All Things Negotiating Salary
Part I

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Salary negotiation is an integral part of any successful job search. If you are a job candidate, particularly in this economy you may think that the initial salary offer is a "take-it-or-leave-it" proposition. Or, you may fear that asking for more can make you seem grasping and or not a team player.

However, negotiating salary is a standard practice, something employers expect to do with their chosen candidates. Remember, your goal is not to "win," but to arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement. Follow these tips to negotiate a higher starting salary.

The key to successful salary negotiations is to know what you want and how to ask for it, as well as what alternatives you can comfortably accept. When you approach salary negotiations in this way -armed with factual information and a clear idea of what you need - you are likely to find that it's easy to reach common ground and clinch the deal in a manner that satisfies everyone.

Being prepared is one of the key ingredients to making you a salary negotiation star. It's all in your preparation, attitude and presentation.

Calculate Your Minimum Salary Requirements. The first thing you need to do is to calculate and develop a clear idea of what your minimum salary requirements are. How much do you need to make a month in order to keep and support yours and your family's lifestyle and meet your financial goals? There's no point wasting your time -- and the company's -- interviewing for a low-paying job in a company or industry that may not be able to offer the wages you need.

You want to get a unambiguous idea of both the total monthly number but also have the components and have a cost figure assigned to each. This amount becomes your Walk-Away Number, the minimum salary that you can accept. From your research (see below) you should also develop a target number, the total package cash value of salary and benefits you are aiming for.

Research Salaries and Benefits. The next step is to research salaries and benefits for the types of jobs you are interested in applying for as well as company specific salary and benefits information. You need to research salaries for the career field and the geographic areas you're interested in. Fortunately the web provides an abundance of free resources to help you. Turn to our Negotiating Salary Research page for complete details.

Calculate Your Market Value. Next calculate your market value. This indicates where you are along the salary continuum for the job. Your research should give you a continuum of salary possibilities for the job you want. Now you need to figure out where on that continuum you fit.

Your market value is based on your professional background and experience, skills, education and special expertise, as well as how much the company needs you and how tight the hiring market is. You may believe that your skills, experience and education are the only things that impact your worth in terms of salary negotiations.

However, there are several other factors including: geographic location, industry, company size -- and sometimes even who you report to that can effect the determination of your worth. You are worth different amounts in different markets. And, you may be worth more to one company than you are to another. All this means is that you need to be flexible in your approach.

Have a Firm Job Offer Before You Negotiate. You should have this information available before you go to the interview. During the interview it is important to talk about the job before you talk about or begin negotiating salary. The proper time to discuss your starting salary is after the job position has been defined and you are sure the employer understands what you are bringing to the table. Once you have negotiated the job and have an offer in hand, that's the time you should start salary negotiations.

Should your potential employer raise the issue before that, here are some suggestions to practice for tabling the salary issue until you have the offer. In response to "what are you looking for?" or "what kind of salary do you have in mind?"

Convey that you are flexible depending upon your more complete understanding of the job requirements and responsibilities. However you do it you want to turn the conversation to the job requirements and your qualifications. Part of your preparation should include practiced responses to politely deflect the salary question until the offer is made.Suppose you are absolutely forced to disclose this information without an offer? Here are some responses you can use:

  • My salary requirements are negotiable based upon the position and the overall total compensation package, including benefits.

  • I'm most interested in determining if I'm the right person for the job.

  • What would someone with my skills and experience typically earn in the position?

  • I made $40,000 in my past job but have learned many skills and am worth an increase in pay to $50,000.

Another alternative is to include a range, based on the salary research you've done, i.e. my salary requirement is in the $45,000 - $55,000 range. Don't ramble. Say what you have to and then be quiet and listen

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