Question: "How do I go about getting the best salary... the best job offer?"
by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Most job-seekers find this part of job-hunting the toughest -- at least the toughest in the sense of getting an offer that you want. We worry about appearing too greedy or about not asking for enough. We worry about causing conflict when we don't even have the job yet. However, negotiation is part of the job-hunting process, and if you are determined to get the best offer possible, you really need to learn to get comfortable with it.
Key Salary Negotiation Strategies:
- Delay salary and benefit negotiations for as long as possible in the interview process. You'll have more power to negotiate when the field of candidates has been reduced to just you -- when the employer is completely sold on you as the best candidate for the position.
- Remember that you'll have your greatest negotiation leverage between the time the employer makes the original offer and the time you accept the final offer. Once you accept an offer, you have little to no room to negotiate.
- Don't negotiate at the time the initial job offer is made. Thank the employer for the offer and express your strong interest and enthusiasm in the job, but state that you'll need time to evaluate the entire compensation package. Most employers are willing to give you a fair amount of time to review.
- Do your research. The greatest tool in any negotiation is information. Make sure you have done a thorough job of determining your fair market value for the job you seek, the salary range of the job for this specific employer, and geographic, economic, industry, and company-specific factors that might affect the given salary.
- Just do it. While a large percentage of corporate recruiters (four out of five in one study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management) are willing to negotiate compensation, only a small percentage of job-seekers actually do so. You don't have to be an expert negotiator to get a sweeter deal; you just need to know the rules and strategies of negotiation.
- Negotiate to your strength. If you are a smooth talker (an extravert), call the employer and ask for a follow-up meeting to discuss a counter proposal. If you communicate better in writing, follow our guidelines for writing a counter-proposal letter (below).
- Always ask for a higher salary (within acceptable limits) than you are willing to accept so that when the employer counters your proposal, the salary should be near your original goal.
- If the salary you're offered is on the low end -- and the employer has stated that salary is not negotiable (probably because of corporate salary ranges or pay grade levels), consider negotiating for a signing bonus, higher performance bonuses, or a shorter time frame for a performance review and raise. Always negotiate base salary first, and then move on to other elements of the job offer.
- When presenting a counter-proposal to the employer, be sure and include a few benefits that are expendable so that you can drop them in a concession to the employer as negotiations continue.
- Never stop selling yourself throughout the negotiation process. Keep reminding the employer of the impact you will make, the problems you will solve, the revenue you will generate. And continue expressing interest and enthusiasm for the job and the company.
This article is part of a series from The Career Doctor's Cures & Remedies to Quintessentially Perplexing Career and Job-Hunting Ailments.
See a list of all the most common college, career, and job questions -- and Dr. Hansen's solutions.
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