Salary Negotiation – Insider Information, Tips, Q&A


Increasing your salary is often the primary motivating factor in searching for another job. A successful salary negotiation strategy requires that you understand several key issues. You must have a realistic expectation of the appropriate salary for the position, given your geographic location, skill set, and level of responsibility. You must also understand the total value of the compensation package, where benefits and other forms of compensation can account for as much as 30% of the total value.

Additionally, the employer must recognize the value you bring to his or her company. Discuss your skills and abilities with a prospective employer and demonstrate how they match the requirements of the position. Describe how your accomplishments reflect your ability to make a positive impact on the company. The more you convince an employer of your potential value to the company, the more leverage you will have in negotiating a higher salary.

Determining What You’re Worth

The first step in determining an appropriate salary is researching competitive salaries for your geographic location, skill set, position, and level of responsibility. There are several resources available for gathering this information. Utilize each of the following tools and compare results to determine an appropriate salary range for your position.

Salary Finder

Salary Finder is a good tool for discovering the appropriate salary for your position. In Salary Finder you can create a salary report for your job based on geographic location. Select your job category and specific job type. Verify that the position matches your responsibilities, select the appropriate geographic location and create a salary report. This report will give you an approximate salary range for your position.

Additional Research

Perform research using the Internet or your local library. Many job Web sites have salary estimators based on job category and location. You can also use your favorite Internet search engine to search for “Salary Survey,” which will lead to other resources for regional and national salary information. Your local library has resources such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Department of Labor, salary comparison articles published in local and national magazines, and career or trade publications which sometimes include salary surveys by career or industry.


If you cannot find salary information on your career field, then begin networking. Ask colleagues in your field, former employers, members of professional associations, hiring managers, employment recruiters, state employment services, and headhunters what salary would be appropriate for your location, position, level, and skill set.

Providing Salary History and Salary Requirements

Some employers begin with salary questions early in the job search by asking for salary history and salary requirements before your interview. These employers want to determine if your salary requirements fit into the salary range allotted for this position. If they make this request, you must decide whether to disclose this information.

In most cases, providing salary history or requirements prior to your interview is not to your advantage. If you provide your salary requirements, you run the risk of pricing yourself out of the job, or setting a salary figure well under what they would have been willing to offer you.

Before discussing salary you want the opportunity to sell yourself, your skills, your capabilities, and your experience. You want to elevate an employer’s interest in hiring you and maximize your potential value before negotiating the salary you deserve.

If a job listing requests that you provide salary information, you can either:

·     Choose to overlook it and not address the issue of salary. Generally, if an employer is impressed with your qualifications, you will not harm your chances for an interview by leaving out salary information.

·     State in your cover letter that you are confident their salary range is fair and competitive, but you would prefer to discuss salary during your interview. Divert the emphasis from the subject of salary to how important it is to find the right fit with the right company, and stress how excited you are to have the opportunity to interview with them.

If the company insists that you provide salary requirements, offer a broad range of acceptable figures based on your research as to what a fair salary would be. This will let a company know whether or not you are in their acceptable range, and give you some room to negotiate. Be sure that the low end of the range is a figure you’ll be happy with, not just the minimum amount you would accept.

Delaying the Salary Negotiation

The most important salary negotiation technique to employ is delaying all discussion of salary until the end of the interview, after you have had a chance to sell the employer on your qualifications. Use your interview to position yourself as the best candidate for the job and maximize your perceived value to the employer.

If the topic of salary comes up too early in the interview or job search process, try using one of the following strategies to delay a discussion of salary until you’ve had a chance to prove yourself.

When asked about salary before you are ready to discuss, then choose one of the following statement to assist in a response:

·    An appropriate salary can be worked out after you’ve demonstrated how your qualifications would benefit the organization.

·    You would need to learn more about the requirements of the position and job responsibilities before discussing salary.

·    Money is not the most important issue. Instead, you would prefer to focus on whether you are a good fit for the position and the organization. If there is a good match, then you are certain a fair compensation package can be achieved.

