Whether you’re just leaving college to start your career, or you’re finally landing a dream job after years of working, you might find yourself dreading the following question:
So, what are your salary requirements?
If you field this question without having done any preparation for it, you may find yourself panicking as you try to figure out what’s an appropriate amount that won’t price you out of their range but also won’t pay you less than you are worth. Here are four pointers for dealing with that initial salary negotiation that even the most negotiation-averse job hunter can handle.
1. Do your homework. Long before you get to the salary question (and possibly before you even land that interview), get a good idea of both what you are worth based on your experience and education, and what is the average salary in your field. If you’re hoping for a starting salary of six figures but most new workers in your field bring home $30,000 per year, it’s good to know this information long before you are sitting face-to-face with your prospective employer.
2. Don’t name a figure first. In some ways, a salary negotiation is like a game of chicken. The first person to name a salary figure gives a great deal of information to the other party, and for the applicant, that is information that you can’t really afford to give up. It’s much better to know the range that is available than it is to let them know what you’re willing to accept.
If your interviewer (or the application) asks for your salary requirements, you can respond that you are looking for a competitive salary within the field. In some cases, that will not be an acceptable answer, in which case you should offer a range yourself, making it clear that your salary requirements are dependent on other factors, like bonuses, benefits, educational and professional development opportunities and profit sharing.
David’s Note: You can ask them what the salary range they are comfortable with, but sometimes, your interviewer will press you to give an exact figure. In this case, you should give them an honest answer, though leaving it open ended is always a good idea. One way is to tell them what someone in your position is worth by citing an average if you are comfortable taking that kind of number as your salary. If you are afraid of leaving money on the table by hedging when you really just want the job no matter what the salary is, your demeanor will show this fact in the interview anyway.
Do your homework and figure out what you believe you are worth before the interview. It is up to you to show your employer that you are worth the money you believe is fair. After all, that’s exactly the reason why they asked to meet with you.
3. Take your time. You do not have to accept an offer on the spot—nor should you. It’s very easy to fall into the thinking that you must act now to secure the job offer, but that’s simply not the case. When your prospective employer has given you the offer, thank him for the opportunity and make it clear that you’re very interested in the position, but that you need some time to think it over. This will give you the chance to do a little extra homework (if necessary) and will let the employer know that you are looking for a good fit—not just a job.
4. Ask for more. If the offer seems a little low to you, don’t be afraid to ask if there is any wiggle room in the salary. Be polite and respectful, but remember that some aspect of the offer is probably open for negotiation. Even if your employer cannot be flexible on salary, there are other ways to earn more—through benefits or vacation days, for example. As difficult as it can be to ask for more, you have to remember that only you have your best interests at heart in this negotiation. You need to be prepared to go after what’s best for you and your family.