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Negotiating A Better Job Offer

Negotiating a new job offer can be nerve wracking. But like all components of a successful job search, a little homework and thought to the process ahead of time will yield outstanding results.

You must know a realistic pay range for the job title you are pursuing. Research both the typical range for the position and your likely placement within that range.

This may require talking with people in jobs like yours or using online salary surveys such as those found at to find out salary norms in your field. You can also scan the job openings posted at sites job sites to gather salary information.

Salary range is determined primarily by the type of occupation and overall market availability. High school teachers have a different pay scale than computer programmers. Plus, if colleges are graduating more accounting students than they were ten years ago, the pay range for accounting jobs will likely decrease.

Placement within a salary range is typically determined by the following:

Know Your Minimum

Everyone has a minimum amount that they just simply need to survive and cannot accept less than. Know what that amount is prior to an interview. Don't wait until you receive an offer to try to determine if the offer is below the minimum. It is important, however, that you do not tell a potential employer that amount. When negotiating, any number you mention could set the range for negotiation. You want to start well above the minimum amount and if all goes well, the negotiations will never approach that amount.

Only Negotiate with People who have the Authority to Negotiate

Many times the person who is interviewing you does not have the authority to negotiate your compensation. This usually occurs in preliminary interviews where the interviewer is acting as a screener to the next level. If this person asks you what your salary requirements are, they are probably trying to do one of two things. They are either trying to screen you, or they are trying to determine whether to recommend you for a second interview. A good response for either situation is, "I will consider any reasonable offer". Do not give a dollar figure if at all possible. If they pressure you, give them a range. (See Know the Range above.)

Talk Compensation, not Salary

In an interview, use the word compensation instead of salary. Compensation is all-inclusive of benefits, commissions, incentives, vacation time, bonuses, etc. Salary is limited to just salary. Don't give a potential employer the impression that you will settle for just salary when other elements of compensation, including perks, may matter to you.

Don't Play the "Personal Need" Card

Employers will be reluctant to make any concessions in negotiating unless they see a benefit in it for them. An employer will not offer you more money simply because you ask for it, even if you really, really, really need it to make your mortgage payment. Talk about what you can do for the company and why that merits the compensation you are requesting.

Sell Yourself Before You Negotiate

It is absolutely essential before you negotiate for the employer to realize your value. If employers do not know your value, they simply will have no reason to negotiate with you. On the other hand, if they do know your value and are convinced you can do the job for them, then the question becomes, how much will it take to get you into the job. You would be surprised the lengths some people will go once they have found the ideal candidate, especially in places where unemployment is less than 3% and employers actually compete for good employees.

Negotiate the Job Description Before Negotiating Salary

If you receive an offer that is well below what you thought you would get, first consider the description of the job and keep in mind that additional responsibility warrants additional compensation. Even if you've had a lengthy interview together, you and the employer may have a different vision of the scope of the job. If you think the "Information Systems Technician" will run the entire WAN for three offices and the employer thinks the "Information Systems Technician" will assist in running the network for a single location, you're not going to begin your negotiations at the same dollar figure. If you negotiate additional responsibilities into the position, it is much easier to convince the employer to pay you additional money.

Every employer hopes to hire people who can bring their own unique expertise into their organization and contribute in any sensible way they can. Make employers aware of what else you can contribute to the position and many times, doing so will automatically increase the compensation for the position. If you find yourself consistently receiving very low offers, perhaps you are interviewing for positions you are over qualified for and need to pursue more challenging positions.

Get Them to Name a Number First

The first number mentioned determines the range in which negotiation will take place. Hiring managers have an amount in mind that they want to offer you, but they will usually try to get you to name a number first. The problem in doing so is this: if you answer too high you disqualify yourself, if you answer too low you devalue yourself. Not very good odds!!! Use responses such as, "I will consider any reasonable offer", or "What did you have in mind?" to get the ball back in their court. If they simply will not give up until you have named a number, give them a range (see Know the Range above) and then ask, "Are we in the same ball park?" If you do succeed in getting the employer to name the number first, realize that the number they give will often times be low because they expect you to negotiate with them.

Say Hmmm, Not Yes!!

No matter how good the offer is, don't accept it right away. Tell them you are very excited about the opportunity, and ask them to jot down the main points of the offer in writing. Tell them you will think it over and get back to them quickly. Getting an offer in writing helps ensure that you and the employer both understand the specifics of the offer. This is especially important if you have negotiated more than one item in the original verbal offer.

When you have successfully negotiated an offer that both you and your new employer are happy with, voice your enthusiasm for your new position and accept the job. Negotiating correctly can help you get exactly what you want out of your career. Remember, your job search doesn't end when you receive a job offer; it ends when you accept a job offer.

-- Kelly Stone is the Content Engineer for, publishers of the largest career resource directory on the Internet. Kelly has served job seekers for years as a career counselor and has facilitated many job search and hiring seminars for the careers industry.