·    You have researched the appropriate salary ranges for your career field based on your level of experience and geographical area. You are simply seeking a fair and competitive salary.

·    If once they agree that your qualifications are a match for the position, then simply ask them to extend you an offer. You would consider any offer seriously and would need some time to evaluate the overall compensation package.

Learning the Employer’s Salary Range

Wait for the interviewer to begin a salary discussion. If an employer asks you what kind of salary you’re looking for, avoid stating a specific figure. Tell the interviewer that you are looking for a salary that is appropriate for your skill set and experience and that you are confident that together a fair compensation package can be negotiated. See if you can turn the question around and discover what budget the company has allocated for the position.

When negotiating salary, keep in mind that most companies fall into one of the following categories when setting the appropriate salary for a given job opening:

·    Open Range – there is no set salary for this position, and compensation will be entirely based on the candidate’s skills, abilities, experience, and what he or she can bring to the job. For these positions, negotiate as high a salary as possible.

·    Set Range – the salary for this position will fall in a particular range. Candidates will be evaluated based on skills, abilities, and experience to determine where in the range they fall. For these positions, justify why you deserve a salary at the higher end of the range as part of your negotiation process.

·    Set Budget – the salary for this position is set to a particular dollar amount. If you find yourself in this position, then negotiate for additional benefits or other forms of compensation such as vacation time, a car allowance, or a signing bonus.

Starting a Salary Negotiation

Once an employer is convinced you are the best person for the job, it is time to talk salary.

Ask for a Range or Budget

Ask the employer what salary range has been budgeted for the position. If the interviewer offers a salary range, then take the higher of the figures and explain that this figure seems to be in your range.

Provide Your Salary History

If, in the past, you have been compensated at or above the fair market value for your position, and you are not seeking a large increase in salary, then it is safe to provide your previous salary history to a future employer. Be sure to factor in all the financial components of your previous compensation packages when setting salary ranges. For example, “The range of my compensation package during the last three to five years in this career field has been between $___ and $___.”

Share Research on Fair Market Value

Inform your employer that you have researched the competitive and fair market salary for this position given the responsibilities, skills required, and geographical area. Share a range of figures with your future employer. Describe why your abilities and qualification place you at the high end of this range. For example, “My research shows that a fair market value and competitive salary for this position is in the range of $___ to $___. Because of my expertise in ____________ field and ________ years experience, I will fall into the high-end of this range.”

Salary Negotiation Tactics

It is usually in your best interest for the employer to mention a salary figure first. On the other hand, you do not want to appear evasive. Once a salary range has been established and is on the table for discussion, consider the following tactics to negotiate a better offer.

Remain Silent

One of the best tactics is not to express your response to an offer. If the offer does not excite you, then simply remain silent. A few seconds of uncomfortable silence may convey that you are not entirely pleased with the offer, and prompt the employer to offer more.

Build the Responsibilities of the Job

Illustrate how the job responsibilities of the position will have a significant impact on the bottom line of the company and your performance of these duties will far exceed the employer’s expectations, but also warrant a higher salary.

Build your Contribution

Demonstrate in tangible terms what you are able to contribute to the organization and forecast the success you will achieve in the position and explain how this clearly justifies a higher salary.

Ask for Flexibility in the Budget

One straightforward approach is to ask the employer if there is any flexibility in the amount budgeted for the position.

Ask for Fair and Competitive Salary

Appeal to the employer’s sense of fairness. Use your market research data, previous salary history, and competitive job salaries at nearby companies to reinforce that you are only looking for a fair and competitive salary.

Ask for Additional Benefits

If all else fails, then consider requesting an earlier review cycle (three or six months) where a performance-based salary increase would be considered or ask that additional benefits be included in your compensation package, such as a car allowance or stock options.

Remember that it is important for a salary negotiation to be a win-win situation for both parties. You never want to appear greedy or confrontational. Additionally, keep in mind that an employer may sometimes prefer to leave room at the high end of the budget range to allow for future performance-based raises.

