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Job Offer Too Low? Use These Key Salary Negotiation Techniques to Write a Counter Proposal Letter

Here’s an ideal scenario: After a grueling number of job interviews with a prospective employer who is hiring someone for the job of your dreams, you’re again meeting with the hiring manager when she turns to face you and gives you the job offer, but at a salary below what you had expected. You are still excited, elated actually, but what you do next could have consequences for years to come.

Even if the job offer is acceptable to you, most career experts agree that you should take the time to clear your head and consider the offer — away from the pressure of an interview. So, make sure to thank the interviewer for the job offer and express your interest in the job and the company, but ask for some time to consider all the details.

But what if the offer is unacceptable to you? If it really is one of your dream jobs or even simply a job you really want — you should consider moving into the negotiation phase by making a counter proposal to the employer. That’s what this article is all about — taking you through the key negotiation strategies you should apply and providing you with one key tool — the counter proposal letter — as a means to negotiating a better offer for yourself.

Key Salary Negotiation Strategies

  1. Delay salary and benefit negotiations for as long as possible in the interview process. You’ll have more power to negotiate when the field of candidates has been reduced to just you — when the employer is completely sold on you as the best candidate for the position.
  2. Remember that you’ll have your greatest negotiation leverage between the time the employer makes the original offer and the time you accept the final offer. Once you accept an offer, you have little to no room to negotiate.
  3. Don’t negotiate at the time the initial job offer is made. Thank the employer for the offer and express your strong interest and enthusiasm in the job, but state that you’ll need time to evaluate the entire compensation package. Most employers are willing to give you a fair amount of time to review — and if you run across an employer who wants a decision immediately, consider long and hard whether you want to work for such a company.
  4. Do your research. The greatest tool in any negotiation is information. Make sure you have done a thorough job of determining your fair market value for the job you are seeking, the salary range of the job for this specific employer, and geographic, economic, industry, and company-specific factors that might affect the given salary. Also try to obtain information on the employer’s standard benefits package so that you have information beyond salary.
  5. Just do it. While a large percentage of corporate recruiters (four out of five in one study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management) are willing to negotiate compensation, only a small percentage of job-seekers actually do so. You don’t have to be an expert negotiator to get a sweeter deal; you just need to know the rules and strategies of negotiation.
  6. Negotiate to your strength. If you are a smooth talker (an extravert), call the employer and ask for a follow-up meeting to discuss a counter proposal. If you communicate better in writing, follow our guidelines for writing a counter proposal letter (below).
  7. Always ask for a higher salary (within acceptable limits) than you are willing to accept so that when the employer counters your proposal, the salary should be near your original goal. And when possible, try and show how your actions (once on board) will recoup the extra amount (or more) that you are seeking — through cost savings or increased sales revenue, productivity, efficiencies.
  8. If the salary you’re offered is on the low end — and the employer has stated that salary is not negotiable (probably due to corporate salary ranges or pay grade levels), consider negotiating for a signing bonus, higher performance bonuses, or a shorter time frame for a performance review and raise. Always negotiate base salary first, and then move on to other elements of the job offer.
  9. When presenting a counter proposal to the employer, be sure and include a few benefits that are expendable so that you can drop them in a concession to the employer as negotiations continue.
  10. Remember that even if all salary issues are “off the table,” there are still numerous other benefits you can negotiate, such as moving expenses, paid vacation or personal days, professional training, and more. See the sidebar for the entire list of negotiable items.
  11. Never stop selling yourself throughout the negotiation process. Keep reminding the employer of the impact you will make, the problems you will solve, the revenue you will generate. And continue expressing interest and enthusiasm for the job and the company.
  12. If you have no intention of accepting the company’s offer, don’t waste your time or the company’s by entering into negotiation. Negotiation is a process designed to find common ground between two or more parties.
  13. If you have multiple job offers, don’t put the companies into a bidding war for your services; it rarely works out.
  14. Don’t enter negotiations with the wrong attitude. Always have in the back of your mind that your goal with these negotiations is a win-win situation. You want to get a better deal, but you also need to let the employer feel as though they got a good deal as well.
  15. Given a number of factors, such as the strength of the economy, the size and vitality of the company, and the supply of job candidates with similar qualifications, some employers simply will not negotiate.
  16. Never make demands. Instead, raise questions and make requests during negotiations. Keep the tone conversational, not confrontational.
  17. Be prepared for any of a number of possible reactions to your counter proposal, from complete acceptance to agreeing to some concessions to refusal to negotiate.
  18. You have to be willing to walk away from negotiations. If you don’t have a strong position (a good current job or one or more current or potential job offers), it will be harder for you to negotiate. If you really need or want the job, be more careful in your negotiations.
  19. Once the employer agrees to your compensation requests, the negotiations are over. You cannot ask for anything more or risk appearing immature or greedy and having the employer’s offer withdrawn or rescinded.
  20. Always be sure to get the final offer in writing. Be extremely wary of companies that are not willing to do so. Note: one advantage of writing a counter proposal letter is that you list the terms of the offer in your letter.

