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Q  "Making a good deal"
I interviewed for a position on the 19th of May. I had an excellent rapport with the CEO who interviewed me. The location of the company was not exactly what I was looking for. The area was quite depressed but the job was just what I was looking for. In terms of sales and size of staff, it would be a next step in my career.

The salary, however, was 20% less than my last position. I have been unemployed for two weeks, am in my early 50's, and did not complete my degree. This has not been a problem for me in previous positions. The CEO asked me to think over the situation over the weekend and call him next week if I have any ideas that could bring us closer to an agreement as salary is the only barrier to a job offer. He asked that I don't accept the position unless I could be happy for the long haul.

I really would appreciate your advice. Forget to mention that the position was for a plant controller.

A  You're dealing with a very smart CEO. He also sounds open to discussing what kind of money you're going to be happy with.

First you have to decide if the job itself is really the most critical issue here. You must really think through the location issue and the money. Don't let the former come back to plague you.

Regarding the money, I'd open a discussion with him. Be honest. He sounds like a pretty good guy. But do it in person, not on the phone. This is important, and you'll have more bargaining power if you're sitting with him. Your physical presence will remind him of the commitment he's already made to you.

Let him know the comp is 20% lower than you've been making. Also let him know that you respect any limits he's got in his budget, and that otherwise this is a dream job for you. Find out how you might make the difference up with a starting bonus, other perks, etc. Also discuss how long down the road you might be able to get back up to par (assuming you weren't "overpaid" at your last job -- that's a tough one to figure out). Base your compensation over the long term on how you think you can contribute to the company's profitability. (He'll love your concern for his success.) Show the CEO how you're going to pay for your own raise though your productivity. Talk dollars. This will take some figuring on your part, but I'll bet if you can help analyze the bottom-line improvement you'll be able to make to the business over, say, a year or three, he might be willing to build some performance incentives or guaranteed salary increases into your package.

One caution: there's a difference between incentives and salary increases. One is part of your base and one isn't. That affects other things, like life insurance benefits, pension contributions, etc. If you work out a 'future increase' deal, make sure the criteria are simple, clear, easy to measure objectively, and in writing.

I think you have someone here who's willing to play ball, if you do the work to come up with some options that are honestly good for both of you. Realize that he really may face limits on what he can spend. But his indication that your long-term happiness is important suggests he sees you there for the long term. So think and plan for the long term, and help him do so, too.

Negotiating doesn't have to be done across an adversarial table. You can sit down and hash through a deal like partners. "We're going to be married, essentially, if I take this job. So let's sit down like a married couple and work out a budget -- my salary and your profitability -- that we're both going to be happy with years down the road." That might sound overly candid, but I don't think there's enough candidness in the world of business.

Use your best judgment, but work with him on this. And help him to work with you.

The Headhunter


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