Salary talks are never easy. You want to get paid what you’re worth without pricing yourself out of a job. But when a company advertises that pay is negotiable, it can make the process a bit harder. Know that they do have a number in mind — or at least a range of what they’re willing to offer — and you can get an idea of what it is by doing a little research, recognizing your skills in relation to the job and putting off the topic of pay until the very end of the process.
When it comes to negotiating salary, the more information you have, the better your chances are for securing what you’re worth. Take enough time to do your homework before talking pay — or even accepting the interview, for that matter. Find out how much the role averages for your industry, region, educational background and level of experience. The Internet is a wealth of information, but go one step further and contact professional associations and other individuals in similar roles to get a feel for what the market can handle at this time.
In addition to understanding current industry trends, recognize what you bring to the bargaining table. Compare your skill set, experience and accomplishments to the job description to help determine your worth. If you offer everything an employer is looking for in a candidate, you’re obviously worth more to that company, and your compensation should reflect this — when it’s time to discuss salary, you should feel comfortable aiming high. But any gaps in skills means an employer must train you, and your compensation package won’t necessarily merit the upper range of the pay scale.
Negotiating a “negotiable” salary prior to an offer is just putting the cart before the horse. You have no leverage during the preliminary stages of an interview process to really ask for your ideal salary, so it’s best to avoid the topic altogether. You want an employer to see you as the only candidate for the job, and salary talks can cloud his perception. Use this time to gather information about duties, expectations and responsibilities of a job to get a clearer picture of what it’s worth to you. On the occasion that a potential employer does ask, assure him, “You’re confident that the two of you can agree on a mutually beneficial compensation package.” If he presses for a number, give a range. An exact figure from you can be seen as a ceiling, and the employer is likely to counter with a lower offer.
If you’ve done your research and compared what you bring to the table to what the company is looking for, you have an idea of whether an offer is low or not. If you decide to counter, be reasonable with your request. Remember, more goes into a compensation package than just base pay. You must account for bonuses, benefits, vacation, insurance and other perks that come with the job. A 10-percent counter offer may be all that’s necessary to bring the compensation in line with what you deserve.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.