Are You Leaving Money on the Table?

Six tips on navigating salary negotiations with poise and diplomacy


After multiple rounds of interviews, you finally receive a job offer from a company with a solid track record and opportunities for growth. There were many hurdles to overcome during the job search process and there’s one more step to consider before accepting the job offer: salary negotiation.

According to a survey by my global staffing firm Robert Half, job seekers may not be speaking up for more pay. Only 39 percent said they tried to negotiate salary during their last job offer.

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Whether you’re interviewing for a job or asking your current employer for a raise, the key to successfully negotiating a salary is to diligently prepare for the conversation and then present your case with data and confidence. In a hiring market, where in-demand professionals often consider multiple job offers, companies know they must have some flexibility in their salary ranges.

Salary negotiations can be quite intimidating for job seekers and existing employees. To help ease the stress, the following are some do’s and don’ts when discussing salary with a new or current employer.

 1. DO familiarize yourself with industry salary trends. Information is your biggest ally. Review local and national salary ranges for someone with your career path, position and experience level. If you are a finalist for a job opening, the employer may be having a tough time finding someone with enough skills and experience, and that opens the door to negotiate higher pay.

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2. DO give a specific salary. Some employers will ask about your expected salary early in the hiring process. Being willing to state a specific number or salary range will help you and the potential employer figure out if you’re on the same page and if it makes sense to continue the interview process.

3. DO know when to wrap it up. A reasonable employer won’t take an offer off the table just because you tried to negotiate. However, dragging out the salary negotiation can frustrate the hiring manager and start your working relationship off on a sour note. If the company can’t meet your requirements after a few discussions, respectfully withdraw your application and focus on opportunities that better match your compensation expectations.

4. DON’T make it only about you. Salary negotiations are a two-way street. When talking about your capabilities and career, you need to frame your request for higher compensation in a way that conveys what an employer will gain in return. Make sure to gather concrete examples of how your skills will benefit the company and remember to keep your tone positive as this will help you navigate the discussions.

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5. DON’T overlook the benefits. Salary negotiations often include some give-and-take on employee benefits, not just dollars. Consider what’s valuable to you and what would make an offer more attractive to you and your lifestyle. Also, be mindful of the benefits that reach beyond compensation, like career goals and advancement opportunity within a company. These things should be part of your analysis of accepting an offer.

6. DON’T forget to get everything in writing. Once you and the hiring manager agree on a compensation package, ask for written documentation of your salary and any special arrangements, along with a brief job description and a list of responsibilities for the role. Make sure the document is signed by both you and the employer to ensure you’re on the same page.

Salary negotiations can also come up during annual performance reviews at your current job, so if you think your strong performance warrants a raise, remember the above do’s and don’ts. Do your homework and present a case that shows how your work has benefited the company. That way your compensation will better match where you are in your career and set you up for a fruitful future.


Other Factors to Consider

In addition to pay, there are other elements that candidates should evaluate when an employment offer is extended, including:  

Compensation. Remember to focus on the whole package, not only the salary. Job seekers are now asking more detailed benefit questions, especially regarding healthcare (e.g., premiums, deductibles and dependent coverage). For those with multiple offers, these things can be a deciding factor.

Cost of living. Rising housing prices and other costs are top of mind. Workers should ask themselves, “Can I live comfortably and enjoy a good quality of life if I take this role?”

Career path. Employees are now asking more detailed questions about ways to learn and advance in the organization. For instance, is “promote from within” the exception or the rule? What are the training and development opportunities?

Commute. Longer commutes mean people want flexibility and jobs closer to home. Workers are asking about staggered work schedules, commute benefits (e.g., parking discounts and bus passes) and telecommuting options.

Corporate culture. Do people enjoy working for the firm? What are the retention and internal referral rates? How is the company viewed in the industry and within its city?

For employers, it’s vital to find creative ways to retain top employees and bring on new talent with in-demand skills. Here are some pitfalls to avoid:

Feeling like candidates are lucky to get whatever is offered. Remember that top performers are essential in any economy, but especially in today’s marketplace, where specialized talent is in demand and, often, in short supply.

Being unwilling to negotiate. By being inflexible, you may lose your top candidate to another company.

Not being prepared. It’s important for hiring managers to have knowledge of prevailing salaries in their industry and geographic area.

In order to get a better salary offer, you have to ask for it. Job seekers and existing employees looking for raises too often accept the first salary they’re offered. The more prepared and professional you are, the more likely you are to negotiate a great salary. Equip yourself by gathering as much knowledge as possible about the position and comparable salaries for your industry. Know your worth, practice your pitch and speak up for yourself.

All it takes to find out if there is wiggle room in the budget is a simple question: “I was hoping for something closer to [specific amount]. Is that possible?” Then wait for the response.


Carrie Lewis is a certified public accountant with over 15 years of experience in public accounting, governmental audit and as an assistant controller with an international specialist merchant of agricultural commodities.  She is a recruiting manager and vice president with Robert Half, a global staffing firm specializing in the placement of highly qualified accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals on a direct hire basis. 




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