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Congratulations on your job offer! Now it’s time to make sure employers really know what you are worth and ace the negotiation process, and the best way to do this is to understand your BATNA. The reason for this is that it ensures that you walk away with an agreement that’s beneficial to you and the company.

What is a BATNA?

BATNA stands for your Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement. It was developed by negotiation experts Roger Fisher and William Ury at Harvard University in their seminal book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. It’s an exercise to help you understand what salary and expectations you are aiming for and how to leverage when you don’t get what you ask for. 

To get started, you need to know your BATNA. This includes:

  • Your ideal salary;
  • What you would be willing to accept if you don’t receive your ideal salary;
  • What your bottom line is that you will say no to.

Your Ideal Salary

To be more likely to achieve your ideal salary, you need to do a bit of research beforehand including:

  • Common salaries for your industry and role - What are the common salaries for your industry and role, and if possible what are the salary levels for the organisation you are considering joining? What was your previous salary?
  • The company’s needs - How many people are they hiring for each role? Do they have a high need for each person? Do you have a specialist skillset the company are desperate to recruit for?

In discussions, remember to start by introducing a higher number that your ideal salary as it’s much more likely that the returning offer will be closer to your ideal figure. Alongside this, you’ll also need to use your research to show your value to the company, backed up by evidence. There are three ways to introduce the reasons why you’ve come to your value:

  • Equity-based fairness: You should be paid what your skills and experience are worth.
  • Equality-based fairness: You should be paid the market rate for your career and level.
  • Needs-based fairness: You should be paid to make sure you can work at the organisation with ease (although this method should be adopted with caution as it doesn’t take the employer into consideration).

Your Bottom Line

What’s the absolute lowest figure you will consider? This is only in terms of salary. To come to this conclusion think about:

  • Cost of living - how much money do I need to live on a day-to-day basis and get to work? What was my previous salary? - it may be that a pay cut is ok if you are changing careers or you are going into a sector that pays less, e.g. from a corporate to the charity sector. 

Having a bottom lines means that if the hiring manager does offer you an amount that’s lower you can ask for more, for example: “I really do feel that £X amount is more appropriate given my skill level and the value I’ll bring to the position and organisation. Can we work toward arriving closer to that number?” And if this is not accepted then you know how and what to bargain for using your ‘what you would be willing to accept if you don’t receive your ideal salary.’

What You Would be Willing to Accept if You Don’t Receive Your Ideal Salary

Here’s where you should come up with some alternatives for a lower salary. They may include working from home a few days a week, especially if you have and long and expensive commute, extra holiday, or the ability to re-negotiate your salary after 6 months. 

Knowing and being able to articulate this desired alternative means that you know when to say no to a job offer, when to keep looking or to stay in your current role. You’ll be better equipped to take the time to make your case and not rush through what can sometimes be an intimidating discussion.

The Company’s BATNA

At the same time, the company you are applying for will also have a BATNA and the area between the two BATNAs is known as the “Zone of Possible Agreement (ZOPA).” Recognising what this is immediately puts a negotiation into a manageable scope and will make analysing offers easier.

You could work towards potential figures with a better understanding of how much time your potential employer has devoted to to finding, interviewing and hiring candidates. As you did with your own ideal salary, you can also research how much others in the company at the same level with the same skills and job titles are getting paid. Do you have skills that are hard to find? If this is the case, think about whether there are lots of other candidates they can choose from, or are you their only option? Are they likely to start the hiring process again instead of choosing you? All these questions can help you figure out your potential employer’s BATNA.

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