Salary Negotiation:

There is no place more uncomfortable than when people are talking money. You have to know the size of the company before you decide on your tactics here. Any place where you're dealing with an HR manager then you are likely working with someone who doesn't have any personal attachment to the cash being offered. Rather they have some numbers and a formula that they're plying to get the greatest resource for the least cash outlay that will likely keep both sides content. On the other hand, if you're talking with someone in a small company, they're not talking about money the same way. It's more of an invitation to join their extended family. So you have to approach those types of negotiations more carefully.

Knowledge is ultimate power in these negotiations. You should try to avoid giving salary history or telling someone what you are actually wanting to make for as long as you can. You don't want to price yourself out of the market, but you also don't want to offer yourself for too little. You can try and get them to give you their range first by saying things like "I'm not really sure what I'm worth on the market right now, and you're looking at candidates every day. How much do you think this job should pay?" If they tell you what it's paid, your normal response (unless the offer is below what you actually are willing to accept) should be "It sounds like we can find a good salary in the upper part of that range." If it is low, you should ask if it's for a more junior position than what you feel you're qualified for. But regardless, this is your better position because you now know what they can do without having given away your negotiation position.

If you are forced into a corner, you should have some knowledge of the market. has a handy salary calculator. You can say that you've got friends who have similar jobs who have gotten anywhere from X to Y, and you should quote the 40% and 90% marks. That way when they tell you what they think the offer should be it won't be as low as it could be, but they feel like they're winning the negotiation some by getting you to come down off of the top number. And you won't be getting an offer of lower than the median mark.

Now whenever they ask you for any feedback or offer you anything, before you say anything you should look at the 4 corners of the wall in front of you (lower left, upper left, upper right, lower right, or some such) and count to 20 before saying anything. They will likely come up before you get to 20 if they have any room to come up. (That's actually good advice for any negotiation at all. You shouldn't ever flinch first if you can help it.)

Now if you're talking with an employee, not an owner, you can at this point start to actually negotiate. Tell them that you like the company and feel it would be a good fit. If they can come up $X/year or $X/hour (or if they can agree to extra vacation, 2 days extra a month telecommuting, or whatever it is that you actually want to try and negotiate) then you can say yes right now and start signing papers. Another employee is going to be open to that type of language.

Alternatively you can say that you are talking with other companies right now (whether or not it's true) if you can afford to wait a day or two, and ask them for some time to think about the offer. That will let you know something else. Normally they'll either say something like "Ok, we need to know by X", which (probably) means that they don't have any more salary to offer, or they will say "Let me know if you get any other offers so we can see what else we can do" which means that they still do have some head room.

If you're talking with the owner of a smaller company then they are less likely to be open to negotiating. The offer is what it is, at least for the moment, and you should ask if you can take it home and mull over it. Ask them when they need an answer by. Then you thank them for the offer, tell them you are going to talk it over with your [spouse, minister, brother in law, whoever...] before you make a quick decision and you can get back with them very soon. Then when you call back (and you should ALWAYS call back, even if you're turning the offer down... you may want to go back and try and get this job again later) you can either accept or say "My [advisor] and I started talking and we were wondering if I could also get X." That makes it feel like you're someone who values advice. For small, private companies that's important. It's part of the culture fit. The owner will be the 'father figure', and being open to advice from authority figures will make you seem to be a better fit overall. It also gives the negotiation a less confrontational feel during the initial salary negotiations. If you end up taking this job, that's important. After all, you would hope that the last time you'll be on opposite sides will be this salary negotiation. You don't want any sour tastes left in anyones' mouth over money.

Previous Page: Phone Screens Next Page: Good Luck