Daily Archives: January 26, 2009

Negotiating Salary in a Recession

You may think that in a recession your salary negotiating power is gone. In fact, for many people, things are so bad they would rather take a pay cut than suffer a job loss. The truth is, a recent poll showed that many Fortune 500 companies are looking at freezing merit based raises for the coming year. For many people, salaries may freeze or decline throughout 2009.

That said, highly skilled, experienced, or recruited candidates may find that now, they are worth more than ever to employers. So, if you have experience in a field that’s in high demand or have recruiters knocking on your door, don’t worry. Your salary level is probably fine. But if you’re searching for a job or are in an industry that’s feeling the economic slump, now is a great time to brush up on your salary negotiation skills. Selling your skills and experience in an economic climate like this will be challenging. So, here are three ideas for negotiating a salary in a recession:

Make it about their money.

If you’re a proven candidate who’s been successful at saving money for employers in the past, whether by cutting budgets, using innovative ideas, or changing processes, make sure to sell the value you add to a potential employer to save them cold, hard cash right now. Many people can prove they’ve spent a company’s money. But proven power in saving money in a business setting is a rare talent. So, make sure you sell your ability to save the company money by sharing actual dollar amounts you’ve saved. If you’ve saved a company in the thousands or millions, you can make your salary about saving the employer’s money, and chances are, you’ll get paid what you’re worth.

Make it about your performance.

Here’s something to consider when you’re talking money with a potential employer once a job offer’s been extended. Tell them you’re willing to base your raise or bonus on your performance. Set the stakes yourself. If you can accomplish their goals for the position before their allotted time frame, or if you can raise productivity levels in measurable ways above the last person who had the position, it would be worth it for them to pay you more. So, let your boss or potential employer know that you want a better salary but are willing to work for it. Then, give them a deadline to make the change by. Here’s an example: if you meet their goals within the first three months, they agree to give you an immediate 5% raise, no questions asked. And if you exceed them in measurable ways, they will give you another review to consider an even higher raise.

Make it about your time.

Time is money. So, if an employer says they can’t afford to pay you what you’re worth right now because of the economy, suggest that you would work for what they can afford to pay you but at a reduced schedule. For example, if you can prove you deserve to make 20% more than they’re willing to pay but they still can’t pay it, see if they’ll work out a compromise until the economy picks back up and they can afford to pay you more. Suggest that you would be willing to work 20% less time than the job description requires but at the salary they can afford for a full-time person now. If you are a valuable enough candidate or employee, this may just be the solution to meet both of your needs.

When you’re negotiating salary, make sure that you approach the subject with professionalism and tact. Go into a salary negotiation discussion prepared with the facts about what you’re worth, but don’t alienate a potential employer by being insensitive to their business needs, especially in an economy like this. By positioning yourself as your potential employer’s ally when it comes to talking about salary in a difficult economic situation, you’ll be more likely to get paid what you’re worth and help your employer weather the storm.

Have you successfully negotiated a new salary, even in the recession? Share your tips and insights in the comments!