Negotiable Elements of a Job Offer

  • Salary
  • Non-salary Compensation: signing bonus; performance bonus; profit-sharing, deferred compensation; severance package, stock options
  • Relocation Expenses: house-hunting, temporary living allowance, closing costs, travel expenses, spouse job-hunting/re-employment expenses
  • Benefits: vacation days (number, amount paid, timing), personal days, sick days, insurance (medical, dental, vision, life, disability), automobile (or other transportation) allowance, professional training/conference attendance, continuing education (tuition reimbursement), professional memberships, club (country or athletic) memberships, product discounts, clothing allowance, short-term loans

Job-Specific: frequency of performance reviews, job title/role/duties, location/office, telecommuting, work hours and flexibility, starting date, performance standards/goals

Writing the Counter Proposal Letter
While there is not a specific formula to writing a successful counter proposal letter, there is a basic structure you can follow for maximum likelihood of success.

First Paragraph: Statement of Interest and Enthusiasm for Job/Company; Key Selling Factors
This paragraph is critical in setting up the tone and direction of the negotiations. Be direct and sincere in expressing your interest for the company, thanking the employer for the job offer. Be sure to follow-up with your key selling points – how you will make a direct and immediate (or longer-term) impact on the organization.

Second Paragraph: Negotiating Item #1 — Offer and Counter Proposal
Restate the particular point from the original offer that you wish to negotiate, followed by your counter proposal — ideally supported through research, a desire to be fairly compensated, or reinforced by the value you will bring to the company.

Third Paragraph: Negotiating Item #2 — Offer and Counter Proposal
Restate the particular point from the original offer that you wish to negotiate, followed by your counter proposal — ideally supported through research, a desire to be fairly compensated, or reinforced by the value you will bring to the company.

Fourth Paragraph: Negotiating Item #3 — Offer and Counter Proposal
Restate the particular point from the original offer that you wish to negotiate, followed by your counter proposal — ideally supported through research, a desire to be fairly compensated, or reinforced by the value you will bring to the company.

Fifth Paragraph: Negotiating Item #4 — Offer and Counter Proposal
Restate the particular point from the original offer that you wish to negotiate, followed by your counter proposal — ideally supported through research, a desire to be fairly compensated, or reinforced by the value you will bring to the company.

Concluding Paragraph:
Conciliatory Comments with Strong Moving-Forward Statement
Stress that your requests are modest and that your potential impact is great — and that you look forward to accepting the job offer and getting a jump-start on the position as soon as possible.

You can also include paragraphs for items of the original proposal that you completely agree on — doing so makes the letter seem more balanced and that you are not picking apart the entire offer.

You can also include paragraphs for any items in the offer that you need clarification- – or where you are seeking more information, typically for complex issues such as confidentiality and non-compete agreements, bonus plans.

Free Sample Job Offer Counter Proposal Letter
What does a salary negotiation counter proposal look like? See our sample counter proposal letter given below:

Lisa Lively
3428 Talamas Drive SE
Clemson, SC 29631

Mr. Frank Ian
Director, Industrial Systems
General Electric Company
41 Woodford Avenue
Plainville, CT 06062

Dear Frank:

I am excited about the offer you extended on October 29, 2009, and look forward to accepting it. I feel confident I will make a significant contribution to the growth and profitability of General Electric’s Industrial Systems division over the short and long term. The terms you have described in the offer are acceptable, with a few minor changes.

Base Salary: $55,000 per annum
The research I’ve done on comparable salaries and cost of living differences between Clemson and Plainville show that a base salary of $75,000 would be the market value of my experience for this position. The current offer of $55,000 would result in a dramatic reduction in living standard. Based on the above, I would like you to consider as a compromise a base salary of $65,000.

