In prepping practice interview questions for a client last week, I was struck by the very strange about-face everyone has to do while job hunting. The first steps of job hunting are all about selling yourself - in your resume, cover letters, and interviews, you want to present your best self, the one that fits the best for the position you’re seeking and has the best chance of being successful in that role. Yet as soon as you’ve done that successfully, and you’re made an offer for that position, you have to turn around and negotiate for yourself.
Now, I’m not saying that you should misrepresent yourself in application materials, or that you should be intractable when it comes to negotiating an offer, but I think for a lot of people, it’s a weird switch, to go from saying, “yes, I can definitely do that” in interview to “but what’s in it for me?” once they’ve been made an offer. Unfortunately, as a result, I think a lot of us try to hold back on negotiations because we don’t want to come off as difficult or not a team player.
For me, I’ve found one way to stop myself from underselling myself is to go into interviews assuming I’m going to get the job. Again, I don’t mean I go in acting cocky or entitled - really, the change came from my own experiences as an interviewer and manager. The fact of the matter is that no one interviews a candidate they don’t think they could hire. Interviews take a lot of time to organize and execute, so it’s just not worth the hiring manager’s time to interview a ‘meh’ candidate. I still go into interviews presenting my best self, but inside, I’m also noting the positives coming out of the interview that I can use once there’s an offer on the table to negotiate for myself. That I bring particular experiences or skills with me is both a selling point in the interview, and also an argument for why I deserve a good salary.
If you’re still finding it tough to negotiate for yourself, think of yourself as a salesman, and your product is you. Salesman are great at telling you why you need their product, but when it comes to price, there’s always a hard ask - depending on what you’re buying, they may even intentionally inflate the initial price, assuming you’re going to try to negotiate them down. The same goes for selling yourself - be prepared to sell yourself as the best fit, but also be prepared with a hard ask at the end.