by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Are you prepared handle salary and compensation negotiations whenever they arise during your job interivews? Are you confident in your ability to negotiate the best salary job offer? Then go take our Salary Negotiation, Compensation, and Job Offer Quiz to test your salary negotiation readiness before reading these answers.
And once you’ve reviewed these answers, don’t forget to go to our Salary Negotiation, Compensation, and Job Offer Quiz Scoring Guide to see where you stand on your preparedness for negotiating the best job offer.
- I have conducted a sufficient amount of research to know what I am worth (given my experience, skills, education, and geographic location) in the marketplace.
TRUE. Knowledge and information are the absolute power bases in salary negotiation, which is why employers are always attempting to determine your salary history and/or salary demands. Take the time to research salary levels, not only by job title, but by industry, by geographic location, by level of demand for job-seekers with your skills. Research the company’s salary practices.
- To get the best salary offer, I need to prove my value to the company in a way that leverages my skills and abilities over all other job-seekers.
TRUE. This strategy should be your goal the entire time you are job-hunting — to show you are uniquely qualified for the position. Once you are the final candidate, the higher your potential stock and the greater your potential impact (or at least perceived impact), the better job offer you will receive and/or negotiate.
- A good starting point when thinking of a new job is to try to negotiate at least a 20 percent increase over your current salary.
FALSE. Because salary is such a driving force behind so many job-seekers, it’s fairly easy to be blinded by the desire for a specific increase in pay from what you are currently making — and a much higher percentage than the typical employer awards in annual raises. However, you need to look beyond your current salary and focus on the demands of the new position — and base your decision on salary on sound research, not an emotional tug.
- If I really want the job offer — and I think the employer will make an offer — I should feel confident in raising the salary question first.
FALSE. Keep saying to yourself, the longer the salary discussion is put off, the better my negotiation power. When it is down to just you and the employer, you have much more power to command a better compensation package than earlier in the process where the employer still has other choices in your fellow job candidates. However, as we state in our Salary Negotiation Tutorial, you must be prepared for the salary discussion to arise at any time in the interview process — from the salary screening phone call (or request for salary requirements) to the final interview. Also remember that some employers take offense when a job-seeker appears too presumptuous (or worse, money-hungry) by asking about salary too early in the process.
- Going into any interview situation, I should have a strong idea of exactly the range of salary and types of benefits I want, given the company, industry, and type of job.
TRUE. It may sound a bit like a broken record, but we cannot emphasize enough that the rewards you’ll reap from spending some extra time conducting compensation research early in the job-search process. Each job and each company will have a different mix of salary ranges and benefits, depending on a number of factors — and you need to know those factors and know what to expect, what to negotiate, and what to accept.
- I should avoid giving direct answers to salary requirements or salary history when asked for them early in the interviewing process.
TRUE. Employers ask about salary history and salary requirements because that’s how they conduct their research on you – on what you’ve made in the past and what you expect to make in this next position. Try to delay any and all salary negotiations until the very end by avoiding these types of discussions. Be forewarned, though, that ignoring such an employer request may lead to your not being considered for the position, so tread carefully. Experts suggest masking your specific salary requirements by stating that “you expect competitive or fair compensation” or that your salary request is “flexible.” Read more in how to deal with this issue in our article, Responding to Requests for Salary Requirements or Salary Histories: Strategies and Suggestions.
- When the employer raises the issue of salary or compensation during the interview, it’s a good sign the company is interested in making me an offer.
FALSE. Obviously, the later in the interview process that this issue is brought up, the more true this statement becomes. Early in the interview process, however, interviewers simply raise the issue of salary to test your reaction and try and gain valuable information about you. Read more about how to deal with this issue at each stage of the interview process in our Salary Negotiation Tutorial.
- If the employer makes an offer that is acceptable to me during the interview, I should accept it on the spot to show my commitment to the company.
FALSE. No matter how great the offer, it is always better — as with any major life decision — to set it aside for some length of time and then review the offer objectively, away from the stare or glare of the interviewer. And if you have a significant other, it also makes sense to discuss the full offer with him or her. It’s also important to remember that your greatest salary negotiation leverage is the time between the initial offer and when you accept the offer. So, once back home — and after some reflection – if you determine you do want to see if the offer can be sweetened, you’ll have much better chances if you have not accepted the offer. Read more about this and other negotiation strategies in our article, Job Offer Too Low? Use These Key Salary Negotiation Techniques to Write a Counter Proposal Letter.
- I should always request getting the full job offer — the entire compensation package — in writing before making a final decision.
TRUE. All reputable employers want you to have full information about a job compensation package before you make your final decision. Why would an employer want to hide information, just to end up with a disgruntled new employee, who brings down the morale of coworkers and others? Be extremely wary of prospective employers who will not put the complete offer in writing. One trick some experts recommend for job-seekers when the employer will not put the details in writing is for you to write a follow-up letter to the employer outlining the compensation package as you understand it. Finally, you should also feel free to ask questions about any parts of the job offer you don’t understand; get clarification when you need it.
- It’s almost always possible to negotiate some aspect of a job offer — if not salary, then other compensation benefits or incentives.
TRUE. Most studies show that a large majority of employers are flexible on at least some element of the compensation package — even if salary is “off the table.” On the other hand, these same studies show that only a small percentage of job-seekers actually try and negotiate a better job offer. Of course, there is some inherent risk of trying to negotiate with an employer who does not negotiate, but even in those situations, the offer is rarely rescinded. Just be sure you know the key rules of negotiating, as outlined in our article, Job Offer Too Low? Use These Key Salary Negotiation Techniques to Write a Counter Proposal Letter.
