You are Worth What You Negotiate

Negotiating yourself through a job interview requires preparation and skill, no matter your aim is: a better position, higher pay, a workplace closer to your home… You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.

This cliché is worth repeating, putting up on your wall and tattooing on your forehead.

You Are Worth What You Negotiate!

This is most likely why people who are less talented than you are more successful with their jobs than you. And the sooner you let go of the idea that negotiating is a sleazy and just-plain-terrifying process, the sooner you’ll be rewarded with what you want.

We’ve all felt the pressure of that moment at the negotiating table. So, how do we get beyond it? First, understand that you’ve probably been sheltered.

In your normal 9-5 jobs, were you busy doing the work — not selling the work? Was the sales department or someone else responsible for organising and ‘creating’ the work? Perhaps jobs came to you because you were assigned to them or, because you loved doing the work. This is true of most good employees.

This is also why most new job hunters are terrible negotiators. You want to get the money part or the job title part done as quickly as possible to get to the doing part. Or, perhaps you don’t even want to (or don’t think you can) negotiate at all. This can easily work against you.

The sales department’s entire job is to negotiate deals in order to support the work that you and others do. Sales is not sleazy. It’s what makes your 9-5 possible, and it’s what will make your new position or career successful. No matter how much you may dislike the idea of sales, for the sake of your negotiation, put your sales hat on.

Understand what negotiation is.

I have learned over the years that negotiation is not the art of getting what you want. It is the art of two parties coming towards fair terms. The goal is fairness, not “winning” a big stroke against your future employer.

When you see it this way, it’s much easier to get your head around.

You are no longer just a Job Hunter. You are a professional, negotiating good business. Granted, negotiation is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people, especially introverts, find it painful to talk themselves up, but easy to praise someone else. So when you’re negotiating for your new job, imagine that you are not just negotiating for you, you’re talking up your services, the value you will bring to the new employer, etc. And, the best way to do that is by leaving yourself out of it as much as you can.

Here is how:

Interview your Employer

Yes, I am not kidding. It’s called an interview for a reason. It works both ways.

There are certain things that applicants can do well in advance of the negotiation phase that will make it much easier (especially for shy negotiators). Your first indicator of the value is the job ad and the job description. The second indicator is your own research on your future employer and the final value comes during ‘question time’ in your interview.

The most important line of questioning is regarding the value of the position to them.

This can involve questions you probably already ask, such as “What’s the purpose of this project?” and “What’s your goal?” But, you really want to figure out a rough dollar value.

This is easier in some industries than others.

Here’s an example.

  • “What’s your goal for the amount of traffic you’ll get with this new marketing campaign?”
  • “I’d love to have 100,000 hits a month and 50 new sales by the first 6 months.”
  • “OK, that’s good to know because I have to design, build and manage the campaign for you to be able to sustain large amounts of traffic. What additional sales volume do you want by that time?”
  • “Hopefully $50,000 a month. But, by 3 years out I want that to be at least $500,000.”

In the scope of learning more about their business goals (beyond the info from the job ad) you’ve also discovered the dollar value they put on their business and you’ve also learned important information to help you understand the value of the position you are negotiation and interviewing for.

Think: Interview First and Negotiate Second

When it comes time to negotiate a salary or contract fee, you have all you need.

If the offered pay is too low, your answer should be “no”. Something is not right there. You should price your work based on the value that your future employer is receiving from your work. This makes negotiating your salary way easier. When you present your expected pay, you repeat back to them the value that they will be getting, and then you quote your expected pay range. Note, I purposely talk about a RANGE thus allowing you some room to negotiate.

You should be negotiating based on the value you provide. I call this Manifesto Negotiation.

Here is an example:

  • “The value that I have is based on the impact I have on my employer’s business. Impact is how they value my services. So I look at pay packages or contractor pricing from their point of view. They don’t hire me to design, build and manage a campaign for the sake of a campaign. They hire me to design, build and manage a campaign that’s going to help them grow their business.”

 If all of the above is too much sales for you, try the following:

  1. Postpone salary or title negotiations until you’re offered the job. Let your potential employer decide whether you’re the right candidate, and then talk about money or title.
  2. Let the other side make the first offer. Your goal is to allow the employer to suggest a salary.
  3. When you hear the offer, repeat the number or the title and then stop talking.  This is called “the countdown”. Look at the person who made the offer and stop talking for about 5–6 seconds. You can help yourself by just counting in your head slowly from 6 down to zero. The most likely outcome of this silence is an improvement of the offer or, at least, a question to you about what you think about the offer. This technique buys you some time to think while putting pressure on the situation. Often, the employer will come back with a better offer.
  4. Counter the offer with a researched response. Your counter-offer should be based on what you know about yourself, the market, and the company. This is why it’s vital to do some research before the interview so that you know a reasonable salary or title range for your position.
  5. Clinch the deal—then deal some more. Your last step is to lock in the offer, then negotiate additional benefits, such as extra vacation days or a company car. This is like agreeing on the price of a car before you negotiate the value of your trade-in, and it’s a great way to get a better compensation package.

If you want to leave the interview with a salary or a position title that truly reflects your value, negotiate smart and hard.

You won’t just be given what you deserve so embrace the Idea that you are worth what you negotiate and, of course, remember to hunt wisely!


I would love to hear your feedback and comments and I encourage you to share this with other job hunters, freelancers or contractors.