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After the ‘Great Resignation,’ How to Have a Great Negotiation

UMD Management Expert Shares 5 Tips for Job Seekers

By Karen Johnson

Job negotiation illustration

Job seekers—especially those who are financially vulnerable—can stifle their own economic advancement through poor negotiation tactics, says a UMD management and organization researcher.

Illustration by Marc Tran/Stocksy

About 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, the most since the Labor Department began tracking that stat 20 years ago. They joined the 16 million Americans who had handed in their resignations over the previous four months, another record.

Some were burned out, exhausted by pandemic stresses and added burdens at home and at work. Others had rejected return-to-the-office mandates to seek employment with greater flexibility. After 18 months of toiling in a pandemic, expectations about what makes a good job had altered.

Rellie Derfler-Rozin, an associate professor of management and organization in the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, has been thinking a lot about those workers searching for new positions. She teaches and researches workplace negotiations and recently wrote in USA Today to offer advice to job-seekers:

Don’t mention money too early
It’s tempting to get everything out in the open, but don’t ask about pay or benefits early in the interview process. Her research has shown it can cost you the job. “Being motivated by both the work itself (what’s known as intrinsic motivation) and by factors like high pay, flexibility, benefits and vacation time (known as extrinsic motivation) is not just common—it’s actually better for organizations and for employees,” she wrote. But in a series of studies, she and her co-authors found hiring managers were 20%–23% less likely to hire candidates who voiced an interest in the pay and benefits structure. They judge these candidates as less intrinsically motivated.

Focus on the whole package
Don’t focus entirely on base salary. Employee benefits—generous retirement plans, health insurance policies or tuition reimbursement—can add to your on-the-job and financial satisfaction.

Factor in other perks as well, such as vacation time, flexible schedules or telework. They can make a big difference in your quality of life, without costing your employer dearly. The trick is to make the correct tradeoffs and to suggest several options that might work for you but differ on some parameters. This way you are being flexible while still getting what you desire, and both parties (you and the employer) are happy.

Know your value
Research what people are earning in similar roles in your industry. Consult sites such as glassdoor.com or payscale.com, and reach out to people in your network for insights about what the norms are, what is open for negotiation and what your leverage is, she said. “Be sure to compare apples to apples. Look for results that reflect your level of experience, education and geography.”

Don’t pass up the opportunity to negotiate
People—especially financially vulnerable people—too often stifle their own economic advancement because of the way they negotiate, Derfler-Rozin said.

“In another study, we found that financially vulnerable applicants tend to view negotiations as a zero-sum game, rather than a situation in which everyone can win. It’s a psychological barrier inherent in fewer opportunities to observe wealth and value generation.” Learn to see yourself as an important contributor to the company, and negotiate the terms that would keep you happy at the firm while conceding some issues that are of higher importance to the company.

“In our ideal job, we work because we enjoy it,” Derfler-Rozin wrote. “But even in that ideal role, we work for compensation. Make sure yours is adequate.”

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