Bonus Opportunity: 3% of quarterly team results above stated quotas
Because I expect to have an immediate impact on both cost-savings and increased sales revenues, I would like to suggest increasing the bonus percentage 6% of results above quota.

Relocation Package: GE will compensate up to $10,000 for your reasonable costs incurred for relocation to Plainville, CT. Further, GE will provide temporary living assistance and reimburse for any commuting for up to 6 months from date of hire.
As far as relocation is concerned, I feel your relocation package is quite generous and I appreciate the company’s policy.

Stock Option Plan: developed and implemented after 1 year of service
If this policy is standard for all employees, I can accept it, but again, I am convinced that I will make an immediate impact on a key division of GE, and I would like to see the stock option plan developed in the first six months of employment.

Benefits Package: standard employee benefits package
In discussing the standard benefits package with Jim Cline in HR, I am quite pleased with the GE benefits package. I would only ask that the waiting period for these benefits be waived.

Start Date: December 3, 2009
I am actually available to start to telecommute as early as next week — as soon as we agree on the final aspects of the offer.

If you could see to making these modest improvements to your offer, my performance will show you a handsome return. I am prepared to hit the ground running as part of the GE Industrial Systems team, and achieve the next “home run” for this division.


Lisa Lively

by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.

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5 Ways to Avoid Sabotaging Your Personal Brand Online

There have been countless incidents in which professionals have lost their jobs, been evicted, or even been arrested for things they’ve done on social networks. There has never been a more important time to discuss the many ways you can sabotage your personal brand, and how you can prevent these mistakes before it’s too late.
A new report by Microsoft states that 64% of HR managers think it is appropriate to look at online profiles of candidates and 41% have rejected people as a result. Your online presence which may consist of both content that you provide (on your LinkedIn profile for instance), as well as what’s written about you by people you may or may not know is slowly becoming part of the formal recruitment process. It’s also where first impressions occur before in-person handshakes are made, so you have to make sure you are managing your brand online, before someone else does it for you.  The following are five ways to avoid sabotaging your personal brand.

1. Don’t Ignore Brand Mentions

58% of Americans don’t even Google themselves, but employers and potential customers certainly will. It’s safe to say that people are already talking about you, either online or offline.
As you create your personal brand on a variety of platforms, your name will start popping up in search engines and on social networks. This can be both beneficial to your brand or harmful depending on the context. The viral nature of social networks, as well as their new ubiquity, should encourage you to start listening in on what people are saying about you.
Negative mentions will spread fast unless you keep your ear close to the web, so I recommend you setup a Google alert for your name, your company’s name, key competitors, partners, and industry buzz terms. There are many other free tools that can help you monitor your brand. You can also try Social Mention for a more complete solution to brand mentions on social networks.

2. Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

A future problem, which some might say is a current problem, is the volume of social networks and the amount of status updates and messages you receive each day. If you’re active on each and every social network that launches, you will start to spread yourself too thin, which can really hurt your brand. You won’t possibly be able to update all of your social profiles, as well as keep track of pictures, profile information, groups, etc. In general, you should only join the largest social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), as well as those networks in your industry.
You should reserve your full name on as many of the popular social networks as possible by using a service such as namechk.com, before someone who shares your name claims them and you’re locked out for life. But just because you have claimed your name everywhere doesn’t mean you should expend valuable time and energy maintaining a presence on every social network.
There are some websites that allow you to scale your social feeds so that one status update can automatically spread to other networks, without manually publishing content. You can use hellotxt.com or ping.fm  to spread your status message to many social networks at once, including Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Bebo. You can also go to your LinkedIn profile and syndicate your tweets for your LinkedIn status update automatically or by using “#in” for each tweet (if you want to be selective). There is also a Facebook application for Twitter so you can syndicate your tweets through your Facebook profile.

3. Know Your Audience

It’s really easy to forget who you’re connected with on social networks as they grow. You might start out with high school, college, and summer camp friends, and then add some co-workers when you start a new job. There will be a point where you’re going to have to make a strategic decision, who you accept and who you don’t. The second you add your manager or colleagues is the time when you have to rethink what you publish or what you syndicate from other social networks. One mistake could cause you trouble.
On Facebook, you may want to have a profile page for your inner circle of friends and family members and then a Facebook Fan Page for your professional image. This way, you can make your profile private and hide it from search, while having a fan page that you can point your coworkers to. They will know that you are hiding your profile but should respect your privacy, especially since you’re giving them the option to follow your fan page.

