Ask Your Boss: How To Negotiate a Job Offer

“I am currently applying for a position at an organization. I’m in the final stages of the interview process and things seem to be going well. While I don’t know for certain that I will get a job offer, I suspect it will happen.

My question is what tools you can offer for negotiating the starting salary. In the job listing, there was a range for the salary. My wife says that I should ask for the top of that range, but I don’t want to ask for too much and start off on the wrong foot. So, I’m curious, how should one go about negotiating a higher salary at the start? What sort of information should be referenced and in what order?? I’d appreciate any advice you can lend. THANKS!”

Negotiating a salary is scary for some, and easy for others. Most of us choose to forgo negotiating. I, personally, always dreaded this part of job interviews, even though I love to bargain. From a boss’s point of view I have to admit that I am always interested to see if a candidate will bring up a question about money. Right off the bat, I will tell you this: do not discuss money until a job offer is made. Otherwise, I (as a boss) lose respect for you.

There are a lot of things that are unclear to me in your question. What kind of organization is it? Some government agencies will not negotiate anything because they have a set of salary ranges. Some corporations can offer and agree to more than they list in a job posting. Some non-profits do not have very good grant financing available and their salary offers are very limited. No matter what it is, it is always worth trying.

Below I am going to provide five essential tips that should help you in your salary negotiating. If you would like to follow up with me after reading this post, feel free. You can either email me or submit another form (applies to all my readers, by the way.)

Five Things to Know When Negotiating a Job Offer:

  1. Know about the company and what it can afford. Estimate it or guess it. In fact, if you still have another interview coming up, I recommend fishing for this information. Subtly. Ask a question “I noticed that there were no personnel cuts in the past few years. What do you attribute this to?”
  2. Know your lowest salary range that you can accept and live with it. Calculate your expenses, your income, and include in your estimate your financial goals (future or present.) Then talk to your wife.
  3. Know your market value. Do you know what others are making in the same position, working for a different company? Are you worth more because you have successfully completed a mba program? You have to do some research, talk to your friends and/or use Glassdoor.com.
  4. Know if this job has been open for a while. If the answer is “yes”, then it gives you more leverage to negotiate. The possible reasons can be as following:
  • they cannot find a qualified candidate,
  • the skills required for the position are unique, or
  • they don’t know what they want (that’s a whole different discussion.)
  1. Know that even if you do not get the desired salary, you can still negotiate your vacation time, your work schedule, relocation expenses, overtime and so on. Just lately, I was wrapped up in a salary negotiation where we had to offer a four day week instead of more money. We wanted to keep this person, and we tried to find ways to do so. It worked.

Finally, here is my insider tip: when a prospective employee negotiates a salary, I like to be somewhat mean and ask: “Why do you think you deserve this salary? I have employees who have been working for us many years, and they don’t get paid that much.” Think about your answer to this question, and it will give you some ideas what you should be ready to communicate during your negotiations.

Good Luck!

Want to ask Your Boss a question? There is a form on the top of the right sidebar. Fill it in and submit it. I will write a post in response.

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