How to successfully negotiate your salary
Salary is a sensitive subject, and job applicants are often unsure of how to ask for and obtain their desired level of compensation. David Mansbach is Managing Director of AETHOS Consulting Group, which handles executive search and compensation consulting in the hospitality industry. He shares some tips for a more successful salary negotiation.
DO find accurate data
Research what the market pays people in similar positions so you can ask for compensation that’s competitive. Mansbach stresses that it’s important to look at data for situations that are truly comparable. He sometimes sees people try to negotiate with numbers that aren’t applicable to them. “Someone's showing numbers for full-service properties in Chicago, and you're negotiating at an extended-stay property in some other city,” he says. “That's when it starts making no sense.” Mansbach recommends that applicants get information from industry organizations like the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
DO look at total compensation
Mansbach urges applicants to look at more than base salary when thinking about an offer. “People really need to look at a total rewards program, and that's not just base salary.” Other factors to consider are bonuses, benefits, and opportunities for equity in a company, which could take the form of stock options in a publicly traded company or a phantom stock program in a privately held company.
DO talk to mentors
Mansbach recommends that people ask their mentors for advice before they go into a negotiation. “Everybody should have their own mini ‘board of directors,’” he says. These mentors can be anyone who’s more experienced, including former employers and contacts in the industry; they can even be older siblings or parents. With the help of mentors, a job applicant can plan for a negotiation and anticipate possible responses.
DON’T focus exclusively on compensation
While compensation is important, Mansbach urges people not to choose an employer based on pay alone. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to accept lower pay in the short term when a job leads to better opportunities in the future. “If it's a general manager of a hotel property, if it's moving from a B- or C- level brand in a city to an A-level brand, there may be some non-monetary things you want to take into consideration,” Mansbach points out. Someone in that situation might say, “I'm willing to take less because I know getting in with this company and in with this brand over the longer term will give me the ability to negotiate stronger on my next job.” Other factors to consider are a company’s culture or even the length of your commute.
DON’T be afraid to bring up the subject
Mansbach believes it’s fine to mention salary early in the interview process as long as applicants broach the subject tactfully. He advises people to frame the discussion as, “I respect your time; I respect my time. Let's just make sure we're on the same page as it relates to compensation.” Otherwise, applicants can proceed through an entire interview process only to find that a company doesn’t offer the level of pay they would accept. When that happens, “everybody's wasted a lot of time and energy,” Mansbach says.
DON’T try to hide your salary history
People may be reluctant to share their salary history if they feel they’ve been underpaid in the past, but Mansbach says withholding information is counterproductive. “A lot of people don't disclose the data, and that creates more issues than really releasing it and having a discussion about it,” he says. As an example, he suggests that an applicant could say, “I believe that I'm only getting paid within the first quartile of my peers out there. So please understand when you consider my compensation package, not to base it off of what I'm making now but to base it off of what I believe market is and what I would like for this position.” A good time to bring this up is when stating the reason for leaving a previous job.
In general, Mansbach recommends that people talk about compensation openly and directly instead avoiding the topic. “I'm a believer in very transparent discussions,” he says.