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Advice online abounds about how executive compensation should be negotiated. There are tips on why it’s important to do research the compensation range for your targeted position, when to bring up the “money talk” and what to do if pressured to give a figure when it isn’t in your best interest to do so. This post won’t be addressing those negotiation tips.

What I’d like to do here is invite you to take a big step back.  

If your company makes and sells widgets, do they shout out the price before they’ve indicated “why widgets” or “why our widgets” in the first place? Hopefully not. Thus, my number one tip for salary negotiation is something you should actually do before you’ve even thought about how much to ask for, indeed before you’ve even applied for a job. It is something you should do when you are developing your resume.

My number one tip for salary negotiation is to clearly identify and communicate why you are uniquely prepared to tackle the challenges the company faces and the quantifiable business value you have proven that you are capable of delivering.

This is the single most important step in gaining salary negotiating edge—creating a sense of need and then showing how you are the best person to fulfil that need. To get a dollar figure that matches your worth (and more!) will require that you precisely communicate “Why you?” and this process must start before the money question ever comes up. It must happen in the very first, written presentation of yourself as a candidate–your resume.

If you are vague on your resume about what distinguishes you from other highly qualified candidates and the measureable impact you have had in each of the roles you’ve held, that vagueness can follow you all the way to the interview and salary negotiation phases. Although the hiring authority may intuit that you are the best candidate (which is why the negotiation is even happening), they may not have hard, clear evidence of why they have to have you and not Choice B.

With this in mind, take a long hard look at your resume and what it communicates. Ask yourself if it answers:

  • Why you and not the other candidates who are also exceptionally qualified? In other words, in a world of strategic, innovative, analytical, results-oriented, and success-driven candidates, what differentiates you from them? This can be a difficult question to answer and most certainly requires careful reflection before formulating your message.
  • Are you the less risky hire? That is, does your resume provide clear evidence of your revenue and profit impact, demonstrating that the business value you are likely to bring far outweighs the corporate risk of an expensive hire?

If your resume does this, congratulations. You are not only ready to excel in the interview phase, but you now have sharper negotiating edge for the salary talk that is sure to follow.

 

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