Salary Negotiation Tips

After months of sending resumes, making phone calls and going to interviews, you finally get the call you've been waiting for: "We'd like to offer you the job…"

You're thrilled, but there's one small problem — they don't want to pay you as much as you want.

How can you be prepared for salary negotiations?

Do your homework. Research what the expected salary ranges are for the jobs you are interested in before you negotiate. Assess a particular company/agency, the position applying for and the salary/benefits package offered. Salary range calculations should include what you want and what you need to live on. Keep in mind the lowest offer you can accept before looking elsewhere. Consider both the value of the job and your value as a potential employee. Join a professional organization in your field that can put you in touch with your peers. Network to find out the going rate. Contact your local chamber of commerce or take advantage of government-run "jobs and benefits" counseling centers (i.e. Oregon Employment Department or OLMIS-Oregon Labor Market Information System). Do this right away.

What if an employer asks for a "salary history" during the application process?

This is a history of what you earned at each of the jobs you have held. Generally it is advised against sharing such information with an employer. By providing a salary history it can eliminate you from some jobs and will greatly disadvantage you in any salary negotiations. It also gives the employer the opportunity to offer you less than they might otherwise if you don't tell them what you are earning.

You could respond to this type of question by stating that you will discuss it further with the employer at the time of interview. Generally if your background meets their criteria it is highly likely they will contact you anyway. However, by not listing a salary history, you need to be aware that some employers may eliminate you from consideration for their jobs. It's a catch twenty-two.

How should I respond to salary questions during an interview?

When you are asked about salary requirements during an interview, the employer is attempting to find out what your expectations are. Stating a specific amount at this point may block or interfere with further negotiations. One way to answer the question is to tell the interviewer that you will work for whatever is fair based on your qualifications and the company's standard level of pay for the position.

  • Know your facts
  • Don't expose your hand too soon
  • Negotiate

When do you start negotiations?

Wait until you have been offered the job before bringing up salary or benefits. Without an offer, you have no leverage. Decide whether you will benefit by asking a headhunter to help in the negotiations or just do it yourself. Once the company makes an offer, take a day or two to consider the proposal. If they offered lower than what you expected, tell them. But be prepared for them to reject any counter offers you propose. If that happens you have a couple of choices: take the job and the salary offered, counter with another proposal (if appropriate) or, keep looking.

What things are negotiable?

Be creative in your negotiations. Is it more important that you receive fewer stock options and more salary? Negotiate. If the salary isn't what you had hoped for but you'd be happy with half-day Fridays, that's okay too. What is the policy on yearly raises? Ask for an early review. Many times employers will agree to this because it gives them a chance to evaluate you as an employee before committing the big dollars. Remember not to push for more salary than is possible in your particular job market. What is the policy on vacation, sick leave and personal days? Does the company have insurance benefits? Since health and 401K benefits are not usually negotiable, ask for tuition waivers, guaranteed bonuses and relocation packages. Ask the company to pay for your parking or metro costs. Is there a childcare facility on site or reimbursement available for childcare expenses? How about automobile expenses or a company car? If you aren't able to get everything you want, can you get by with short-term compromises? In doing so, don't lose touch with your long-term goals.

Keep this in mind…

Salary negotiations are one of the most difficult and uncomfortable parts of the job search process. It's tricky to accomplish without underselling yourself or scaring off a great employer when you ask for the big bucks. The more research you do on smart negotiating tactics before your interview the better, it's time well spent.

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