Reviewing the Offer

Most employers want to provide a fair compensation package to their employees. This decreases employee turnover and saves money in the long run, as hiring and training new employees can be expensive. When you receive an offer, tell your potential employer you need a day or two to review the offer, even when you are eager to accept. Never accept a position right away. If an employer thinks that you are the best candidate for the position, a hesitation to accept right away may prompt them to increase the offer. Study the compensation package and decide if it meets your requirements. Remember, you are looking for a package that is fair for both parties.

If the overall package is too low, submit a counter-offer. Use the information you have gathered about salaries for your position and reasons why you are more qualified than other candidates to make a case for a higher figure. If the salary is not negotiable due to company policy or budget cycle, try to negotiate for improvements in other components of the compensation package.

Considering the Total Compensation Package

Salary is not the only component of your total compensation package. There are other factors to consider, some with a clear “financial” value and others that provide a “quality of life” value. Additional financial factors can comprise up to 30% of your total compensation package, so consider these factors when determining the overall value of your compensation package.

Additional Financial Factors

·    Health and medical insurance, which can include dental and vision coverage

·    Life or disability insurance coverage

·    Bonuses: signing, end-of-the-year, performance, or attendance based

·    401(k) plans and contribution matching

·    Tuition reimbursement for work-related training or education

·    Day care for younger children

·    Health club memberships

·    Company car allowances

·    Cellular phone allowances

·    Counseling or legal assistance

·    Maternity or paternity leave

·    Stock options or grants

·    Relocation packages

·    Shorter performance review cycles

                (3 months/6 months)


Quality of Life Factors

·    Amount of vacation, holiday or personal absence days

·    Flexible work hours

·    Telecommuting options that allow you to work from home one or more days a week

·    Rapport with and fellow employees

·    Enjoyment of work

·    Hours per week required

·    Amount of travel required

·    Workplace environment

·    Professional recognition

·    Career advancement opportunities

·    Location of company

·    Commuting time

Common Salary Negotiation Mistakes to Avoid

Here are five common salary negotiation mistakes you should avoid at all costs:

·    Discussing salary requirements in your cover letter, resume, or too early in the interview.

·    Accepting an offer too quickly. You should take at least 24 hours to review the offer before accepting.

·    Understating or not clearly understanding how your skills and abilities will benefit the company. You need this information to justify your value to the company.

·    Declining an offer because you didn’t factor in the value of the benefits package or “quality of life” benefits.

·    Being unprepared to counter arguments that the company can’t afford to pay the salary you are asking or to negotiate for additional benefits.

Salary Negotiation - Tips

Throughout your job search, you should seriously consider several questions about your financial value and future income. What, for example, are you worth? How much should you be paid for your work? How can you best demonstrate your value to an employer? Salary negotiation is something that hiring managers are usually more experienced in than the people they hire. In the interest of leveling the playing field, here is a list of tips for salary negotiation.

1. Maximize your past experience.

Understand what you have achieved. Bring your past experiences to the table as a tool when negotiating for your salary.

2. Make a list of what you have to offer.

Know what you have to offer an employer. Make a list of your skills, abilities, talents, and knowledge. Be prepared to show your employer what value you bring to the company.

3. Make the employer’s time schedule work to your advantage.

Find out how quickly they need to fill this position and how many candidates they are considering. If this position is a crucial function that needs to be filled quickly, and you are the only candidate with the necessary qualifications, this will give you additional negotiating power.

4. Wait for an offer.

Delay discussing salary until you’ve been offered the position.

5. Demonstrate excitement for the job.

First, make sure you want the job and are excited about the job, then let the employer know that you are very interested, but that you are hesitating because the compensation package is below what you deserve.

6. Do not bring personal needs into the discussion.

Don’t discuss the monetary needs for your family or the cost of living. This will not get you very far in most cases.

