Salary Negotiation Skills Can Help Maximize Your Earnings

You’ve spent months sneaking off for interviews, wearing suits and ties and answering the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Finally, the quest is over — you’ve found your dream job.

Along with a dream job, it would be nice to land your dream salary. It’s never comfortable discussing dollars and cents. But make the salary negotiation process less painful by arming yourself with the right information.
Salary issues will arise at different points in the interview process. For some, money comes up after you receive an offer. For others, it is discussed early in the game to ensure that you and the employer aren’t wasting one another’s time.

Whenever the topic of money is brought up, you should have a salary negotiation strategy ready. The first thing you should do is find out the market salary range of the position. Some resources are job listings for related positions, friends, employment agencies, professional associations, professional trade journals, Bureau of Labor Statistics, a career coach or online salary surveys.

Once you get those numbers, determine how much money you need to make to maintain your cost of living. Factor in expenses like mortgage or rent, food, home repair, clothing, telephone, utilities, car, education, loans, insurance, and disposable income for things like vacation and movies. Once you calculate that, you can decide what salary you ideally need and what salary you are willing to settle for.

When you are talking money, let the employer state the range before you bring up yours. How much a salary is negotiable depends on factors like the position, the company, your potential value to the company, and your experience. Most entry-level salaries won’t budge, but mid-level or executive positions range between 10 to 20 percent, according to career experts. Employers will negotiate within that range, but will usually only exceed it under special circumstances.

Written backup is a good way to justify your salary request. Feel free to bring in any statistics you found. You can also round up performance evaluations, letters of recommendation or any other proof you have of your worth, such as other salaries you’ve been offered. Of course, be prepared to share your accomplishments at previous jobs to support your cause.

When you pitch a salary offer, the employer may disagree with your number. Instead, he may make a counter-offer. Give yourself at least 24 hours to think about it. That way you can do some number crunching and make sure this number will really work for you. If it doesn’t, put together a package with a number that you feel is appropriate. Remember to consider not just salary but vacation, insurance, retirement plans and any other benefits.

All this talk about money can rattle just about anyone. The best way to prepare for salary negotiation is the tried- and-true method — practice. Do a mock interview with a friend or family member. This tactic will let you practice your “pitch” of what you will bring to the company. Learn to show enthusiasm and professionalism to help you sell yourself even better.

You finally got the job you wanted at the right price. Just be sure to get it all in writing so there are no surprises when your paycheck comes. You should get a letter of agreement written by the employer, stating the position, salary, insurance benefits, retirement plans and any other benefits you discussed (such as you’ll get three weeks paid vacation instead of the normal two weeks). If you are concerned, have an employment lawyer review the letter. Give the company one signed version and keep a copy for yourself.

Congratulations! You survived salary negotiation. Now you can enjoy your new job!