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A Guide to Negotiating a Great Salary

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Usually, after you receive a job offer there's plenty of room to negotiate your salary. Employers rarely provide their best offer first. Individuals who negotiate typically get a higher salary than those who don't. Also, from an employer's perspective, a well planned negotiation makes you seem like a strong candidate for the position. Robin Pinkley, coauthor of Get Paid What You're Worth, stated "We found that those people who attempted to negotiate their salary in a constructive way are perceived as more favorable than those who didn't negotiate at all, because they were demonstrating the skills the company wanted to hire for."

Discussing Salary

Salary Negotiations

Jack Chapman states in his book "Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute," the first rule is to postpone salary talk until the employer gets to know you. Champan states people go over budget for things they really want and a company will go over budget for you; unless you have set the price too early. Chapman stated, "your best leverage is when they are really interested in you."

Get the employer to mention a salary range before you tell him yours. It's a well known poker maxim the first player to tip his hand is likely to loose. Don't except or reject the offer until you've had time to think about it. Inform the employer you are enthusiastic about working for the company but you need time to review it. Review all the elements of the compensation package, such as retirement plan and insurance before accepting a salary.

Most employers expect candidates to negotiate; they leave room in the initial offer for a raise. Have strong reasons and ask for a higher salary. Some experts suggest asking for a 10 percent increase. According to experts, you're not paid what you're worth, you're paid what you negotiate.

Salary requirements: If the employer asks for your salary requirements prior to making an offer, provide a range based on similar positions; don't give a specific number.

Numerous websites provide salary calculators. Enter your job title and zip code to find out the salary of others doing similar work. Here are a few useful salary calculators: jobs.aol.com, salary.money.cnn.com and payscale.com.

Employment books provide salaries according to industry, job, geographic region and type of employer. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the federal government is available online. Ask trade associations and relevant recruiters what people in your niche earn.

If you've had other recent job interviews, inform these employers of the offer and try to speed up the interview procedure. Realizing you have another job offer will make you a more attractive candidate to them. Use additional job offers as leverage during salary negotiations.

To see things from the employer's perspective answer the following questions:
  • How desperate is the employer to hire a person for the job?
  • Have a lot of qualified individuals applied for the job?
  • How do you measure up to the other applicants?
  • Does the employer know about your other employment opportunities?
  • Does the employer know the total compensation you've been offered by other companies?
  • Extras

    If the employer is unable to give you the salary you desire, negotiate extras. For example, request a year-end bonus if you make a specific amount of money for the company or achieve specific goals. Ask for a salary review after six months instead of a year. Asking for extras demonstrates you believe you're going to bring significant value to the company.

    Relocation costs: To get the best deal, it's vital to show the employer how much of an asset you'll be to the company. You want him to think spending money on relocation is an investment instead of an expense. Typically, employers pay from $1,000 to $2,500 on relocation although some have spent more than $10,000.

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    Negotiating Benefits

    Total compensation: Review total compensation before negotiating your salary. Total compensation includes items such as:

    • Commissions
    • Bonuses
    • Health insurance, including medical care spending on dependents
    • Paid vacation
    • Profit sharing
    • Stock options

    Unfortunately, many benefit packages aren't flexible. It's worth asking, but typically it's too difficult for an employer to modify the health care plan and other elements of the benefits package. However, one useful strategy is asking for specific increases in benefits or ask for additional benefits - the more the employer says "no" the better position you'll be in to get a higher salary. People don't like saying no continually, thus the employer may be more likely to say "yes" to a salary increase or a better bonus package.

    Counter Offer

    Experts state hesitation leads to a higher offer. Your hesitation makes it clear you're not enthusiastic about the offer. You've set the stage to make a counter offer. Know the salary range for the job and tell the employer you believe your experience and abilities puts you at the top of the pay range. Expect a counter offer.

    Small Companies and Nonprofits

    Typically, salary policies at small companies and nonprofits are not set in stone; they may not exist. This gives you a leg up in negotiating a salary. Managers in small companies typically don't have the time to stay current on the job market. Provide the employer salary statistics for your occupation that supports your compensation request.

    Salary Requirements

    Before accepting a job you should know how much money you require and how much you'd like to live on. Create a helpful worksheet which includes the dollar amount you need in one column and in another column the dollar amount you want for items such as:

    • Home mortgage or rent
    • Food
    • Clothing
    • Utilities
    • Telephone/Internet
    • Home maintenance and repairs
    • Household items
    • Pet costs
    • Education
    • Entertainment
    • Car costs
    • Medical (in addition to insurance premiums)
    • Loan and credit card payments and other types of debt
    • Alimony and child support
    • Home and car insurance premiums and other insurance premiums
    • Retirement contributions
    • Charitable donations
    • Property taxes
    • Vacation
    • Bank fees
    • Other

    Some experts suggest you multiply the totals by two to roughly allow for federal and state income taxes, social security and unpredictable expenses.

    Salary Increases

    Here's some tips for getting a raise after you've been working for the company for an appropriate period of time:

    Know your value: Provide a list of your accomplishments to your employer. Be willing to brag a little about your accomplishments in a professional manner. Francie Dalton, president of Dalton Alliances, a business consulting firm, said "If you don't have justifications for what you're asking, if you can't answer why you're worth something you won't be successful in salary negotiations."

    Have you improved a process, saved the company money or met or even exceeded a quota? Figure out the positive impact you've had on the company's bottom line. If possible, provide your employer a specific figure. You could mention your efforts justify five percent of that figure being added to your salary. If it's difficult to demonstrate how your job impacts the bottom line show how your efforts improve morale or employee retention.

    If your employer says "no" to a salary increase, keep the relationship amicable. A "no" is not necessarily forever. Enhance your worth to the company by improving your skills, learning new skills and by broadening your work responsibilities.

    Regarding raises, Lauren Herring, president of Impact Group stated "Most employees wait for a review period, but the best time to do it is right after you do something really great or right after you get kudos." Tamryn Hennessy, national director of career development for Rasmussen College, stated "Confidence is key. A frugal manager can smell weakness so it's important that you come in prepared for anything."

    Rebecca Elkins a Dallas human-resources consultant, tells employees to begin their campaign for a raise well ahead of the performance review meeting with their boss. Raises are typically approved weeks before the boss gives the news to employees. Also, ask for a raise when your boss is in a good mood and use your best people skills.

    With preparation, confidence and some charm, a salary negotiation can provide great results.

    Author: Brian Jenkins