7. Know your absolute bottom line.

Know what your minimum salary range must be to support the life you want to live. Although it is not advisable to bring this up in the interview, you will need to know what your absolute bottom figure is. Any figure you propose to a hiring manager should be slightly higher than your absolute bottom figure.

8. Be prepared with salary options.

Come up with three salary figures for yourself: the lowest amount that you would accept, an offer that would make you smile, and one that would be all that you could ask for. Provide a salary range to employers that is between your middle and high figures.

9. Remember that the employer has a budget.

Understand that most employers have a range in mind (a budget for the position) and will actually start at the low end of that budget to give themselves some negotiating room. This does not mean they will try to pay you less than you deserve, but they are leaving it up to you to demonstrate your value.

10. Let the employer bring up salary first.

When asked directly what your salary requirements are, consider a response such as “I would consider any reasonable offer.” If the salary question comes up too early, try side-stepping the issue with a statement such as, “I’m open to discussion about salary and compensation, but would like to wait and discuss salary after I understand more about the position and have demonstrated how my experience will be of great benefit to the company.”

11. Employers prefer candidates that negotiate.

Remember that potential employers often look upon negotiating for salary favorably. It reinforces the idea that they’ve made the right decision in offering you the position. It lets them feel confident that, because you can keep your best interests in mind, you can probably look after the best interests of the company as well.

12. Do your comparative salary research.

Know the going rate or fair market value for your position in your geographical area. Be prepared to discuss these figures based on your research once salary negotiation begins. Have a salary range in mind.

13. Understand the appropriate salary for your geographical area.

Salary ranges vary dramatically across the nation and even from rural to urban areas. Identify the salary range for similar positions in the geographical area you have targeted.

14. Be prepared to market yourself.

Emphasize the reasons why you are the best candidate for the position, and then anticipate potential weaknesses in your experience and be prepared to answer questions about those weaknesses that put you in the best possible light.

15. Be prepared to explain your salary history.

If your previous salary has been high, consider letting the employer know what you have been earning using a written salary history. If your previous salary was low, be prepared to explain how the additional benefits you enjoyed in that position compensated for a lower salary.

16. Anticipate the employer’s objections.

Anticipate that the employer will have objections to the salary range you want, because they can’t afford that figure, or they don’t think you’re worth that amount. Know in advance how you will overcome those challenges.

17. Make your salary discussion a friendly experience.

Assume amiability when discussing salary, not conflict or controversy. You should make the employer feel that you are on the same side and working together to find a compensation package that would satisfy everyone’s needs. Anticipate a win-win situation.

18. Dispute any doubts about your suitability for the position.

You will have the most influence if salary is the only source for hesitation. Make sure that there are absolutely no other concerns or doubts from your future employer that you are the best candidate for the position.

19. Justify your cost-effectiveness.

Try pointing out to the company how your abilities and experience will help reduce costs or increase revenue as a means to justify higher pay.

20. Remain calm and poised.

Once the offer has been made, and appears too low, remain quiet as though you were pondering the offer. This will imply your dissatisfaction with the offer and the uncomfortable silence may prompt the interviewer to improve his or her offer.

21. Get Creative.

If the company just can’t afford a higher salary, try asking for other benefits, a company car or allowances, bonuses, 3-6 month performance raises, stock options, profit sharing, vacation days, or temporary housing.

22. Be flexible.

Consider working fewer hours or on a consulting basis, maybe four days a week.

23. Consider other options and perks.

Sometimes companies offer one-time cash bonuses, or “hiring bonuses,” to help entice indecisive candidates. Propose this option as an alternative based on your qualifications.

24. Count on the future.

Remember that if your negotiation does not get you a higher salary (because of a fixed company budget), your employer may feel as if they are getting a good deal in hiring you, and be more willing to consider a higher salary during your next performance review.

25. Be prepared to walk away if necessary.

You can always walk away from the negotiating table if you just aren’t satisfied with the salary range and total compensation package.

Salary Negotiation - Questions & Answers


Q: How can I negotiate a better salary?


