Negotiating Salary and Job Offers

by Linda Rolie

Job seekers frequently seek answers to employment-related questions on a variety of career transition topics. The following information will help you feel confident about some salary negotiation strategies to apply that will get you the salary you deserve.

Getting the compensation your deserve
Remember, salary, benefits, and other compensation is always negotiable! Your salary should be determined by three important considerations: The job responsibilities, your experience and qualifications, and the fair market value for comparable jobs, not your current or former salary.

You can’t know what the job is worth unless you have sufficient information about the expectations of the position. A highly demanding job that includes extensive travel and long hours commands a higher salary than one that is 30 hours per week at a home-based office. The more you know about the job responsibilities, the more power you have to negotiate a higher salary. To increase your potential for higher earnings, you want to tie the conversation about the job responsibilities to your skills set, knowledge, and unique qualifications as much as possible. You should know the current labor market and salary range for the position. You can find salary surveys at the library, employment department, state economist, on the Internet, through professional organizations and vocational counselors, or by calling colleagues performing the job. Learn what other companies are paying for similar positions in order to negotiate the value of the job.

Defer discussing salary as long as possible
Postpone revealing any former, current, or desired salary information. A candidate’s current salary is the single most important factor an employer will use in determining what to offer, if it is to the company’s benefit. Since employers almost always have a “salary range,” disclosing your current or past salary may be to your disadvantage, enabling the company to offer the same salary and no more.

“One rule is: He/She who mentions a number first loses, or at least is at a disadvantage. When asked about your salary requirement during an interview, you have a couple of options: Defer the question until you know more about the job responsibilities, or put the ball back into the employer’s lap to reveal the company’s anticipated salary range.

Don’t reveal a bottom dollar
When asked about salary requirements, don’t reveal a bottom dollar. If you say, “a minimum of $X per hour, “you’ve sold yourself short if you discover that your colleague performing the same job earns more per hour. If you say a lower range figure, the employer may accept your low bottom in lieu of paying a higher dollar amount. The strategy is two-fold: First, hold your cards close and do not reveal former or desired salary information until after you get the employer to tell you what the company anticipates for the salary range. Second, get the employer to reveal as much information as possible about the job responsibilities. If you must discuss a figure, you want to state a figure about 15% higher than you would accept. You can always come down and the employer can always come up in price. But, if you start low, it is nearly impossible to go higher.

The question, “What salary are you looking for?” is a common question posed by employers during a job interview.

Possible responses may include:

“That is a good question and certainly we will want to discuss compensation. But, before we do, I would like to learn more about the job responsibilities and discuss whether my qualifications may be a fit.”

“Thank you for raising the question. I was wondering if you could discuss the company’s anticipated salary range for the position.”

About the salary range
When the employer reveals the salary range, consider whether the salary is acceptable or not.

Possible responses may include:

“Is that negotiable?” or, “Is that salary open for further negotiation? In light of my experience and qualifications, it appears to me that a comparable salary should be around $_____.”

“That is in the ballpark of what I was thinking. Of course, we will want to talk about benefits and other compensation.”