- Salary negotiation should be treated like buying a car — it’s all part of a game employers and job-seeker play.
FALSE. One of the worst mistakes a job-seeker can make is to think for a moment that salary negotiation is some kind of game, such as the haggling done when buying a car. Salary negotiation is a serious business that can have a major impact on your future earnings, but it has to be taken seriously and entered with the correct attitude and frame-of-mind. Approach salary negotiation with a win-win philosophy; that is, the best negotiated offer is one where both the employer and job-seeker are happy with the results.
- Even if the job I am offered is my dream job, if the salary offer is below my minimum acceptable amount, I should decline the offer.
FALSE. There are a couple of issues going on here. First, if the job really is your current dream job, then there may be some greater intangibles working here than just the salary. Second, if this position is a stepping-stone (perhaps in a career-change situation), then a lower salary might be acceptable in the short-term for the greater payoff expected in the next position. Finally, from a salary negotiation standpoint, you may be able to negotiate a higher starting salary – and if not a higher salary, perhaps some other forms of compensation, such as a signing bonus or higher performance bonuses. Read more about negotiable elements of a job offer in our article, Job Offer Too Low? Use These Key Salary Negotiation Techniques to Write a Counter Proposal Letter.
- If the employer makes an unacceptable job offer, I should be prepared to begin the negotiation phase immediately.
FALSE. Whether the offer is acceptable or not, emotions are typically more on edge during interviews, and your strategy should be to thank the employer for extending the job offer to you, and then asking for time to consider all aspects of the offer. It’s never a good idea to negotiate at the time of the initial offer. You’ll want the time to objectively look at the offer and decide whether it is even worth attempting to negotiate with the employer.
- If the negotiations seem stalled over one or more compensation issues, I should give the employer an ultimatum to finalize the negotiations.
FALSE. The proper tone for negotiations is always conversational, not confrontational. You should never make any kind of demands when negotiating; instead, make requests. And if the negotiations seem stalled, it may be a sign that the employer is done negotiating — see question 17 for more information. Read about other negotiating strategies in our article, Job Offer Too Low? Use These Key Salary Negotiation Techniques to Write a Counter Proposal Letter. Also review our Salary Negotiation Do’s and Don’ts.
- It is still possible for me to negotiate a better compensation package after accepting the employer’s original offer.
FALSE. Once you’ve accepted the offer, your negotiating power diminishes rapidly. You can certainly attempt to negotiate, but you’ll not only risk negotiating from a weak position, but you may also be seen as someone who is not true to your word or indecisive (or simply greedy) since you had accepted the original offer. As we mentioned earlier, your strategy, once an employer has made you an offer, is to thank the employer for the offer, express your interest and enthusiasm in the job and the company, but ask for time to review the specifics.
- To really get the compensation I want, I need to be a master negotiator.
FALSE. Perhaps this idea is the reason more job-seekers do not negotiate job offers. You risk very little, but have much to gain – in future compensation, retirement benefits, and various perks. Why spend all the time and effort to conduct the research on salary and benefit information, if not to use it to your benefit. Have confidence in yourself and your research. All you need to negotiate a job offer is to know the rules and etiquette of negotiating; you do not need to learn how to be a master negotiator. And there should be very little gamesmanship in negotiating, so it should not be intimidating or irritating, as negotiating to buy a car is for many. And remember, you have two options when negotiating, depending on your personal preferences and style; you can schedule a follow-up meeting and negotiate face-to-face, or, you can write a counter proposal letter.
- I know when it’s time to stop pushing and end negotiations.
TRUE. At least you had better know when it’s time to call an end to negotiations and either accept or decline the offer. What are some of the signs that the employer is done negotiating? During negotiations, the typical response to your counter proposal will either be acceptance of at least some of your terms — or refusal to negotiate at all. But once negotiations have successfully begun, here are the signs the employer is done negotiating:
- The employer has stopped responding to your counter proposals
- The employer’s concessions are becoming minuscule, if at all
- The employer says “enough!”
- It’s okay, if I have two or more job offers, to get all the prospective employers in a bidding war for my services.
FALSE. Remember that interviewing is kind of like dating. Both the employer and the job-seeker are testing the waters, deciding how much they like each other and whether chemistry is right. To bring another potential suitor into the mix is just asking for trouble. You run the risk of quickly losing stature in the eyes of all the employers who have an interest in you. Keep all negotiations separate. You can certainly tell employers you are talking with other companies — even as far as to say you are fielding offers — just do not go into specifics, and do not let the negotiations get messy.
- If the salary offer is in my minimal range, and I’m told that salary is “off the table,” I should consider asking for a signing bonus to make up the difference.
While it’s not required for all jobs, having a graduate degree in your field, with a specialization on international issues, makes you a much stronger job candidate.
TRUE. What do you have to lose by asking? You stand to lose quite a bit more by not asking for a signing bonus or some other form of compensation beyond salary. And if the employer responds to your request by stating that the company does not offer signing bonuses, what have you really lost for asking? Read more about negotiable elements of a job offer in our article, Job Offer Too Low? Use These Key Salary Negotiation Techniques to Write a Counter Proposal Letter.
- When an employer makes an “exploding” job offer — one with a specific time element such as “this offer is only good for the next 10 days” — I should feel free to ignore the time element as part of the negotiating process.
FALSE. When employers make these specific kinds of deadlin