Negotiate your way to a Better Job!

by Alisha Webb

Alisha Webb is a content developer for The Gap Partnership HK – Negotiation experts


As a graduate job seeker, knowledge of negotiation skills may help you land the job you desire and deserve.  To negotiate is to use the verbal art of discussion to move from point A to point B, in which point B is an agreement, compromise, or other desired outcome.  There are many negotiation tactics you can utilize to move forward from A to B.

Before you can effectively move forward, you must first have in mind a destination.  This entails making sure the opportunity you are pursuing is truly a good fit for you, and you are a good fit for the opportunity.  Define in your own mind why you should hold the job. What skill sets do you possess, what education, experience or knowledge do you have that makes you the best person for the job?

Once you have received a job offer, you may be able to further use negotiation skills to receive better pay and benefits than are initially offered. The effectiveness of this end game phase of your job negotiation will depend on how you handled the earlier phases. Always be mindful of your words and actions as they can and often will be used against later.

Tip #1 – Ask Your Way to the Interview

To get your foot in the proverbial door, you must present a proposition that will entice the employer to invite you in for an interview.

Thanks to the internet, it is especially easy today to learn who key managers are in most any organization.  Say you have an MBA and have your eyes set on a position in a prestigious company, for top firms there’s a lot of competition, and you’re going to have to do more than simply send in a resume and hope for the best.

If you are seeking a coveted position, determine who the relevant hiring manager is and ensure they receive your resume. Your resume and cover letter should spark interest in meeting you and discussing your qualifications. Your graduate degree is not just a piece of paper, it is something which shows you are willing to go the extra mile to understand the intricacies of your field.

You need not wait until they announce an opening. Once you have identified a company you would really like to work for, use all available resources to make yourself known to the key managers and decision makers.

If the information is not published, call the firm and ask for the hiring manager of the relevant department.  Ask for name, title, address, fax, phone number, email address, etc.  If you get the manager on the phone, be prepared to tell them why you are interested in working for the company and what you can bring to the department.  Keep it brief.  Ask if it is okay to send the resume and ask for a time to follow-up.  This makes it possible for you to tell any future gatekeepers the manager is expecting your call.  When you follow-up, ask for the interview.

Tip #2 – Differentiate Yourself from the Others

In your initial self-discussion about the company, you should have researched facts about the company supporting your desire to work there. They should also demonstrate why they should hire you.  For example, you may have read the firm is poised to move into a new sector. Use the facts you have uncovered to show you are knowledgeable about the company, its achievements and future goals.

Make your resume and cover letter stand out, not by using ridiculous stationery or other unprofessional means, but by taking time to make them distinctive and unique with quality content. Ensure your graduate degree is front and centre; many others applying for the same position may not have this card to play, and your degree might help put you above the crowd.

Tip #3 – Position Yourself as a Must-Hire

Your cover letter and resume should leave the hiring manager with one singular impression: "I must interview this person." Likewise, your interview should make them think, "I must hire this person." Come to the interview prepared to discuss your strengths and weaknesses. Anticipate questions that may arise, and be ready to provide reasonable, fact-based answers.

Discuss how you see yourself contributing to the organization and support your assertions with facts about your education and previous contributions to former employees. DO NOT rely on implausible, unsupported statements as they will come back to hurt you. Rather, use statements like this: "As your new financial manager, I would help confidently steer the company through the tricky initial stages of entering a new sector, drawing on my experience at a previous firm, where I lead a venture that returned a 55% average profit over 2 years."

Tip #4 – Negotiate Pay and Benefits if Possible

While you may be happy to take the job at the terms offered, you may be able to get more by NOT saying yes to the first offer. It is permissible to thank the manager for the offer but express that you unfortunately you must decline for "financial reasons." 

DO NOT say you have a better offer, unless you do. This is an overused ploy and the hirer will see right through it. If you truly cannot justify taking the initial offer, then walking away is the best tactic. Having properly positioned yourself as a must-hire, they will likely be open to discussing your needs. Always respond tactfully, graciously and thankfully, even when turning down an offer.


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