SALARIES / JUN. 30, 2014
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How to Negotiate an IT Salary

It’s called an artform. It terrifies many of us, causing us to break out in a cold sweat at the prospect of having to do it. It often leaves us feeling bullied, pummeled, and bruised. It’s something most of us would be happy to never, ever have to do in our lifetime.

Negotiation. Does the word itself send a cold shiver along your spine? You’re not alone.

But, it’s not the same for everyone. Some people love it. Live for it. And while you may not be negotiating a multi-billion dollar merger anytime soon, you will likely have to face and conquer your fear sooner than you think. Most employers expect you to negotiate your salary when starting a new job. And as an IT specialist, the changing job responsibilities might make for some interesting twists and turns.

So, how do you do it? There’s no one right way, but there are a few tips and tricks to remember when negotiating your IT salary.

Know the Going-Rate

You should have a good indication of what people in a similar position are making. You can usually find that information (or at least a decent range) from professional directories, industry associations, government reports, and colleagues within your network. Never go in blind.

Have a Floor

Besides having a range in line with others in your position, you should also consider your minimum. You would definitely not share this number, but think about your expenses (rent, travel, food, loan payments, and so on) and calculate the absolute lowest salary you could expect and still live comfortably. The goal is not to hit the floor, but knowing that figure makes the mental game that much easier for you...anything above that and close or within your researched range means you don’t have to sweat about accepting an offer.

He Who Speaks First…

Loses. Or so the saying goes. The conventional wisdom is that you should avoid giving a number for as long as possible. Even better, do everything you can to make them give you an initial offer, and not the other way around. On an application, leave the salary expectation blank. In an interview, even when asked outright, don’t take the bait. Say something along the lines of wanting to wait until they believe you are the right person for the job. Or, try the old standby and say you’d be willing to consider (not ACCEPT) any reasonable offer.

Practice Your Poker Face

If you play your cards right, you should receive an offer from them. Stoicism is the way to go. Don’t smile or laugh, or gasp in shock, or fall out of your chair (a bit melodramatic, but you see what I’m getting at). Poker face. Nod. SILENTLY consider the offer (even if you immediately have a counter offer in mind, and if you’ve done your research, you should). Wait. Pause. This is a fine can’t silently nod for seven minutes, of course, but you are perfectly within your rights to take a moment while you mull it over. While doing so (or at least pretending to do so), many employers will fill that silence and immediately up their offer. We find silence uncomfortable, and in this situation, interviewers will usually believe your silence indicates dissatisfaction with the number. You’ve done and said nothing, but you’ve already made more money. Kudos! There’s no guarantee this tactic will work, but it does typically perform well, especially if you’ve done your job and convinced them you are the only one for the job. .

Counter Attack

If their initial (or even second) offer falls short, don’t be afraid to counter with a figure closer to what you deserve. Clearly explain how your background and/or educational credentials and/or work experience put you closer to that amount. Consider the range you researched, your previous salary (is this new company bigger or smaller than your previous employer?), and your financial goals, but obviously don’t be ridiculous. If you want an annual salary $10,000 higher, don’t counter with a figure exactly that much. Remember it’s a chess game, so be prepared for a counter-counter offer. Start with maybe $15,000 higher (provided that keeps you within that fair range) so you can safely “lose” $5000 or so in the back and forth. On the plus side, they might just accept!

Back It Up (pardon the IT pun)

Your counter offer should be supported with what you can bring to the company. Don’t just spout facts and figures about the industry...mention them, sure, but don’t rely on them. Make it about THEM. What you can do for them, how you can help them, and why hiring you will better their business. As related to IT, you need to consider the changing landscape of IT professionals in 2014. It’s no longer about setting up servers, maintaining email accounts, and general maintenance (“Hello, IT. Have you tried turning it off and on again?”). The modern IT professional needs to be familiar with cloud integration, online security, mobile accessibility, app development, programming, software as a service providers, setting up and maintaining an online presence (websites, social media), and multiple platforms (desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones). IT personnel have more time for innovation now that mundane system maintenance is often outsourced to cloud service providers. Can you bring all that to the table? If so, demonstrate that. Talk about it. Show that you’re the very model of a modern IT professional. Companies need - and are willing to pay - for that.  

Be prepared. Know your market value. Don’t bite first. Don’t blink first. Back up your belief. And bring modern IT skills and tools to the table. Do that, and you’ve already won.


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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