Alumni

Career Management

Salary Negotiations

Prepared by John Arany, Career Counselor
Adapted from Monster.com, Salary.com, Jobstar.org, and Employment360.com

At some point in your job search, usually in the later stages of the job interview, the topic of salary will come up. It is important that you thoroughly research salary information and trends so you can communicate with confidence and enthusiasm about the value you bring to the organization, and your worth in the market place. Negotiating effectively can be worth many thousands of dollars to you over the course of your career, and provide you with "peace of mind" that you are being fairly compensated. By following the process described below and understanding important issues related to salary, you will be better prepared to discuss salary and more likely to obtain a successful outcome.

Step 1

Research Salaries: "What am I worth in today's employment market?"

Before you enter any salary negotiation, you need to know what the current market rates are for the job you seek and for someone with your qualifications. Although salaries vary widely by industry, size and type of employer, geographic location and the individuals' education, related experience and skill sets, the following web site should help you prepare for this important discussion:

www.MonsterTrak.com: The new, improved and very user friendly "Salary Center" on MonsterTrak.com (powered by salary.com) is an excellent source of salary information for recent college graduates and experienced professionals in all fields. The "Salary Wizard" link provides up-to-date salary ranges based on job category, job title, and location. Other features allow you to compare the salary obtained on "Salary Wizard" to national averages, other locations, and related jobs. The "Cost of Living Wizard" link compares cost of living and salary data to give you a net loss or net gain on your possible relocation to another city.

Remember to research salary information from professional organizations that represent your field. Attend professional association meetings or trade shows, and participate in online message boards to compare duties and responsibilities, staff size, etc. Investigate the opportunities for job seekers with your qualifications in various companies, different sectors and even different industries. Talk with recruiters and competitors at job fairs to get up-to-date salary information for your field.

This type of networking is the key to getting fresh information. There's no better way to assess how you're doing than to schmooze with other professionals. Identify people who have the same position you have or want. When networking, make sure you are professional and tactful. Don't ask people, "How much do you make?" and expect a civil answer. Instead ask them, "Does this range sound right for this kind of job in this kind of company?" Chances are they'll reply either: "Wow! Where do you work and how can I join you?" or "Well, that seems low for someone with your experience and level of responsibility." When you combine their comments with the salary information you already have, you'll have a better idea of how you want to approach your salary offer.

Step 2

"What is the minimum salary I would accept?"
"What is the top salary I should shoot for?"

It will take a lot of soul searching and effort to determine the minimum salary you would be willing to accept that is consistent with job market realities and the standard of living that you want. It is important for you to know what salary would be unacceptable in this negotiation. Although you are going to set a minimum salary, there are many other factors to consider like those mentioned below in Stage VIII "Look Beyond Salary," so be flexible. However, it is important to have a starting point.

Your top salary should fall at or above the 75% (75th percentile) of salaries offered for a specific position and reflect above average qualifications for the job. Make sure you are competitive at this salary level!

Now that you have a salary range in mind, review the following steps and develop a strategy that will work for you.

Step 3

"What do I do when an employer requests salary information?"

Most experts advise that when an employer asks you for your salary requirements in an ad or on a job application, you should indicate that salary is "negotiable." Or, if you're asked to provide current salary, to respond with, "Will discuss during interview." In the highly competitive employment market of today, this can be a risky strategy. By failing to provide information requested by the employer to aid in their screening process, you may be automatically disqualified from further consideration at the beginning of the hiring process. On the other hand, if you do provide a salary range, you may be too high or too low to satisfy the employer, and you will be rejected. There really is no good answer to this dilemma.

Since most companies have a salary structure for their organization with a range in mind for a specific job, you should consider communicating a well-researched salary range that would be the basis of salary and benefit negotiation. This strategy may enhance your chances of obtaining the interview and moving forward in the hiring process.

Step 4

"How do I communicate my value to the employer?"

This issue is the heart and soul of your interview. You must excel in the interview, and be able to communicate the results you can help the employer achieve. This requires extensive preparation.

