I don’t care what your mother told you. Being polite is not always the best way to get what you want.
It’s true! There are times in life when rudeness rules. When a raise or a promotion or a job offer comes your way, don’t immediately fall to your knees and start kissing the cuffs of the nearest HR professional. And don’t start blubbering and babbling about how grateful you are that, at last, someone has saved you from a life of day-old bread and government cheese.
Remember: It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, and when it comes to salary, you definitely want to get greased.
Of course, not everyone is a brilliant negotiator. That’s why you need Matthew DeLuca, the author of “Perfect Phrases for Negotiating Salary and Job Offers: Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases to Help You Get the Best Possible Salary, Perks or Promotion.”
I discovered Mr. DeLuca’s long-winded title in an article by Dona DeZube on Monster.com. Titled “Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary,” DeLuca and DeZube are delightfully forthright in advising that you play hardball. “This is going to show you’re astute in dealing with the outside world,” Mr. DeLuca insists, and I guess we have to trust him, though in this economy, putting the brakes on any opportunity may be easier when you have a large trust fund.
“Thanks — is this a firm job offer?” is the first question you want to ask if you think you’ve been actually offered a job. In response, the hiring manager may think you are crazy, or deaf, so be prepared to explain that a loser like you can’t believe anyone would hire a loser like you. If this makes for an uncomfortable moment, you can default to the traditional response of sobbing uncontrollably and repeatedly asking, “Really? You’re really hiring me? Really? Cross your heart and hope to die?”
An appropriate response to a specific salary offer is to ask, “Is this base only?” I like this gambit, but it seems a little too subtle. Better to be forthright and ask if the money you are being offered represents your weekly or your monthly salary. If the hiring manager responds it’s what they intend to pay you for an entire year, just lean back and laugh. “That’s pretty funny,” you say. “For a moment there, I thought you were serious.”
“Never accept a job offer on the spot” is a piece of advice that might seem counter-intuitive to someone who has been looking for work since the No. 1 position on MTV countdown was held by “Wham!” Still, Mr. DeLuca insists that you’ll be “perceived as more effective if you’re thoughtful.”
It is impressive to ask for more time to consult your horoscope, or to throw the I. Ching, but the expert recommends you never, ever ask for more time because “you need to discuss it with your spouse — you want to appear confident and capable of making a decision on your own.” If you think this is a good idea, you obviously have a lot of confidence, and you obviously have never been married. I’d suggest you handle the situation with a little misdirection. “I do want to discuss this with Buster,” you could say. “He’s my pet marmoset. When it comes to career issues, Buster is never wrong.”
Asking to get the offer in writing is just good common sense. And because there’s nothing worse than quitting a job, and finding that your new job offer is nothing more than a blank piece of paper, make the hiring manager promise not to use invisible ink.
“What is the start date?” is a trick question, and you should be prepared to answer it intelligently. Your new employer will want you to start immediately, which Mr. DeLuca says you shouldn’t do. I disagree. Demonstrating that you are a person with a weak moral character, and no sense of loyalty, who will do anything for money, should get you a promotion before you even begin work.
You are also advised to get a firm grip on your benefits and when they will start. Be demanding. Start your vacation on the first day you’re supposed to report to work. That way, if you get fired when you get back, you’ll already have had all your vacation. And don’t forget to demand free psychiatric care. Anyone who accepts your new job for your new salary has got to be crazy.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.