The salary negotiation process can be an awkward one for accounting and finance professionals. Of course, there are some approaches that are blatantly unprofessional, such as standing outside a potential employer's home in the evening and serenading him or her with a request for higher pay. However, some of the finer details – including when you bring up salary or the research you use to support your request – can be as important as whether you negotiate via an in-person meeting or a song.
Here are a few mistakes to avoid when negotiating your salary:
Using unreliable research
Anyone can run a quick web search for salary information, but you need to find credible statistics, such as those available in the 2016 Salary Guide from Robert Half. Simply clicking on the first link that comes up in search results can lead you to unreliable or outdated data on accounting and finance salaries.
Verify your research by corroborating sources and speaking with professionals in your role and in the geographic region where you are applying, as salaries vary by location.
Speaking of research, make sure you take the time to review salary ranges before a salary negotiation. If a potential employer asks you to suggest a salary or gives you an initial offer, you need to know a reasonable starting figure or how far you can stretch the first figure that is thrown out.
Be honest with potential employers. If they ask you for a desired salary range, oblige their request. Don't tell them you are flexible if you are unwilling to take a pay cut or consider alternative forms of compensation.
Be truthful about your previous salary if you're asked to share that information. Some companies will verify salary history, and you don't want to be caught lying to a potential employer.
Taking too long to provide a response
Employers won't wait around forever. If you need time to think over a final offer, commit to providing a response within a reasonable time and don't string the employer along while you explore other options. There is nothing wrong with walking away from a job that cannot give you an acceptable offer following a thoughtful salary negotiation.
Being too rigid
Consider options besides monetary compensation. You have to be willing to negotiate, which could mean finding a compromise between what potential employers offer and what you are willing to accept. This may result in only getting a modest salary boost while having an employer match more of your retirement savings and giving you additional vacation days, for instance.
Mentioning irrelevant personal information
Potential employers are not concerned with your personal finances during a salary negotiation. Avoid mentioning your mortgage or other expenses as reasons you should be paid more. Instead, focus on your accounting job skills, what you can contribute to the company and your salary research.
Not working with a staffing firm that can negotiate for you
One of the smartest moves you can make to ensure a strong showing during any salary negotiation is to register with a specialized staffing firm. Why? Because your staffing representative will negotiate on your behalf. No one knows compensation trends for accounting and finance professionals better than he or she does. Your representative also speaks to hiring managers every day – he or she has experience in this area. Let your staffing manager take the lead, and you can focus on hitting the ground running when you start your new job.