Salary Negotiations for the Executive Level

At the executive level, you have the confidence and experience to know your added value to an organization. However, even the most experienced executive might hesitate when it’s time to start salary negotiations. It is completely normal to feel confusion during this stage of the interviewing process. Here’s where the following quick tips can help you:

  • The company pays you not for your overall experience but for the skills that are relevant to the job for hire. The less relevant experience you have, the less room you have to negotiate.
  • If working with an executive recruiter, let them act as the buffer during the negotiations. Many offers are ruined during the delicate art of negotiations if not handled properly; an experienced recruiter can make sure everything is framed properly from both sides of the table.
  • Is your potential employer a small privately-owned company, or a company that runs on venture capital, a large corporation, or a public sector employer? Depending on how large the company is, you can have a fair idea of how much they can afford to pay their executives. Know that while it’s true that large companies may have more money, they usually have more policies, procedures, and bureaucracy. Hiring managers in large companies have to work with fixed budgets and may not have a lot of latitude to offer larger salaries upfront while smaller organizations may have more freedom but fewer resources.
  • Ask your recruiter or the hiring manager what other perks and benefits the company offers. Do they offer big bonuses, perks, use of company cars, or reimbursement of various expenses and so on? Factor those benefits against your asking for salary and negotiate smartly. Because in this case, the employers usually realize that the job is going to provide lots of other compensation and won’t entertain your higher figure. It might be a good idea to do some homework and talk to some other executives in the firm informally before interviewing with the company.
  • Don’t expect the unreasonable. Guaranteed contracts, house buying options, and other perks that used to be considered the norm, are rare these days. Make sure you keep your desires flexible and realistic.
  • When working with a recruiter, be completely and brutally honest. Let them know specifically what it will take to get you to make the move. Trying to wait and see what the company offers you first is never a good idea and will often backfire with a low offer that will offend you. The recruiter can’t make an accurate suggestion to the company if they don’t know your real expectations.
  • Be willing and prepared to negotiate. Rarely a company will make a “take it or leave it offer”, usually there is an expectation that there will be a few back and forth exchanges to ensure the numbers will work for both parties. Don’t get offended if the initial offer is too low, this is common particularly when you haven’t made your expectations clear. Be honest with how far they are from the mark and be creative in how you can make up the difference immediately or over the long-term.
  • Know the numbers. Do you really know what you make now? Of course you know your base & bonus, but have you added up the value of your entire compensation package? Write it all down and don’t leave out any components. These numbers will be invaluable when it comes time to negotiate. Some often overlooked elements are car allowance, tuition contribution, profit sharing, equity or stock option value, 401k contribution, commuting / parking, insurance premiums, cost of living, and taxes.