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Successful salary negotiation

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Successful salary negotiation

By Matt Lowney


The salary question can be one of the most nerve-racking parts of the employment process. You don’t want to leave money on the table, but you don’t want to price yourself out of an outstanding opportunity. Here are ten keys to a successful salary negotiation.

1. Be prepared. As with all aspects of the hiring process, you know this discussion is coming. Prepare yourself for this anxious conversation by having a clear understanding of your market rate. Also, make sure to be as pleasant as possible during this process. It can set up the foundation for a good working relationship with your future boss.

2. Never bring up the discussion of salary first. If you bring up this conversation first, you may price yourself out of the job before you even get your foot into the door.

3. Give yourself 24 hours to think over any offer. Even if you are absolutely ecstatic about the offer, make sure to ask for a day to collect your thoughts and follow up. This time also allows you to collect yourself for a counter offer if you are not pleased with the initial figure.

4. When asked for a salary range, give a broad range. Sometimes an interviewer, especially on a first phone screen, will ask what you are looking for in terms of salary. A good way to answer this question is to give a range that centers on the actual number you would consider for this type of position. That way you have a little room to negotiate later. Another way to answer the question is to ask, “What kind of salary are you looking at offering for this position?” Either way, do not commit to a figure too early. 

5. Understand your absolute bottom dollar figure. In the back of your mind you probably do have a low-end salary that you won’t go below. Make sure to stick with this number. An employer’s job is to find this point and your job is to get as much above this figure as possible.

6. Negotiate. Some employers see negotiation of salary as the sign to a strong employee. I’m not sure that your willingness to negotiate your salary actually makes you a better employee, but it’s always best to negotiate to some degree.

7. Don’t discuss past salary. Once you tell a potential employer your salary history, your negotiating leverage is gone. Omitting this information will force the employer to give his best offer if he is seriously interested in you.

8. Take into account benefits and other perks. In figuring out what salary you will accept, take into account the expense and value of medical benefits and retirement plans. Most experts assume that these benefits account for an additional 25 to 40 percent of your total compensation package.

9. Have a clear explanation of your value to a potential employer. Often you will be asked to explain how you arrived at a salary when you counter offer to an employer. Make sure to include past accomplishments and experience as justification for this figure.

10. Get it in writing. Once you have gone through the negotiation process, make sure you get the offer in writing, so you have a clear and firm understanding of the salary agreement.


Matt Lowney is a Nashville, Tenn based recruiter, career consultant, and co-host of Career Talk, a weekly one hour career advice radio talk show that airs from 5 to 6 pm each Friday on WAKM 950.  For more information he can be reached at