Career Resources

The Art of the Deal

Remember that you are about to enter a partnership with a new organization, and a “me-versus-them” attitude will be a barrier to forming a strong alliance.

Dan Ford

You’ve been through all the interviews, and you like the organization and the job—you think it’s a good fit. The organization likes you, too, and offers you the position. Now let’s talk compensation. How can you make sure you get the best possible package—one that satisfies you and your new employer?

Although discussions about compensation usually don’t take place until after an offer has been made, you may want to bring it up in a general way early in the interview process. Find out what the base salary range is for the position. That way, you won’t go through the entire interview process unnecessarily if your salary expectation exceed what the prospective employer intends to pay. Once you’ve decided to proceed with the interview process, however, avois talking about compensation and benefits until you have a solid offer. When you do begin negotiations, don’t panic: The most effective negotiating tools are much simpler than you may think.

Trust, communication, and candor

These are the most important elements in compensation negotiations. Job-seekers often assume an adversarial approach to these talks, but this is rarely the best way to handle them. Instead, compensation negotiations should be conducted in an atmosphere of trust.

From the first interview, subtle negotiations are already taking place. The organization is learning about you, you are learning about the organization, and you are both working to determine whether a good fit exists. Apply that same attitude to negotiating your compensation package, using the open lines of communication you developed during the interview process. Remember that you are about to enter a partnership with this organization, and a “me vs. them” attitude will be a barrier to building that alliance. You can usually share your needs and reasoning with a prospective employer; in most cases, your honesty will be met with the same.

Because some people respect toughness and others are annoyed by it, it’s a good idea to measure your prospective employer’s personality to decide how aggressive—or passive—you should be; however, do not play games. Be candid about what you want. If you lay out your needs and expectations, you should be able to come to a mutually satisfying agreement without wasting a lot of time.


Before you even receive a job offer from an organization, create a checklist of your compensation needs and expectations. Job-seekers who don’t plan like this often find that in the rush and excitement of taking on a new position, they forgot or didn’t consider certain important elements of compensation. Having a checklist not only ensures that you won’t have regrets later, but it also demonstrates your professionalism and interest in the position.

When developing your checklist, look at the total package—not just your base compensation. Items you should also consider, depending on the position and type of organization, include:

  • Title, position, authority, accountability, and operational, staff, and committee responsibilities
  • Usual benefits, including paid vacation; medical, dental, life, disability, and travel accident insurance; professional dues; and continuing education tuition and fee reimbursement
  • Additional benefits, such as stock options, financial planning assistance, club membership, spousal travel, additional insurance, deferred compensation programs, and automobile allowance
  • Long-term retirement benefits or pension · Bonus or incentive programs for the short and long term
  • Severance package
  • Whether you want a contract or will be expected to sign one
  • Expectations for raises and new responsibilities in the future

If the position is in another city or state, also consider:

  • Assistance with moving expenses, including reimbursement for house-hunting trips or short-term housing
  • The cost of living differential, particularly in the areas of transportation, taxes, and housing
  • Assistance with low-interest loans

Some negotiating items you might want to think about, depending on the level of your position, include signing bonuses, earlier-than-scheduled performance and compensation reviews, and guaranteed bonuses or bonus minimums.

Remember that parity is important in an organization. Be aware that some of the things you request may be denied because they would shake up the organization’s existing compensation ranges and structures. If this is the case, don’t push further—the organization isn’t likely to budge.

Plan carefully before negotiations, because once you’ve agreed to something, you must move on. Do not try to renegotiate terms that you have already agreed to; it will break down the trust you’ve both worked to build, and possibly provoke the organization to take the offer off the table.

Once negotiations are completed, these items should be put into a letter of agreement. And to be prudent, avoid giving notice at your current organization until the letter of agreement has been signed by you and your new employer.


Beware of setting your expectations too high. A 10 percent to 30 percent increase from your current base salary is reasonable, depending on geography and the level of your new position. Before going into salary negotiations, find out what other people in similar positions with similar experience are getting paid.

Also, when calculating your salary expectations, work from your actual current salary—not what you think you should be making. Don’t be afraid to take reasonable risks, but don’t expect your new employer to make up a huge salary differential in one move. You don’t want to burn any bridges with your current or prospective employer.


Once the deal is done, treat it as such—don’t focus on issues that have already been discussed. When you’ve accepted the terms of the offer, move into your new organization with optimism and enthusiasm. If you’re good at what you do, and you perform in a truly outstanding manner, you will be rewarded over time.

Dan Ford is a consultant at Witt/Kieffer, Ford, Hadelman, & Lloyd in Phoenix, Ariz.

This article is reprinted from Healthcare Executive.