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How to Handle the Salary Negotiation

Congratulations!  You have successfully passed through the interview stage and you've been offered a job!  Take a moment to celebrate; this is a significant accomplishment.  However, your work is not done yet.  Part of your job offer will include your salary and that's the tricky part.  It is important that you at least consider negotiating your salary.  If you don't, there is a good chance that will not be paid what your skills are worth.  Since employers will expect you to negotiate your salary, your first offer is often at the bottom of the range approved for your job title.  If you don't negotiate, you are leaving a lot of money on the table.  Here are some tips to help you navigate through the salary negotiation process:

Wait until the timing is right.  The further you get through the recruitment process, the more valuable you are to the employer.  Initially, you are one of hundreds of candidates who want the job.  However, after you've been interviewed, several people may have agreed that you are a great fit.  It is in your best interest to hold off on any kind of salary negotiation as long as you possibly can.  Unfortunately, many companies will ask you about your salary expectations at the telephone interview.  If the employer uses that approach, you have to answer them, but it's best to give them a range.   

Do your research.  If you do nothing else when negotiating your salary, at least do your homework.  It is essential that you know what your skills are worth in today's labour market.  Once you have an idea of the salary range that is consistent with your level of education and experience, you will know if an employer is being generous or unreasonable.  If you don't know, you might end up accepting an unfair salary.  

Consider all of the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits.  When you are negotiating your salary, it is important that you consider the total package that the employer is offering.  This includes health and dental benefits as well as any other perks.  It also includes opportunities for career growth, training and development, work-life balance, flexibility in your work schedule, the opportunity to support a cause that is important to you, and anything else that could impact your quality of life.  

Don't be too quick to say yes.  Once you accept the offer, you have lost your ability to negotiate.  Don't rush into it.  Take at least a day to consider the offer and don't be afraid to ask for more money.  If they can't increase the salary, you can still decide to accept the offer but at least you tried.      

Have other options ready.  Whenever you enter into a negotiation, it is important that you have your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) in mind.  Meaning what will you do if you are not able to negotiate an agreement with this employer?  Would you stay with your current employer?  Have you interviewed with other employers who might make you an offer?  If you have a great alternative to a negotiated agreement, you have a much stronger negotiating position.  For this reason it's a good idea to keep applying for jobs even when you are going on interviews.

Although you feel awkward about negotiating your salary, it is still worth a try.  In the end you can always make the decision to accept the original offer if the negotiation doesn't go as planned.  You don't want to be forced to look for another job in a year or two because the salary isn't right; it's important that you find a job with a salary that works for you.          


(Written by Karen Bivand, Photo by on Unsplash)