How to Discuss (and Negotiate) Salary in the Interview Process

How to Discuss (and Negotiate) Salary in the Interview Process

One of the most challenging, questions during your interview is when the employer asks for salary requirements. It can be extremely stressful when you are face to face with your potential boss who will be paying you for the foreseeable future. You could be feeling the job is a great match, but if you have a salary expectation that is the slightest bit wrong, it’s over.

Consider that the employer is just like you. Just like your main concern is getting the job and a decent salary, the employer’s main concerns are business expenses and hiring the best talent possible. There are, for the most part, three types of employers:

A) Those that want the best and are willing to pay for it.
B) Those that want the best but want to reduce costs as much as possible.
C) Those that want cheap labor.

Stay away from ‘C’. You will not be respected. As soon as the employer can find someone who can do your job for a lower cost, you’ll be fired.

If you find an ‘A’ employer, you are “in the money” literally and figuratively. Good for you!

Where you have some room to work is a ‘B’ employer. An intelligent business person wants to get the most for their money. The more efficiently they run their company, the more money they have for salaries (like yours), and the  more stable the company is. This is where your powers of negotiation will be tested.

The step before the first step is to be prepared. If you don’t know what a realistic salary for your position and level of experience should be, you won’t know if the employer’s offer is good, bad, or ugly. If you are staying at a company for the long-term, being able to negotiate for even a few thousand extra dollars can translate to a difference of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career.

1. Be in the know. Check out resources like Glassdoor Salaries. You type in your job title and location and Glassdoor will show you a salary range of what your peers are earning. Also, get a second opinion from a site like Payscale or or the federal government’s Department of Labor. If you can, also investigate benefits aside from salary that the company offers such as stock options, paid leave, telecommute options, health benefits, bonuses, etc.

2. Your needs. Once you have a range of realistic salaries, calculate your particular red lines. Your needs could be different depending on if you are single or are a head of household, have debt, or additional factors could set an ideal range. It is vital to go into the interview prepared with a range from “great” to “acceptable” to “need to look elsewhere.”

3. Don’t go first. Try not to be the first to give a number. The employer already has a salary range in mind. If you quote too high, you will be excluded. If you quote too low, you have left potentially enormous amounts on the table.  Practice a response such as, “With salary, I’m certainly flexible.  Do you have a general salary range for this position?” If you are still discussing job responsibilities, you could reply with, “I would like to hear more about what my role would be and understand how I would fit into the company, then I’m sure we could come up with a mutually agreeable figure.”

4. The negotiation. Most employers have a leeway of ten percent above and ten percent below whatever figure they first tell you. That means if you are applying for a graphic design role, and the employer says that they generally start at $45,000, the employer is expecting to negotiate from $49,500 to $40,500. Missing out on this $4,500 difference translates to you losing out on over $20,000 if you stayed in this role only five years. When you consider that your salary after a promotion could be based on initial salary, your loss could be that much greater.

5. Hone on the range. If the employer’s number is within your acceptable range, assure them that this sounds fair, and that you would be looking closer to x (cite a number ten to twelve percent higher than the employer’s figure). The key here is to cite a few reasons why you deserve this higher figure. It could be based on your experience, track record, past salaries, etc. While you are preparing for your interview, put yourself in the employer’s place and think if you were hiring yourself, why would you be willing to pay extra to hire you?

6. Consider other considerations. There are many benefits a job can offer aside from salary. If the employer offers telecommuting, consider how much money this saves in terms of gas, time, and wear and tear on your car. If the employer isn’t flexible on salary, ask about additional benefits. You might be able to negotiate additional leave, sick days, stock options, etc.

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