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Mishandling Salary Negotiations

Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com Editor

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Many people think that once they have landed and aced an interview, all of their work is done. But, sometimes deciding whether or not to accept a job offer can be just as stressful and time-consuming as getting to that point in the first place. One point of contention is salary negotiation. This process can be overwhelming, particularly for job seekers without a great deal of experience. Negotiating a fair and practical salary is a critical step in the job search process, and one that can be navigated smoothly if you know what to do -- and what not to do. Beware of common mistakes.

Not doing your homework.
Before you go to an interview, you need to determine your desired salary range. It is impossible to do so if you do not know your industry. Research typical salaries for someone with similar experience in your industry. There are a wide variety of resources available that can help you determine median salaries and ranges for your position and years of experience. Without doing this, you will be virtually unarmed to present a case for the salary you request.

Neglecting to think carefully about your needs.
Just as researching your industry is important, it's also vital that you do a bit of self reflection. If you never stop to think about what income you need, you may end up taking an offer that leaves you pinching pennies. Before interviewing, ask yourself some important questions. How much do you need to pay your basic expenses, such as rent or mortgage, groceries, utilities, and car payment? What kind of salary do you need to live a comfortable life that allows you to enjoy yourself? What is the lowest salary you will consider? How much do you need to be able to save for the future?

Laying all of your cards on the table.
Negotiating a salary is like playing a card game. You need to gauge the other person's intentions without giving away all of your secrets. While job applications and interviewers may ask you to name a salary requirement, always avoid providing a number. However, many prospective employees feel pressured into doing so in an interview. That's why you need to be prepared to answer the question: "What kind of salary are you looking for?" Try to use answers such as "I'm sure that if I do receive an offer, it will be fair and reasonable," or "I will consider any reasonable offer." If pressed for a number, give a range rather than a specific. The bottom of your range should be the minimum you must make, with the top being a bit higher than your ideal.

Forgetting about other benefits.
When you receive a job offer, it is important to consider the offer in its entirety. This means paying attention to the company's medical and dental plan, vacation package, retirement benefits, and other perks. If the company cannot meet your salary requirements, it may be able to make it up to you in other ways, such as stock options or additional vacation time.

Believing that you don't have the right to ask for more.
A company is not going to offer you the highest salary they'd be willing to pay right off the bat, and most companies expect candidates to come back with a counter offer. If you have done your research and have supporting information to back up your salary wishes, don't be afraid to let the company know that you would like something higher. However, don't make the mistake of playing hardball, thinking you are irreplaceable, or being unwilling to negotiate. If you receive a low offer, thank the company for the offer, let them know that you are excited about the position, and politely and respectfully request a higher salary. The worst the company can say is no, and you never know what will happen until you ask.

The bottom line is that salary negotiations, like anything else, need to be done respectfully and kept in perspective. But if you do your research, set your boundaries, and always know how to handle the tough questions, chances are you will end up with an offer that works for you and the company.


How much more do you have the right to ask for? >>

Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM


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