Many job seekers miss out on an opportunity to increase their salary and benefits, due to their lack of understanding of, and preparation for, the negotiation process. Unlike some career fields where salary negotiation has been impacted negatively by the poor job market, the salary negotiation prospects for those entering high-demand positions within the allied health field are still good. But as with all aspects of the job search, preparation is key. Successful salary negotiation requires self-assessment, research, planning and strong communication skills. Careful preparation will increase your ability to create a mutually satisfying agreement between you and your potential employer.

The following steps will help you prepare for the salary negotiation process. Just remember that the topic of salary should never be addressed until the employer brings it up. And the actual process of negotiation shouldn’t begin until you have received an offer of employment.

Self-Assessment: Prioritize Your Needs

The first step in preparing to negotiate your salary and benefits is to clarify and prioritize what is important to you. This is necessary because your needs will influence all aspects of the negotiation process. When considering a job offer you’ll need to know what your priorities are in order to decide the value of the offer and what aspects you may want to negotiate.

There are many potential benefits to consider in addition to base salary when accepting a job offer. These benefits increase the monetary value of your base salary, in addition to adding quality to your work life. Depending on your priorities, you’ll want to consider various benefit areas when preparing to negotiate.

For example, if you value learning about new developments and opportunities for advancement in your field, continuing education should be an essential part of your compensation package. You may be able to negotiate reimbursement for renewal of certifications, subscriptions to professional journals, and/or tuition reimbursement for an advanced degree or continuing education courses.

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Perhaps you are concerned about having ample opportunity for professional development. In this case, you could negotiate for payment of membership fees for professional associations, conference registration fees, or subscriptions to professional publications.

If you have children or are considering starting a family in the near future, the ability to balance your work and personal life will be important. You’ll want the opportunity to increase your vacation time, arrange for flexible work assignments, obtain reimbursement for child-care costs, and extend benefits coverage to family members.

Another subject you might be able to negotiate is your performance review. Some employers will grant a shorter time period before your first review, thereby giving you the opportunity to discuss a salary increase and advancement opportunities earlier than usual. Finally, if you’re really fortunate, you might even be able to get the employer’s assistance in repaying your student loans.

Take time to review and consider your priorities. Knowing your main concerns ahead of time will help you present yourself to your employer with composure and conviction. In addition, you will be prepared to compromise benefits of a lesser value in exchange for benefits that are more beneficial to you.

Self-Assessment: Know What You Have to Offer

Another step in preparing to negotiate is understanding your intrinsic value. What do you have to offer an employer in terms of your knowledge, education, skills and experience? You need to assess these areas to identify your strengths.

During the negotiation process you will present these strengths to explain your value to a potential employer. The strengths you choose to emphasize during the negotiation will depend on the needs of the employer. Understanding the employer’s needs can be difficult when you are thinking about your own priorities, nonetheless, it’s important to put yourself in the employer’s shoes. When you understand the priorities of the employer and the organization, you’ll be able to relate to the employer’s priorities and tailor your needs to the employer’s frame of reference. Your goal is to utilize this knowledge to create a mutually satisfying outcome to the negotiation.

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Research: Understanding Your Market Value

When it comes to attaining the best possible base salary, you will need to do your homework ahead of time in order to discover your market value. This means identifying the current salary range offered for the position you are seeking.

There are various resources to access this information, many of which are available on the Internet. See the sidebar “Bookmark These Sites!” for further information on useful Web sites.

Utilizing the services of allied health professional associations or societies is a vital component of your career development process and many of these organizations provide salary data. Trade journals can also be good sources of salary information.

Planning: Negotiation Strategies

The best time to enter salary negotiations is when you have been offered the position and before you have fully accepted it. This is the time when you will have the most negotiating power. By that point you will have assessed your priorities, market value and needs of your potential employer. But before you enter into any negotiation, you will need to create a plan for a dialogue that addresses your concerns and creates an amiable negotiation. A useful strategy to focus the discussion on areas that you’re interested in is to use exploratory questions.

