Executives negotiate millions to billions of dollars in their roles every day, but often fall short when it comes to negotiating their own salary.

Yes, you may have been job hunting for several months and really, really want/need to be re-employed. No, you don’t have to take the first offer.

It starts at the pre-screen call.


Negotiating your salary starts with the interview, not the offer that may ultimately come your way. It may even start during the pre-screen phone call when the recruiter asks you, “What kind of salary are you currently making?” The rule of thumb is: The first person who talks dollars generally loses. There is no negotiation because you haven’t been offered the job yet. Revealing your salary at this point may eliminate you from the hiring process because it may be too high or too low, or may pigeon hole you into a salary level that you will not be satisfied with in the long run. It’s that simple at this stage.

It continues during the interview.

If you pass the pre-screen call and get an interview appointment, don’t circumvent salary negotiations by stating what you are looking for in dollars. Never throw out the first number. If at the early stages of the interviewing process you are asked for your salary, you can delay the conversation by saying, “I would like to know more about the position and see if I’m a good fit with your organization before we address salary.” Or, “May we come back to salary once we have determined there’s a mutual fit?”

Find out the salary range.

To help you negotiate, find out the salary range the company has in mind for the position. This may not have been posted with the job description or relayed to you previously. If the salary question comes up before the offer, and you feel confident enough, ask what salary range they are considering for the person they are hiring for this job. When they reveal that range, you can reply that your salary requirements are within that range. That doesn’t give anything away and leaves you room to negotiate when the official offer does present itself.

Negotiate what’s important to you.

Negotiations can include more than just your compensation. Among these are: Starting date, decision-making authority, support/budget and resources, reporting relationships, employment contracts, professional organization memberships, release time for professional memberships/activities, stock options, bonus arrangements, title, flexible hours, child care benefits, benefits, vacation, relocation allowance, educational/tuition reimbursement, home computer, severance arrangements, company car, housing mortgage assistance, performance evaluation within first three or six months of employment, etc.

Though you will not be able to negotiate on all of the above items, the extent to which you can maneuver is generally determined by the nature and level of the job and by the policies of the hiring organization.

Successful negotiations involve knowing exactly what you want from the potential employer. Don't surrender anything until you have to, and then only if it is not one of your top priorities. The employer will make the initial offer. If the offer package is below your expectations, you can suggest changes you feel are important based on market value for the position, or perks to make the offer attractive to you.

As you start planning your negotiating strategy, ask yourself these three questions:

1. What is my bottom line on this job?

2. What is the potential for growth?

3. Do I want this job or not?

If you are not really interested due to poor chemistry, location, etc., don't continue the discussion. And, conversely, if you think this is the opportunity of your dreams, don't jeopardize losing it due to a small detail.

Close the deal.

Now that you are close to the end of your campaign, it is important that you do not take unnecessary risks or stop doing your homework. Too many sure things have been known to slip away at the very last minute simply because they were taken for granted.

To protect yourself:

  • Remember that you can ask for a few days to think about the offer. Agree on a decision date and be sure to give your answer by that date.
  • Don't cut off other options until you have actually started work. Until you are on the payroll, you haven't got anything more than the employer's word.
  • If possible, get the offer in writing.
  • Be certain that no contingencies remain up in the air. Have all reference and security checks been made? Have the medical exams been passed?
  • Don't trumpet about it to anyone until it is a done deal. Premature calculations can be embarrassing.
  • Once you've started your new job, remember to write or call the other people with whom you were negotiating or interviewing to thank them for their time and interest in you.
  • Don't forget to thank the many individuals who were instrumental in helping you during your job search. You can never tell when you may need them again. And, perhaps one of them will include you in his/her network at some point.


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