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Want a Higher Salary? Try FBI's Hostage Negotiator Tactics

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

So you're going to march into your partner's office to demand (OK politely request) more money.

You've been killing it on the billables, you are indispensible (at least in your mind) to this firm. But you better do your homework before you head in there. Enter Jim Hopkinson, author of Salary Tutor: Learn the Salary Negotiation Secrets No One Ever Taught You, who believes that you should be using FBI hostage negotiation tactics to negotiate a higher salary.

When you embark on the road towards salary negotiation, you need to keep in mind that the partner or HR director is akin to a lunatic in a bank vault.

Except that he or she is guarding the payroll budget.

You should be implementing paraphrasing, mirroring, and conveniently placed pauses into your raise request speech. Hopkinson, in an article he wrote for the Wall Street Journal, gives these examples:

HR Rep: "We think you're a great fit for the job, and we'd like to offer you a starting salary of $75,000."

You: "I see. So you're saying that the salary for this position would be $75,000." Then be silent.

How do you think an HR rep at a BigLaw firm would react to this? Or a partner at a small firm with a set budget?

Seeing as how very few associates are in the position to negotiate salaries, here are some possibilities:

HR Rep: blank stare.

HR Rep: "Oh look, you understand basic English."

HR Rep: "Is that too low for you? We've got another two hundred applicants."

To be fair, the article does list some useful skills, including gathering information, and staying calm. But it seems like unless you are the crème de la crème and offering some considerable skills, you may not be operating from a position of power in negotiations. At least not in this current job market.

But that doesn't mean you may not be able to implement such skills the next time salary is going to come up. After all, the days of over paying over hiring for BigLaw associates can't be that far off, can it?

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