4. Limit Self-Promotion

Certainly, self-promotion is an extremely important part of building your brand because if no one knows of your achievements or the company you work for, then how are they going to do business with you? Yet, I’ve noticed that people often over-promote themselves in various ways across the web.
Successful self-promotion only works in moderation, because if you’re constantly only promoting yourself, many people will unfollow, unfriend, or block you from their network. The best way to build a strong personal brand is to promote other people, which creates goodwill and a connection, as well as distributing value based on what you have to offer: Your expertise. If you’re helping people 80 or 90% of the time, then people will be much more accepting of your self-promotional messages the other 10%. You will also start to notice that other people will promote you and their endorsement is even stronger than your own proclamations.

5. Be Consistent

Consistency is extremely important when it comes to any kind of branding, from personal to corporate.
Selecting a unified “picture” and spreading it across all your social media your website, your blog, your presentations, your press kits, your business cards, etc. will build image recognition in the mind of your audience. Consistency is significant for pictures, your name, as well as the fonts, the colors and the overall message that you communicate through your online properties.
There is no question that you already have a personal brand whether you built it yourself or not. The way to differentiate it from everyone else is through management. By paying attention to mentions of your name online, not spreading yourself too thin, knowing your audience, offering more value than self-promotion, and being consistent, you can be very successful.

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Saying No to Your Boss

When you think back to your childhood and your mom said, “We’ll see,” it was always better than a flat out, “No.” Much like “possibly” is sufficient when you ask your boss for time off and “I’ll think about it” gives you hope when you ask for a raise.

Though all of these responses are really just a more polite version of “no,” they’re easier to hear than the actual word itself. While hearing “no” is hard enough, it seems that saying no is even more difficult for some people — especially when it comes to your boss.

“Most employees avoid saying no to their boss because they fear it will ruin their relationship, cost them their job or appear disrespectful,” says Joseph Grenny, co-author of “Crucial Conversations.” “With the right set of skills, it is possible to be 100 percent candid and respectful when holding this important conversation.”

The reality is, we can’t say to yes to everything, so it’s essential to position yourself in the best way possible if and when you have to say no at work. The trick, experts say, is not really what you say, but how you say it.

“Many of us won’t say the word because we are afraid to, especially in this economy,” says Mary Byers, author of “How to Say No … And Live to Tell About It.” “It’s easier to say no at work if you don’t actually use the word. That way, your boss won’t feel like you’re being insubordinate.”

Elisabeth Manning, a human potential coach, recalls a time when she was an assistant to the president of a major company. The president wanted to make Manning her marketing manager at the same time — and the same salary.

Manning, who knew that she would have too much on her plate if she accepted working both jobs, told her boss that she wanted to maximize her capacity for potential at the company and accepting the offer would not be the best, most efficient use of her time.

“I was neutral, not emotional and held my ground,” Manning says. “I spoke as if it were already a done deal, without fear.”

Here are five situations where you might find yourself needing (and wanting) to say no at work and how you can do so tactfully — and without losing your job.

How to say no to…

… Your boss assigning you too much work
It can be tough to tell your boss you have a problem with the amount of work he or she is assigning you, but it’s possible if you can make your boss feel safe, Grenny says. Start with facts instead of harsh judgments or vague conclusions and let them know you care about their interests and respect them, he says.

“Strip out any judgmental or provocative language and be specific,” Grenny says. “For example, ‘Last week, you gave me two large projects to finish in a very short amount of time and I had to complete these on top of my regular responsibilities. I am afraid my large workload might be affecting the quality of my work.'”

… Outrageous demands
If your boss asks you to do something like run his errands or work all weekend and you can’t (or don’t feel like you should have to), focus on what you can do, says Dr. Susan Fletcher, a psychologist, author and speaker.

“The next time your boss asks you to go pick up his or her dry cleaning, instead of saying no, say, ‘What I can do is cover your phone calls for you while you are out of the office,'” Fletcher suggests. “Or if your boss asks you to start up a new company initiative, instead of saying no, say ‘What I can do is brainstorm with you on the strategy for the initiative and help get the proper team members in place who can execute the strategy.”

