Negotiating Your Salary

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The salary question can be an awkward part of the job search process. The name of the game is negotiation. Salary is not always predetermined and many employers have some flexibility to negotiate salary. Because individual performance and experience differs, you should attempt to establishYOUR value in the eyes of the employer rather than accept their first offer. Remember, the salary you receive today will influence your future earnings because yearly salary adjustments will be figured as a percentage of your base salary.

Salary Tips

  1. NEVER discuss salary until the end of the interviewing process when they have definitely said they want you. Why? Because, if you really shine during the hiring process, the employer may be more determined to gain you as an employee and offer you a higher salary then you expected. Convince the employer of your worth!
      Example Responses

    • Situation 1 – Employer asks, “What kind of salary are you looking for?”“Until you have decided you definitely want me, and I have decided I definitely could help you with your tasks here, I feel any discussion of salary is premature.”
    • Situation 2 – When an employer demands an answer
      “I will gladly come to that but could you first help me to understand what this job involves.”

      “If you don’t mind, I would rather address the salary question after I’ve had a chance to learn more about this position.”

    • Situation 3 – If you find yourself having to give an answer, give a salary in terms of range

      “I am looking for a salary in the range of $35,000 to $45,000.” Occasionally you could be interviewed by an employer who is not able to consider a salary range – their beginning figure is their ending figure and no negotiation is possible.

  2. The purpose of salary negotiation is to uncover the highest salary the employer is willing to pay you. Typically, employers start lower than they are ultimately willing to pay, thus creating a range. Remember you and the employer have different goals – the employer’s goal is to save money and yours is to be hired for as much as possible. It’s important to consider what the job is worth to you. It’s possible that starting out, you might want to choose to gain needed professional experience over holding out for a few more thousand dollars in salary.
  3. During the salary discussion, try never to be the first one to mention a salary figure. Whomever mentions a salary figure first, generally “loses”. Try to be in the stronger negotiating position.Example Response“Well, since you created this position, I am assuming you must have some figure in mind, and I am interested in knowing what that figure is.”
  4. Before you go to the interview, do some careful homework on how much you will need if offered the job. Make out a detailed outline of your estimated expenses now – your minimal survival salary. Research typical salaries for your field and/or that organization. If you don’t do your research, it will cost YOU in the end!!!
  5. Define a range that the employer has in mind, and then define an inter-related range for yourself. Find out the least amount the employer is willing to offer you, and the highest amount the employer is willing to offer you. To determine the general range the employer is willing to offer you, try to determine what the people above you and below you make.

You can:

  • Find out names of the people in those positions.
  • Seek out nearest competitors in the same geographical area.
  • Then, define your own range accordingly with your minimum just below the employer’s maximum.

Example questions and responses

  • “What is the normal range in your company for a position such as this?”
  • “What should be the normal salary range for someone with my qualifications?”
  • “My expectations are between … and ….”
  • “The … I’ve read indicate that the salary for the position of … in this industry and region is between … and … Since I have extensive experience in all areas you outlined. Taking everything into consideration – especially my skills and experience and what I see as my future contributions here – I really feel a salary of … is fair compensation.

Before You Close the Deal

Salary negotiations are not finished until you have addressed the issue of fringe benefits. Fringe benefits can add anywhere 15% to 28% to workers’ salaries. Fringe benefits may include:

  • Health, life, dental, disability, malpractice insurance
  • Insurance for dependents
  • Sick leave
  • Vacation
  • Personal leave/personal days
  • Educational leave
  • Educational cost reimbursement for coursework related to the job
  • Maternity and or/parental leave
  • Health leave to care for dependents
  • Bonus system or profit sharing
  • Stock options
  • Expense accounts for entertaining clients
  • Dues to professional clients that the employee generates
  • Organizational memberships
  • Parking
  • Automobile allowance
  • Relocation costs
  • Sabbaticals
  • Professional conference costs
  • Time for community service
  • Flextime work schedules
  • Fitness center membership
  • Know what benefits are particularly important to you, then ask what benefits are offered and negotiate if necessary for the benefits important to you.
  • Achieve some understanding regarding their policy on future raises.
  • You don’t have to accept a salary offer immediately. It is perfectly acceptable to ask to consider the offer over a 48-hour period. Don’t be afraid to say “I need a little more time, to think about this.”

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Is the offer fair?
  • Can you do better?
  • What are the other employers offering for comparable positions?
  • And in the end, always have a summary of your salary negotiation in writing by requesting a letter of agreement or employment contract from your employer.

Bolles, Richard, N. What Color is Your Parachute? Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2005.
Krannich, Caryl and Ron Krannich. Interview for Success: A practical guide to increasing job interviews, offers, and salaries. 8th ed. Manassas Park, VA: Impact Publications, 2003.