Dos & Don'ts of Salary Negotiation

When it comes to job hunting, few topics are more confusing than salary negotiation. When should you talk money? How much are your skills worth? Will negotiating hurt your chances of getting the job? How open should you be about your salary history? We consulted with Aerotek recruiters as well as other career experts to give you all the answers you need to navigate a successful negotiation.

1. Do your homework

Before you decide on what salary to ask for, find out the going rate for the job and your experience level, says Senior Professional Recruiter Jacqueline Ross. “Do your research and know how much you will need to earn for a particular job opportunity. Then leave some room for negotiation in case the employer makes a low offer.”

Research should also include learning as much as possible about the job and company to which you’re applying.

“The more you understand about the role you are interviewing for, how well you fit the position, the number of candidates in the mix, the cost of living in the area if you will have to relocate, and what your skills are worth in that part of the country, the better you will be able to negotiate,” says Josh Rainey, Recruiter Lead Manager.“Use websites like Glassdoor and Indeed to learn what people think of the company and what candidates in similar jobs at the company are earning.”

2. Don’t accept the first offer!

According to Jack Chapman, career and salary coach, writing for The Ladder, many job candidates are too quick to accept the first offer. “Companies often have ranges and flexibility on how much they can pay for a given position,” says Rainey. “You will most likely wind up at the bottom end of the range if you don’t negotiate.”

In fact, says Chapman, not negotiating can result in “thousands left on the table.” He advises candidates to respond to a first salary offer with the word, “’Hmmm’—a single word that buys 30 seconds of silence. A 30-second pause really amps up the pressure on employers to offer more,” he says.

3. Be realistic

It’s wise to negotiate, but unwise to ask for a salary that’s way out of the ballpark. Candidates rarely lose an opportunity because they negotiate, says Rainey. Yet “being unreasonable or asking for significantly more than you have earned in similar roles in the past, could cause that to happen.” In general, he says, “If you are respectful, they [employers] will work with you.”

Ross notes that today’s employers, “have fewer qualms about asking candidates what they earned in a previous job. They want to make sure your salary history aligns well with what you are asking for as a candidate. So be able to justify what you are looking for in pay!” says Ross.

4. Act confident

You may not feel like you’re the best thing that ever happened to the company, but act like it anyway. It may help you get the salary you deserve.

“Confidence is essential to being a strong negotiator,” writes Business News Daily Staff writer, Shannon Gausepohl. “You must exude self-assurance, even if you are insecure or uncertain. Don't apologize for negotiating — own it.”

5. Timing is everything

According to Senior Professional Recruiter Sam Yeomans and Recruiter Lead Kate Schendel, one of the worst mistakes candidates make is bringing up salary too early in the interview process.

“The problem with bringing up the salary topic too early in the hiring process is that it can take the focus away from the case you're trying to build for why you should be hired,” says Debra Auerbach of CareerBuilder. Unless the hiring manager brings it up early on, it’s best to hold off on salary negotiations until “you have an offer, or at least have strong signs of an offer, before broaching the subject,” says Auerbach.

Though salary negotiations can be nerve-wracking, knowing how to handle them is half the battle.

“A good recruiter can make sure you are doing the right research and asking the right questions, not just to get the job, but to get the best offer,” says Rainey.

To learn more about salary negotiations, check out a previous article on the topic.

Aerotek recruiter panelists Josh Rainey, Jacqueline Ross, Kate Schendel and Sam Yeomans contributed to this article.

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