The art of salary negotiation

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The armed forces give veterans a lot of marketable skills, but one thing National Employment Director Jeff Hall has noticed is the military doesn’t necessarily teach one critical talent in the world of finding meaningful employment: salary negotiation.

“I’ve learned the subject of salary negotiation can potentially make veterans, especially those just transitioning from active service, uncomfortable,” said Hall. “It’s understandable because the military pay scale is dictated, but that’s not the case after someone hangs up their uniform for the last time.”

Hall said he remembers exactly when this subject became part of his vocabulary.

“I remember being asked if I had what the interviewer called ‘salary requirements,’” Hall said. “I said, ‘Yes, I need to be able to pay my bills and feed my family.’

“Now I know that wasn’t necessarily the best approach.”

Hall said he noticed while talking with veterans at DAV-sponsored job fairs that he wasn’t the only one who had not considered what salary negotiation meant in the civilian world.

For help, Hall turned to published author, educator and marketing expert Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., who has taught workshops and published related articles concerning salary negotiation.

In a 2015 article for Live Careers network, Hansen advised professionals to “just do it” and pointed out that studies show four out of five recruiters are willing to discuss salary compensation, but very few prospective employees do.

“You don’t have to be an expert negotiator,” Hansen writes. “You just have to know the rules and strategies of negotiation.”

According to Hansen, these strategies include salary research for similar jobs in one’s location, taking time to seriously consider the salary and factoring in benefits such as insurance, vacation time and moving expenses.

Hall agreed.

“There’s nothing wrong with negotiating compensation,” said Hall. “There is no reason to be afraid of it. Just keep the tone conversational, friendly and professional.”

DAV Director of Human Resources Randy Reese said another key is to be aware that negotiations are business, not personal.

“I’ve always advised people that if you’ve been offered a position, you’re the final candidate or among the last candidates the organization is interested in hiring,” Reese said. “That means they want you and feel you’re a good fit.”

But, Reese also noted if the initial salary offer or counter-offer isn’t what you expected, it shouldn’t be taken personally. By asking questions and remaining positive and professional, a conversation about compensation can be productive – even if it may seem awkward at first to many.

“Remember, you received a job offer where others didn’t and the employer isn’t questioning your worth or potential,” said Reese. “Professionally negotiate the offer or negotiate benefits in other areas. This is where it’s best to remember the phrase, ‘it’s just business,’”

More job search resources may be found at jobs.dav.org. If you know a veteran searching for meaningful employment or who is preparing to transition from military service, please consider forwarding this newsletter to them.