I recently helped *Janice, a corporate recruiter for *Life Insurance Company, negotiate a $15,000 raise with an option for an additional $15,000 after 18 months. Her salary negotiation experience highlights some strategies and tactics that can be used by others:
- Nurture internal relationships in order to get inside information.
- Be prepared to defend your request.
- How to parlay a “no” into an increase down the road.
- Get the offer in writing.
How did Janice Get a $15,000 Raise?
Janice was managing a retail store while working on her MBA. Her end goal was to work in HR and she had heard recruiting was a great segue into the field. Half way through her MBA program she took a position as a corporate recruiter with Life Insurance Company. Although her base pay was a step down ($30,000) from what she was currently making, there was a commission structure, and she just wanted to get her foot in the door and get some industry experience.
Six months after she was hired, the most experienced and successful recruiter in her office (there were four) quit for a competing company where they were offering a base salary of $70,000 plus commission. Shortly thereafter, another recruiter quit for personal reasons, leaving only Janice and one other recruiter.
At this point, management decided it might be a good idea to revisit the base salary of their remaining recruiters since the low base salary was the primary reason their best recruiter had left.
On a Thursday afternoon, the CFO of the branch popped into Janice’s office and said, “Hey good news, it looks like you will be getting a pay increase soon! The CEO should have a meeting with you in a few days to discuss the good news.”
Janice had become good friends with the CFO and asked if he knew how much the increase would be. “Not sure, maybe an additional $5,000-$10,000?”
Well that was good news. $30,000 was definitely not enough to live on in Portland and since her commissions had varied from month to month, it had been difficult to make ends meet.
A few hours later Janice received a meeting invite from the CEO for the next morning.
Janice was my Facebook friend (a friend of my wife’s) and had seen the services I offered and called me up that evening after work and explained her situation. I told her I would do the analysis to see what the market rate for someone with her skill set was and come up with a strategy for her meeting the next day. I emailed her my “Salary Negotiation Cheat Sheet” – a summary of the key points of salary negotiation: preparation, mindset, and tactics – and walked her through it over the phone so she could start her own mental preparation while I did the economic research.
After paying her $500 deposit (refundable if we weren’t successful), she filled out my online form (details about her career, education, salary and benefit history, etc.), and I got to work. Using both free and paid salary data, I researched the market rate for her skill set and discovered the median salary for corporate recruiters in Portland, OR ranged from the mid-$50s to low-$60s:
After about three hours I emailed her the finished product and called her back to discuss my findings and what her approach should be the next day. We agreed that whatever the CEO offered, she would make a counter-offer of $60,000 and made sure she had a solid narrative for why she should be paid that much. We discussed tactics for making counter-offers, trading other options, and setting up a pay-for-performance plan or a future salary review, if all else failed.
Janice felt ready to go!
In her Friday meeting with the CEO she was offered an additional $12,000 to her base salary, increasing it to $42,000. She was gracious but explained that according to her research a base salary for someone in her position should be in the mid-$50s to low-$60s and because of her excellent performance, $60,000 would be fair. The CEO acknowledged Janice’s points, but said they probably couldn’t do $60,000 right now. The most they could offer as a base salary would be maybe $44,000 or $45,000. “Let me think about it and discuss with the senior leadership team.”
Janice asked, “What are your concerns with a $60k base salary”.
“Well we don’t want to remove the incentive for our recruiters to perform.”
Janice suggested a trial period where if she hits certain targets in the next six months, her base salary will be increased to $60,000. The CEO says that he could agree that if certain targets are hit in the next six months, he could increase her base salary to $50,000, and then a year after that, to $60,000.
They discussed what those targets should be and verbally agree.
After the meeting Janice summarized their agreement in an email and sent it to the CEO.
- Maintain good relationships with management in order to get inside information. If Janice had not developed a relationship with the CFO in her company, she would not have had the inside scoop about what was about to happen, and wouldn’t have had time to prepare a response to the CEO’s offer.
- Be prepared to defend what you ask for. Instead of just accepting the $12,000 raise, Janice asked for an additional $18,000 and backed it up with solid arguments based on her performance history and economic research.
- If you get a “no” or less than what you were hoping for, suggest a pay-for-performance plan to get you to the number you want. Identify clear goals you have to reach. If nothing else, set the date for your next salary review and discuss what it means to be a top performer at your company.
- Getting the offer in writing. Be sure to document your agreement, especially if it includes a pay for performance or a future salary review agreement. Managers can change (or forget), and you need to be able to hold them to their word.
*Names of individuals and companies have been changed.