot for $15-20K more than they suggested I find it¿s similar to the game played at the car dealer. The first response has been that they never had anyone ask for an amount or that¿s wide beyond their budget for the position. However sometimes after showing them market research they came back with a counter offer, usually higher than their first. This goes back and forth. Overall, I really dislike this phase of the process because it is like a game ¿ an expense game that if you are not careful you come out on the short end. Unfortunately although I dislike it personally, it¿s the only game in town. Based on the situation a person does the best they can so at the end of the day you feel OK about what took place and what¿s ahead of you.

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May 25, 2009 at 9:39 am, Keith said:

The majority of recruiters i talk to ask right off the bat what salary I’m looking for. No matter what i tell them they immediately ask “is that your best rate?” In other words, they always want a lower number.

Beware of anyone who asks right away what salary you are looking for. 90% of them are only looking to get another bid. This allows them to say they got enough bids, and gives them a high, low, and median number. They are not really interested in hiring you, they are interested in getting a sense of the market. (Of course, if you will work for dirt cheap, they’ll get more interested,but truth is, they probably already found their candidate. They are just trying to justify who they already picked.)

Watch out for people who want an “updated resume” when clearly they found you through a job board where your resume is posted. They are either looking to fill out the range of bids, as mentioned above, or they may use your resume to win a contract. Then they will go look for somebody cheaper than you.

To thwart companies that use my resume to win their contracts i only post to monster and other sites a resume in pdf format, with a watermark that says “Confidential: not for submission.” (They can alter a Word doc, omitting your name/address and putting in their company info.) When they get serious i send them a real resume.

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