To negotiate a better compensation package you’ll have to sell yourself as the best possible candidate and then demonstrate why your qualifications justify a higher salary. First, sell yourself. Describe the unique skills you bring that other candidates can’t offer, and demonstrate how these skills add value to the company. Position yourself as having a skill set superior to candidates in similar positions with similar levels of responsibility. Before negotiating salary, do some research to determine the appropriate salary for your position based on geographic location, your position, level of responsibility, and skill set. Obtain information from several sources and compare the results to determine a range of acceptable salaries. Then use this information, and the unique skills you bring to the table, to justify a salary at the high end of this range.


Q: Why is my starting salary so important?


Your starting salary will determine the salary you’ll make in the future, since most companies base annual raises on a percentage of current salary, and because this salary will carry over to your next job as part of your salary history. If your next job bases their offer on your salary history, a higher starting salary now is to your advantage.


Q: Who should bring up salary?


It is in your best interest to have the employer bring up a salary figure or range first, and then discuss it in person, or at least over the phone.


Q: What other benefits should I ask for?


Salary is not the only important component of a compensation package. There are many other benefits that you should consider including health and medical coverage, vacation, car allowances, profit sharing programs, 401k matching, and stock option plans. If a salary negotiation is out of the question, then consider negotiating for additional benefits.


Q: When should a salary discussion start?


Salary negotiation should only begin after you have demonstrated how your skills, education, experience, and accomplishments qualify you as the best candidate for the position. Let your prospective employer bring up the topic of salary first.


Q: Aren’t employers in the driver’s seat when it comes to the job market?


Actually nobody is in the driver’s seat when it comes to the job market. It’s true that you need a good job, it’s also true that the employer needs good employees. They have a need and you have a need, so neither party has a real advantage.


Q: How should I respond to a Salary Requirements/History request?


It is best to avoid a discussion of salary until after you have been able to demonstrate your value to the company during an interview. If asked to provide salary information before an interview, or in the early stages of an interview, communicate that you would like to develop a more complete understanding of the requirements of the position before discussing salary. Then during your interview, determine what budget has been allocated for your position. If you feel that you must provide your salary requirements, research what a fair salary would be for your location, position, level of responsibility and skill set, and then provide a range of acceptable salaries based on this information.


Q: Should I accept a lower salary with the promise of an earlier performance review?


Your employer is asking you to prove yourself before granting you a higher salary. If you accept an offer of this nature, make sure the employer has identified the performance criteria that will be used to justify a higher salary and a specific time frame for the review to take place, usually three to six months.


Q: What is the salary range for my career?


There are many resources that enable you to identify what your salary range should be. ResumeMaker’s Salary Finder will provide a range of salaries based on your geographic location and position. You can also find information on the Internet in various career and job related Web sites, and at your local library in magazines and government publications. Your librarian can assist in finding sources for salary information.


Q: What if my current company counter-offers?


You should decide whether or not you would accept a counter-offer from your current employer before accepting an offer from another company. If you are only looking to change for salary reasons, you might consider discussing this with your current employer before initiating a job search. If there are other reasons for your decision to seek another job, you must decide what a counter-offer must contain to convince you to stay. If you are sure you want to leave your company, let your current employer know in your Resignation letter that a counter-offer would not change your mind. It is not recommended to use your current company’s counter-offer to negotiate salary with a new company. Playing two companies against each other may cause some backlash from both parties and you run the risk of losing both positions.


Q: What if my salary history is lower than the salary I am seeking?


It is reasonable to expect a salary increase when moving from one job to another. You have gained skills and experience on your current job that have added to your value as an employee and to the salary you can expect to command. If the salary you are seeking is much higher than your previous salaries, you must convince your prospective employer that you are worth this salary. Demonstrate how your skills and experience will add value to the company and contribute to the bottom line. Provide research that demonstrates the appropriate salary for the position you are applying for based on geographic location, your position, level of responsibility, and skill set.