If you are successful at this, you will have more substance to your salary requirements and be able to push for the top of your salary range.

Step 5

"Who should mention salary first?"

Never initiate salary discussions in an interview. Wait for the interviewer to bring the subject up, even if it's postponed to a second interview. Employers usually know the best time in the process to initiate salary discussions and you will know if it is the right time for you. If it feels too early, stall the question of salary with a polite response until you have had a proper chance to establish your value to the employer.

Step 6

Aim for 'Win-Win.'

Your "mind set" is important when approaching the interview and salary negotiations. Seek a win-win agreement with a new employer. This helps build a positive relationship between you, the interviewer, and the company; and could save you from a lost offer if you hold out for the maximum. Simply put, don't be greedy!

Approach salary negotiation in a friendly and constructive manner. Try and be calm and relaxed. The fundamental objective is for both parties to the salary negotiation to be satisfied with the outcome. To achieve this, you need to anticipate the employer's needs as well as your own, such as budget constraints, the need to fill the vacancy and the competitiveness of the whole compensation package. Once you understand the employer's needs, you can then match these to your own needs.

Step 7

"What do I do when an initial offer is made?"

Always assume the offer is negotiable. Make sure you understand the complete salary and benefit package available to you. If you have any questions or concerns, this is the time to clarify elements of the offer.

Avoid comparisons to your current salary. You're negotiating the strengths you'll bring to the new position, not past salary.

If the salary offer is too low, remain quiet and relaxed, as if you are considering the offer. The silence can work to imply that you are unhappy with the offer and in many cases will prompt the employer to increase the offer. This silent negotiation tactic can be very powerful, at the same time it helps avoid conflict.

Don't feel obligated to accept an offer on the spot. Express strong interest, but state that you always evaluate important decisions carefully. Negotiate a date when you'll contact the interviewer with your decision. At this stage of the hiring process, you have some "power" to leverage to your advantage. Remember, they want you out of all of the candidates!

However, if you are happy with the offer, take it!

Step 8

Look Beyond Salary

Discuss benefits separately from salary. If possible, find out what benefits are available to you from the company's web site or their human resources department prior to interviewing. Then you will be in a position to discuss what benefits are available to you. Increasingly, the salary component is one of many parts of the compensation package. Understand the relative value to you of all aspects of the compensation package being offered and keep the salary element in context. If the salary does not meet your expectations, you can always suggest changes within the overall compensation package to meet your own needs and help the employer to stay within budget. Many of the items listed below can be negotiated. The company's benefits may include:

  • Relocation expenses
  • Signing bonuses
  • Help with student loans
  • Insurance (life, health, disability, dental, vision, etc.)
  • Retirement programs, 401k and related programs
  • Stock options
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • An expense account
  • A heath club membership
  • Use of a company car
  • Vacation time, family time, personal leave and sick time
  • Special working conditions
  • Telecommuting
  • Employment contracts
  • Terms of departure, before the job begins
  • Outplacement services upon termination

Step 9

Consider future earning potential

If, for whatever reason, you are unable to agree on a salary, but the job still appeals to you, you should ask about salary increases (annual cost of living, performance based, etc.) and how often salary is reviewed. You may be able to negotiate a salary review in 6 months instead of the customary 1year review. This will help you decide if it would still be worthwhile for you to accept the job offer.

If the job will advance your career by providing valuable experience and improve important skill sets, it may be worth accepting the job in order to increase your future earning potential.

Step 10

Conclusion

If all of this seems like an incredible amount of work, it is! It's worth it to maximize your salary and benefits and to position yourself for future advancement. No one else can do this for you. Good luck!

Sources of Additional Information:

These sites provide salary negotiation strategies and tips. You may also want to conduct a search on www.google.com for "salary negotiation" information or log on to the Monster's Salary Negotiation message board.

Your feedback is important to us. Please send your comments and suggestions regarding this article to john.arany@csun.edu.

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