Salary negotiation starts with information

Salary negotiation starts with information

You deserve to be paid well for your work.

But maximizing your pay sure can be tough, especially in a culture where we’re acclimated not to talk about what we earn.

Salary negotiation is intimidating, but when you get an offer, you’re in the strongest position you could ever be in. The employer wants you, they’ve started thinking about getting you on board and they’ve crunched their numbers.

Just remember the offer is a starting point, and it’s the employer’s best offer from their perspective, not yours. Your beginning salary makes a huge difference in what you earn over the life of your career. It sets a benchmark for future raises and cost-of-living increases.

The most common mistake in negotiating salary is not knowing your worth. Don’t benchmark your salary requirements based on your current pay, as that can often reduce your overall earning potential. Instead, base them on what the market will pay in your area. Use salary comparison websites, look up job postings with other companies and talk to trusted coworkers or mentors to gain insight.

Early in my career, I made the rookie mistake of giving a salary range where the bottom was the pay level at my current job. That bottom number was the offer they made, so with the cost of benefits, it would have been a pay cut. Always make the bottom of your range above what you’re making currently.

Another mistake is ignoring the advertised range. If an employer includes a number in the job posting, expect they’ll stick with that. There may be a little wiggle room at the top for an exceptionally qualified candidate, but don’t waste your time or theirs going through an interview process only to insist upon something they can’t pay.

Some hiring managers, especially in larger corporate or government jobs, are often highly constrained by strict pay grades and internal equity — making sure all their employees with similar experience in similar roles are earning the same.

Do your research and be able to sell yourself, explaining the value you would bring to the company. If you have a particular skill or certification or experience the previous person in the role doesn’t, that’s a plus. If you have a vision for the role and how it could help the employer, pitch that in your interview.

But salary may not be everything. If the employer isn’t budging — or can’t — ask about benefits. An extra week or two of vacation, flexible schedules, commuter benefits or a home office stipend might be enough to make the job more financially feasible for you.

Benefits also matter when looking at your bottom line. Look at insurance plans to make sure they don’t wipe out a pay increase and evaluate vacation and sick leave to ensure you’re not going backward.

Career Stories columnist Dan Shortridge is a nationally certified resume writer, marketing consultant and author. Email him and submit questions for future columns at

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load