“I’ve been out of work, but I think I will get an offer soon. Any tips for negotiating a salary?” – Cornell from Milwaukee, WI
First, congratulations for getting this far! You’ve obviously demonstrated to your potential employer that you have the skills, qualification and maturity for the job. When it comes to discussing your future salary, you want to be sure you don’t undersell yourself while also being careful not to negotiate your way right out of a position.
While this can be a tricky dance, the good news is that it’s one you can rehearse beforehand by being prepared for the different directions the conversation might take.
- Let the employer bring it up. Asking about salary too soon in the conversation may make the employer think you’re more concerned about money than the job itself. Whenever possible, let them propose the salary figure they had in mind and negotiate from there. If you’re cornered into talking first, propose a salary range and emphasize that it’s open for discussion.
- Know the average salary, not just for the position, but for the position in the region where you live. After all, $35,000 will go a lot further the rural Midwest than it will in the big city. Use sites like salary.com, payscale.com and glassdoor.com to research average salary amounts so you’ll know about how much you should be making in your field.
- Sell your skills. Come in prepared to explain why your skill set merits a higher salary if the initial offer was less than you were expecting. Highlight successes at a previous company and your potential to do the same for your new employer. Statistics can help you make your case; saying “I boosted sales at Company X by 25% in my first year and can do the same for you,” is more powerful than, “I know I can increase your sales.”
- Consider other benefits. Salary is just one piece of the benefits package. Find out about the company’s retirement plan, health care and dental packages, vacation policy and more – great benefits in these areas may compensate for a salary that’s slightly less than you would like.
- Be prepared for ‘no.’ Although many employers expect job candidates to negotiate salary requirements, some will be firm with their initial offer. Don’t feel pressured to make a decision right on the spot – thank them for their consideration and let them know you’d like a day or two to think about your options.
Talking about a starting salary with a prospective boss is a situation that makes most of us nervous, so don’t lose heart. A little preparation in advance can give you a substantial confidence boost heading into the conversation and could pay off big time in the form of a higher salary.