Career Advice Tuesday – “Advice on Negotiating Compensation”

July 13, 2010

Dear Infosecleaders:

I’m an avid follower of your blog, and have enjoyed the security career planning sessions you have presented at the last few DEFCONs.  I thought this question, and your thoughts on the topic, may be of interest to the broader community, especially given the amount of job movement I see going on in the security field today.

I’m progressing through the interview process and hope to soon have an offer in hand.  I’d really like to work for this company, assuming the compensation is right.  From a negotiating perspective, I feel like I am in a position of strength for a couple reasons. One is that I’m relatively comfortable where I am – good job with good compensation, challenges, career advancement, etc.  I don’t have to go anywhere if the parameters aren’t favorable.  In addition, my combination of skills is in demand, and is particularly needed by this company at this time.

What advice would you offer someone about to enter the compensation negotiation phase of the job search?  How can I maximize my financial compensation without straining the relationship with my potential future boss?  From your perspectives, what works, and what should be avoided?

The Negotiator

Dear “Negotiator”:

Thanks for the question and we are glad that you enjoy the blog.  Before I address your questions on how to handle your negotiation, I would like to begin by asking you to think about your personal motivations, by asking yourself the following questions:

1) Independent of money, what will you gain from this position that you do not have in your current role?

2)If the jobs paid the same and you had no history at your current employer which position would you rather have?  Why?

3) Does this new company want your skills, or do they want you?

Now for the advice -

The first thing that I would do in this situation is to communicate to my new hiring manager that you do want role and to be clear that if the compensation is acceptable that you will accept the position.  What this will do is to confirm your interest, and let the hiring manager know that if they are able to meet your requests they will be able to bring you on board.  This will provide them with the necessary information to make a business decision regarding the value of your skill.

The next thing that I would do is to determine what salary amount you would require to change positions.  In determining this amount, I would use logic in selecting this number.  The first data point that I would utilize is my current compensation – which should serve as a starting point.  I would then try to speak with some of my peers, with similar positions/experiences at similar types of companies (in similar locations), to better understand the market value for my skills.  Then I would try to figure out what kind of premium I would expect to leave my “comfortable, challenging, progressive, and fairly compensated” current role.

As soon as I determined that number, I would set up either a phone conversation or an in person meeting with my suitor and provide them with both the salary that you require and your logic behind arriving at your number.  By providing the logic behind your thought process, it will give insight into your framework for making decisions.  It should also demonstrate your judgment, reasoning ability, and appreciation for fairness.  This should provide reinforcement to your future employer that they are making a good decision by attempting to hire you into their company.

When having this discussion you should avoid saying things that make it appear that you are playing hard to get.  For example you should not say things like, “ I was not really looking”, or “You called me, I did not call you”, or “I am perfectly happy where I am at” – saying any of these things can make it look like you are not interested in the position and only interested in the money.  It can also make it appear to your potential employer that you are not sincere about your intentions – and are on a fishing expedition.

When you provide your employer with the number, and if they come back with offer terms that meet your demands, your should accept the position immediately, without any hesitation.  This will demonstrate that your word is good – and that you are honorable.   I would definitely avoid making any last minute requests once agreement has been reached.  In my experience, this is a sure fire way to sour the relationship between you and your new manager.

In closing, I think that if you are at the stage of negotiating compensation, you should be at point where you have arrived at the decision that you want the new position.  If you are in doubt, the best advice that I could give to you would be to thank the potential new employer for their interest, and ask them if you could keep the door open for the future.

If they resist, it is more likely that they are only interested in your skill.  If they consent, it is more than likely that they are interested in you!

Hope this helps,

Lee and Mike

Posted by lee | Filed Under Advice, Career Advice Tuesday 

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