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How to master salary negotiation

Matthew Tarpey | January 9, 2018

Salary Negotiation

Negotiating your salary can have a big impact on your long term earning potential. Here's how to make sure you do it right.

As a job seeker you might be hesitant to negotiate a salary offer, especially if you're looking for your first job. And while it may be uncomfortable to ask for more money, the fact is 73 percent of employers expect candidates to negotiate salary, according to CareerBuilder data.

Besides, by not negotiating your starting salary, you not only lose out on the initial difference, but that loss can compound over the course of your career. Don't fool yourself – the cost of not negotiating is much higher than you might initially think.

"Too many people take a job thinking that after they get their foot in the door they can show the employer what they are worth and will be rewarded accordingly," says Cheryl E. Palmer, certified career coach and owner of Call to Career. "However, the reality is that pay raises are usually based on what your initial salary was when you took the position."

So to make sure you're not leaving money on the table, here are some tips and salary negotiation advice to help you negotiate your salary like a pro:

Do your homework

The single best thing you can do to improve you negotiating ability is research. The more information you come into the interview with, the better chance you have of getting the best offer possible.

"In order to know what a good salary would be, you need to research what kind of pay can be expected in your field, your role, your company and your location. Knowing what a normal salary is in your area will help inform what you ask for," says Martha Schmitz, senior advisor with "Company information found online or conversations with current staff can also help you get good information on what kind of salary you can fairly expect."

You can find salary information, details about potential careers and companies with open positions at Careerbuilder's Salary pages.

Negotiate the job first

If you've done your research and you're feeling more confident, you might be excited to start negotiating. But don't press the issue. Remember, the interview is first and foremost about demonstrating why you are the best fit for the job. Save the salary talk for later in the discussion.

"Never negotiate the compensation before you negotiate the job. You create a competitive advantage when you demonstrate with passion and conviction that your skills and experience are a perfect match," says Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide. "That is what every hiring manager wants, and needs, to see. When you introduce compensation too early in the process, you risk being eliminated from consideration before this essential information has been communicated, and they risk missing out on a great candidate."

"The appropriate time to discuss salary is when you are being offered the position," says Palmer. "You should do your salary research so that if you are pressed for an answer about salary during a phone or in-person interview, you can state a range. But try to avoid talking about salary if you can. Focus instead on learning about the position and what will be required of you."

Talk about the value you will add

Being cognizant of your phrasing can give you a huge leg up at the negotiating table. Frame the conversation so it's less about what you want and more about what the company gets.

"Rather than focusing on your personal desires, talk about specific skills and experiences you have and what they will bring to the organization," says Schmitz. "Then, when asking for the salary you think you deserve, note how much the experience and talent you have is worth to the company."

Think about the total compensation package

Apart from not negotiating at all, the most common mistake job seekers make is only negotiating salary. Even if the company can't quite match your salary expectations, remember to factor in other perks and benefits they may offer.

"In some cases, a generous benefits package can balance out a lower salary. After all, benefits are worth money," says Palmer. "It may be worth it to take a lower salary if the company pays for most of your health insurance or if you get 401K matching. Sometimes it's easy to get excited about a high dollar amount for the salary without considering the total compensation package. Take some time to mull over what you are being offered before accepting a new position."

Even if you're not normally the type who is comfortable with negotiating, you should negotiate your starting salary. With the right research and the right approach, there's no reason you can't come away with a little higher take-home than that first offer.