… Something you honestly can’t do
Of course, it’s always good to learn new skills, but if you truly believe you aren’t the best person for the job, you should say no. Byers suggests responding with something like, “Is there another department where this project might fit better, or someone we can collaborate with?”

“If you know you don’t have the necessary time, resources or knowledge for a given project, this is a good way to open dialogue about the best way to get an assignment done,” she says.

… Unrealistic deadlines
If you frame your response in a way that helps your boss to rethink his request, you’ll be OK, says Beth Sears, president of Workplace Communication.

Be aware of your tone of voice and try something like, “I understand your need for this assignment to be completed, but I need some help prioritizing my other work. You requested me to complete ‘A’ by tomorrow, ‘B’ by Thursday and ‘C’ by Friday. This last assignment ‘D’ would make it impossible to accomplish all of these. How would you prioritize these tasks?” Sears suggests.

… Anything illegal, unethical or that crosses personal boundaries
Say no to anything that will you get into trouble if you say yes. Meaning, if something will be detrimental to your career or goes against your integrity, you should always say no.

Jennifer Bergeron, an HR training specialist, recently said no to one of her bosses who asked her to lie to her direct manager.

“I said, ‘I’m not comfortable doing that, because the result will be [X, Y and Z]. Please don’t ask me to ever lie to someone,” Bergeron says. “He said, ‘OK, you’re right. I didn’t realize all that was going on.'”

by Rachel Zupek for CareerPath.com

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Career and Job Fair Do’s and Don’ts

The following rules are the keys to successfully navigating a career or job fair. Follow these simple rules and you should achieve success in this important strategic tool of job-hunting.

  • Do have a specific strategy for maximizing your time at the event. And don’t bother spending time with recruiters from companies that do not interest you.
  • Do pre-register for the event, and do attempt to get the list of attending companies before the career fair.
  • Don’t eliminate companies because they are recruiting for positions outside your field; take the time to network with the recruiter and get the name of a hiring manager for your particular career field.
  • Do attempt to research basic information about each company you hope to interview with at the job fair. A common career fair question from recruiters is, “Why do you want to work for our company?”
  • Don’t just drop your resume on the recruiter’s table and walk off.
  • Do prepare a one-minute “commercial” that focuses on the unique benefits you can offer the employer – your unique selling proposition. And do be prepared for common interview questions.
  • Do be prepared to talk about your work experiences, skills, and abilities. And for college students, do be prepared for a question about your GPA by some recruiters. (And do use the GPA — overall, college, major — that makes you look the strongest.)
  • Don’t be afraid or intimidated by the recruiter; he or she is there to do a job — to meet and screen potential candidates.
  • Do have a few questions prepared for each recruiter, but don’t ask questions that any good job-seeker should already know, such as “What does your company do?”
  • Do say the recruiter’s name several times during your conversation, even if you have to keep glancing at the recruiter’s nametag. And do get a business card (or at least contact information) from each recruiter.
  • Don’t forget to eliminate such bad habits as playing with your hair, chewing gum, fidgeting, rocking from side-to-side, acting distracted, rubbing your nose, etc.
  • Do remember all the keys to successful interviewing, including a firm handshake, a warm smile, eye contact, and a strong voice.
  • Don’t use filler words such as “um”, “like”, “you know.”
  • Do bring enough copies of your resume to the career fair. And do bring different versions of your resume if you are searching for different types of jobs.
  • Do take advantage of the time you have to build rapport with each recruiter, but don’t monopolize their time.
  • Don’t ever just walk up to a booth and interrupt a current conversation; wait your turn and be polite.
  • Do dress professionally — conservative is always the safe choice. 
  • Don’t waste the opportunity to network, not only with the recruiters, but with fellow job-seekers and other professionals in attendance at the career fair.
  • Don’t ever say anything negative to the recruiter about your college or previous jobs, companies, or supervisors.
  • Do be sure to ask about the hiring process of each company, but don’t ask too many questions about salaries, vacation time, and other benefits.
  • Do take the initiative and ask about the next step in the process. And do be prepared to follow-up all job leads.
  • Do be sure to follow-up with each recruiter. Some experts say to call and leave a message on their voicemail right after the job fair, but at a minimum you should send each recruiter a thank you letter.
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