Salary Negotiations – The Dos and Don’ts

Embarking on a career search involves the ability to successfully negotiate on one’s own behalf when the opportunity presents itself. Really, anything is negotiable; with a little research, some planning, and patience – even a desired salary can be obtained. Part of the recipe requires belief in your abilities. Here are some tips to enable you to negotiate effectively:

1. Do the research. Don’t just show up at the interview armed with information regarding your own salary history. Before your meetings, do research on the company, other companies operating in the same space, similar positions, and the overall market. There are many salary surveys available online that will provide a fair idea of the going rate for various positions. Evaluate your own strengths and those areas where you might need some improvement. Review the job specifications and be prepared to demonstrate the value you bring in alignment to the company’s goals to maintain a position of strength.

2. Understand the Company’s Needs. Part of what makes any person unique is their value add. Before negotiating anything, do an analysis of what the perceived needs of the company are and the skills / abilities you provide that can meet that need. If you can establish with some degree of accuracy what a hiring manager is looking for, you can determine your leverage and therefore negotiate more effectively on your own behalf.

3. Ask Intelligent Questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is an ideal way to gain perspective and will help provide answers to point #2 above. Some innocence with polite persistence will allow you to gain insights and information that can put you in a position of power. Be thoughtful in approach and pleasant in manner to uncover information. Additionally, it is alright to dig your heels in a bit. Demonstrate your value and don’t give up so easily.

4. Look at the Big Picture. Compensation is not the only consideration when negotiating. There are other factors that should be considered when making a decision. Health, dental and other benefits translate into value. Consider these things as part of your negotiation strategy. This is particularly important especially if these benefits will end up costing more than the plan offered by an existing employer.

5. Talk the Talk. Get comfortable with the fact that you might get into a little back and forth regarding the compensation package. Don’t just research salary information. Consider all information and be prepared, willing and able to negotiate other things like vacation during negotiations. Everything’s up for discussion. A new position might offer relocation to a more desirous part of the country or culture. Tuition reimbursement, an on-site gym and / or daycare might be something a company offers. It is difficult to determine a “cost” for these components, but it is necessary to determine their intrinsic value.

6. Be Realistic. A key driver of a future compensation plan is the current plan. To switch companies, 5-20% is the average increase with most receiving 10-15%. Especially in this market, both parties should set very realistic expectations. You might think you are underpaid and worth “a lot more” (which is probably true!), but a 40% increase is just not realistic. Some employers think it is a “buyer’s market” and will try to offer a decrease in salary, which is more common with displaced workers but sets the tone that the candidate is not valuable. Don’t fall for this tactic. Negotiate what is fair and reasonable. It should be mentioned that inflating your salary during the negotiation process is inadvisable. More and more companies are asking for W-2’s and other verification. Play it straight.

No matter what position you are in, the ability to negotiate on your own behalf will give you power. This does not mean that you will rule the world, but it does mean that you will be able to exert appropriate authority to meet your needs during the professional courtship process. Here are some salary survey links to get you going: and

This article has been co-authored by Beth Carter and Debra Wheatman. Debra is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Professional Career Coach. Find out more about Debra at