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how to build bargaining power in a job interview

laying the foundation

Build bargaining power during the job interview, and you will have an advantage over your competition. Building bargaining power is the foundation for what you will be doing if you’re not happy with the company’s job offer later on. It’s the toughest part of the job interview for most candidates. However, there are several things that you can do to build bargaining power before they make you an offer. Let’s start with research.


#1 find out what you are worth

You will have little or no bargaining power if you don’t have a sense of what you should be paid. You don’t need an exact figure. A range will do. You can’t assume that because you made a certain amount of money in the past that you will be paid the same or more on your new job. It’s actually possible that you were underpaid and didn’t know it. The new job could pay considerably more as a result. You will build bargaining power, at the very least in your own mind, when you know what you are worth to employers. Then, confidently interview and don’t undersell yourself. Here are several things you can do to obtain salary information.

  • Use indeed.com's salary wizard
  • Check out Monster’s Salary Wizard.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries are great resources too.
  • Look at salary surveys by the American Management Association.
  • If you’re working with a recruiter, he or she can definitely tell you what you're worth.
  • Talk to other people in your industry and ask them (not what they’re earning), but what they think a fair salary would be for the kind of job that you’re interested in.
  • Attend professional association or trade meetings; this is something you should be doing all along as you network and “schmooze” with professionals in your field to learn more about (among other things) what you can expect to be paid.
  • Connect with job seekers on the Internet and share information regarding job duties and corresponding salaries.
  • And don’t forget about professional and trade journals. They often publish salary survey information that you can access for a fee.


#2 don’t talk about salary unless you are forced to

As soon as you reveal your current salary or salary history you’ve lost most of your bargaining power. You also run the risk of being screened out if you are too far above or even below the range that the company has in mind. Fortunately for employers, many candidates when asked will immediately reveal a number or salary that they are currently earning or were previously earning. Don’t give into the urge to ask about salary or reveal your salary history or even expectations, until you get the message from the employer that they absolutely MUST have you! Once an employer decides that you are the right person for the job, and that no one else will do, you will have some leverage in negotiations. In a nutshell, postpone money talk until you have all of the facts concerning the job.


#3 know what you have to offer

Part of building your bargaining power is about what you can contribute in terms of your unique skills, work experience, education, special training and/or certifications. If you feel you don’t have a lot to offer except for a willingness to work hard and learn what you need to know, you could be at a disadvantage. As a result you’ve lost bargaining power and you may have to settle for less money to get the job. However, if you do settle for less, think of it as an opportunity to prove yourself, gain experience, and move on if you are not promoted within a reasonable length of time.


#4 create chemistry

Personal chemistry has a major impact on your success in getting the job offer. Creating chemistry is a great way to build bargaining power. Hiring managers try to be objective, but the truth is that the chemistry between you and them is a major deciding factor. Sales people use chemistry to build relationships with clients every day. People who connect with one another often have similar ways of speaking, including pace (rapidly or slowly) and similar dialects. They often share a common sense of humor and may even have body language or mannerisms that look the same. You’ve heard the expression that: “opposites attract.” This is not the case when it comes to candidates and hiring managers. The more you are alike (you have a lot of control over this by the way you act when being interviewed), the quicker you will build bargaining power that could impact a job offer.


#5 dress like the money that you expect to be paid

If you expect a six-figure salary, dress accordingly. And even if you don’t, dress like you mean business. Pay attention to the details such as clean fingernails, unpolished shoes, a snag in pantyhose, or a stain on a tie, shirt, blouse or suit. You need to be impeccable in every aspect of your appearance. If you break this rule, don’t expect to build bargaining power. It simply won’t happen. 


#6 when you are currently employed you are in a stronger bargaining position

You’ve heard this before. But do you really have an advantage if you are currently employed? The answer is: sometimes “yes,” and sometimes “no,” depending upon what you have to offer. It might not make any difference to an employer if they need you whether or not you’re currently working. On the other hand, some employers seem to like people that are not as easy to get because someone else already employs them. 


#7 sell yourself as a “team player”

Your potential contribution to a team is a definite bargaining chip. For example one team member may have fifty great ideas, but you are the player who sorts through the ideas and drives the execution of the plan. “Team players” not only get along well with teammates, but they have ideas, and they know how to make things happen! When you can convince the hiring authority that you have the ability to do all three of these things, you are building bargaining power.


#8 quantify your accomplishments

The job interview gives you the perfect opportunity to show rather than tell what you have done in the past. Keep in mind that the past is a reliable predictor of the future. Here’s an example: “I developed and implemented a plan to cut the monthly preventative maintenance time in the machine shop from 12 hours to 9 hours and it’s been super successful.” This has more impact than if you said, “I cut the preventative maintenance time in the shop.” Think about what’s specifically required in your job and highlight related accomplishments by quantifying whenever possible. Doing so will give you bargaining power and a definite edge.


#9 recognize that anything you say can cost you bargaining power

You are being observed throughout the entire interview. Anything you say can be held against you and cost you the job. For example, if you called in sick so that you could participate in a job interview, be careful. If you reveal this lie or are asked how you managed to get time off for the interview and you tell the interviewer you lied to your boss, you’ve lost your bargaining power. No one wants dishonest people on their payroll. On another note, some hiring managers will test you on your loyalty to current or former employers by asking you to share proprietary information or bad-mouth an employer. If you fall for this trick, you will lose more than your bargaining power; you will most likely lose the job offer.


#10 be aware of your body language

What does your body language say about you? Does it project confidence, energy and enthusiasm? Do you make good eye contact, sit up straight in your chair and smile? Most candidates don’t smile enough, yet smiling can break down barriers and give you bargaining power beyond what you can imagine. Employers what to hire happy people who join them without emotional baggage. If you are this person, you have an advantage over your competition. To check yourself and how your body language communicates who you are, practice answering mock interview questions in front of a mirror or with a friend that is willing to honestly critique you. A video camera works too.