Salary Negotiations for Job Seekers

Money is usually the most sensitive issue in the hiring process. Discussing compensation often causes anxiety for both parties, but negotiating salary is an expected and normal part of the job search process.

Confidence is important in negotiations. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Negotiate from a position of strength.”  Strength stems from confidence.

Confidence increases through preparation (doing your homework), engaging the right decision-maker, having the right timing, and knowing what you want out of the negotiation. One of the best things you can do to boost your confidence is to practice (role play) your salary negotiation with someone.

Ideally, practice with someone who has negotiation experience. Even in a “bad” economy, it is worthwhile to negotiate your salary.

In fact, in a 2012 survey conducted by Robert Half International, a global staffing firm, more than one-third of executives interviewed said they are more willing to negotiate salary with top candidates than they were a year ago. In a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, four out of five employers (80 percent!) said they are willing to negotiate compensation.

What’s the worst that can happen? You may not get all that you’re asking for. You may only get some — but that’s more than you started with. It’s rare (extremely rare!) that a job offer would be rescinded simply because you ask for more money.

Negotiating a higher starting offer initially can make a big difference in your pay over the long-term. In addition to getting more cash up front, your annual raises will also be based off a higher starting salary.Some steps to aid and strengthen your salary negotiations include:

Research.  Make sure you know the average salary for your position, level of experience, and industry.  In addition to online salary sites, you can get information from your professional or trade association. Also research the prospective employer and its salary structure.

Prepare Supporting Documentation.  This can include salary data from websites, previous performance evaluations, letters of recommendation, and job postings for similar positions. If you haven’t been keeping a “brag file,” now is the time to start. Identify what makes you different and/or “irreplaceable” from other candidates or employees.

Be Attentive to Timing. Timing is critical in salary negotiations.  In negotiating an initial salary for a job, you (the job seeker) do not want to be the one to bring it up in an interview. Let the hiring manager be the first to discuss salary.

Consider All Compensation.  Assess the full value of the entire compensation package — not just the annual salary.  Benefits can make a huge difference in your compensation package, so don’t overlook them!  Vacation time, stock options, and bonuses also add value. Non-cash benefits can add 30 to 40 percent to your total compensation package.

Finally, remember that money may seem like the biggest factor in accepting a job, but it can often cloud your decision-making process.  Don’t accept a job that you’re not enthusiastic about simply because the starting salary is a few thousand dollars higher than what you’re currently making.  It’s probably more important to find a job that lets you do something you enjoy.  Ask yourself whether the position presents a career path with upward movement and long-range income potential.


Adrienne Tom

Looking to take your executive resume or job search to the next level to land your next job faster and increase your earning power? I can help! Visit me online at to learn more about my award-winning resume writing, LinkedIn writing, and job search strategies for top professionals and executives located across Canada and the USA.

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