For example, an interviewee with a few years of laboratory tech experience may be interested in a promotion to a supervisory position. During the course of the discussion the interviewee could ask, “What is the opportunity for advancement into a management or supervisory position?” This question opens up the discussion on the requirements for this position and opportunities for receiving additional training. It also sends a clear message to the employer that this candidate is serious about a career and not just looking for just another job.

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An interviewee just out of college may be interested in continuing his or her education. In this case the interviewee could ask, “Can we explore the possibility of reimbursement for an advanced degree?”

Always maintain proper etiquette during the negotiation process. One of the best ways to do this is by putting your requests in the form of questions, rather than stating your demands. This is especially important for entry-level interviewees; aggressive, inexperienced candidates turn off most interviewers. On the other hand, a candidate who is perceived as polite but inquisitive will often be viewed in a positive light. For examples of how to properly start off such questions, see the sidebar, “Exploratory Questions”.
As you discuss and explore the possibilities during negotiation, it is important to remain flexible in your questions and responses. When you are asked a question, never respond with a flat “no,” instead pause, consider the question and then respond. Remember you can’t get what you do not ask for.

When answering questions regarding salary, it is best to give a range because it allows flexibility during the negotiation. You want to find a salary that will satisfy both you and your potential employer. If you have done your homework, you’ll be able to provide a range based on your research to identify the market value for the position and an estimate of your intrinsic value based on your unique skills and experience. You need to decide what is the highest you are worth within that range and what is the lowest you will accept. To support your request, you can bring salary information from your research to the negotiation.

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According to David Soprych, regional recruiter for HCR Manorcare, in Aurora, Ill., “Salaries are typically set for staffing levels at large organizations. Smaller organizations have more flexibility in salary. Also, for management positions there is greater flexibility for base salary.” In any case, you will have to sell your skills and accomplishments when negotiating your salary.

Another area that has received media attention is sign-on bonuses. Soprych cautions job seekers to be wary of large sign-on bonuses. “This could be a red flag that the organization is having difficulty keeping and finding employees,” he says. “Also, a company may provide a top salary but poor benefits or a moderate salary with excellent benefits. It is in your best interest to investigate these organizations carefully.”

Communication Skills: The Art of Diplomacy

Successful negotiations are built on developing rapport and trust. By applying active listening, strong communication and keen observation skills, you will be able to present yourself well and respond to various situations in an appropriate manner. Listen carefully and pay attention to the employer’s attitude, words and body language. You are looking for positive reactions to your statements; your goal is to create a positive and friendly atmosphere. This is very important when you are trying to reach a mutually satisfying outcome.

Because your emotions will be running high during the negotiation, it is helpful to rehearse your presentation with another person prior to your interview. This will prepare you for answering questions and allow you to receive feedback on your style of communication and the logic of your presentation. Through preparation and practice, you’ll increase your confidence and ability to handle the negotiation process.

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Don’t miss out on an opportunity to negotiate a great offer. Take time to prepare and you’ll be able to negotiate an offer that is mutually satisfying for you and your potential employer.

Exploratory Questions

During the negotiation, you will want to steer the conversation towards points of negotiation that interest you most. Here is a list of appropriate introductions to such questions.

1. What is the opportunity for…?

2. Are you willing to…?

3. What would you consider…?

4. Can we talk about…?

5. What are the alternatives to…?

6. Have you considered…?

7. Can we explore the possibility of…?

8. Is there anything you might be able to do about…?

9. What if…?

10. Would you think about…?

Bookmark These Sites!

The following Internet sites are helpful for researching your appropriate base salary ranges.
Provides information on salaries searchable by profession and geographic location. Keep in mind that salaries for identical positions vary depending on geographic location and years of experience.
Lists salary surveys with links to other occupational salary sites.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook offers consolidated salary figures for specific occupations.
Provides salary information for various health professions based on degree level and years of experience but does not list by geographic area.

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