Monday, July 6, 2009

Negotiating Salary with the Job Offer

In the current economy, you might be questioning if there is any "wiggle room" to negotiate the salary level with a new job offer?

There is no doubt that the present job market is extremely competitive. Many companies are taking their time and being very cautious when selecting candidates to fill key roles. The experts can continue to debate whether we are or are not in a recession. But job seekers are well aware that the climate has changed; and it’s natural to question if the rules surrounding salary negotiations have also changed.

If you are a strong candidate for an opening, then your work commands a fair salary. But what is the definition of “fair”? Here are a few core “rules of thumb” to follow concerning salary negotiations:

1. Do your homework before you speak. Many candidates are terrified to answer the “What are your salary requirements?” question. Whenever possible, provide a range which starts at your “rock bottom” number and ends above your expectation. This will give you wiggle room for negotiations. Use web sites and databases, preferably within your industry, to gather targeted salary figures for the positions that you have held and the role that you’re pursuing. Consider information associated with your education level, experience, the size of the organizations you have worked in, as well as your geographic location. You need realistic, “real-world” data to negotiate effectively.

2. Negotiate from a friendly position of strength. You’ve obviously developed positive report with interviewers if you’ve received a job offer, so don’t jeopardize this with an inflated ego. Continue your dialogue in a professional and courteous manner and learn as much as you can about the perspective behind their offer. You can then use this information to respond with quantifiable data to support your request. Discuss/revisit your background and career accomplishments and re-emphasize the contributions you believe you can make to the organization, both short and long term.
3. Carefully consider all the elements of the employment package. Don’t be short sighted and only focus on salary. Keep in mind that the company may also be investing in other very tangible benefits for their staff members, so get a good inventory of these items. Medical, dental and disability insurance, employee assistance and discount programs, paid time off, tuition reimbursement, etc.; these all equate to dollars invested by the company on behalf of the employee. When you’re comparing job offers and salary levels, focus on the entire package being offered.

4. Bargain for added benefits. If during the course of your negotiations, the employer will not budge on the initial salary offer, consider bargaining with them to add a few more items to the total benefits package. Since they do not have to pay matching payroll taxes on non-salary benefits, might they consider an additional 3 to 5 days of paid leave each year, or an annual allowance for association memberships or professional development activity (seminars and workshops)? Maybe they would be willing to add a sign on bonus after the initial 3-6 months of employment or a performance bonus at 12 months. They may say “No”, but it can’t hurt to ask.

5. Be prepared to walk away. If you do not receive an offer that is at least equal to your minimum requirement, a salary level that will allow you to meet your monthly budget, then be prepared to walk away. A new career role offers the opportunity to rekindle your enthusiasm and creative energy for work. But when the pay is too low, your motivation drains pretty quickly. Plus there is increased negative stress associated with your inability to pay monthly bills.

When deciding on your action plan for salary negotiations, consider how the items outlined in the five “rules of thumb” listed above apply to your situation. Then gather feedback from the interviewer and give yourself the proper time to make an informed decision about the job offer. Here are a few resources to use when researching salary data:
Salary Surveys from
Salary Info at The Riley Guide