Posted on 15 April 2010

Seeking Advice on Salary Negotiations

A colleague of mine is doing a presentation on Salary, or Offer Negotiations and I thought it might be interesting to experiment with a little crowd-sourcing. Please comment or blog about this topic and link back here so I can see your thoughts on the matter.  The commenting tool below should allow you to easily sign in with OpenID, twitter, gmail, yahoo or MSN. Engage in the conversation and see what we can all come up with together!

How do you negotiate salary/pay?

Do you believe the “rules” of salary negotiations have “changed”? does–do you?

Should you negotiate even when the offer is already more than you expected, but below your target?

(“Unlucky” over at JibberJobber says:

Salary negotiation when the number is put on the table is easy. Yu go higher, and wait for the counter. BUT ,when you are in desperate need of the job, and the offer is suitable, I take the offer and do not negotiate. Best next thing, is prove yourself and later , negotiate for higher number, evidencing proof of you work accomplishments.

  • Do you agree with Unlucky? A better question is… do you do the same thing?

Do you play “games” with the recruiter/hiring manager? Good-cop/bad-cop? MN Headhunter says: “There are many schools of thought about salary negotiations and it appears that a great many of them involve game playing, duplicity, and tiptoeing around an actual number.”

  • When do you reveal your “number”?
  • Do you force the company/client to reveal their number first?

Justin Kownacki gives these 5 things to remember while negotiating… do you agree?

5 Things to Remember About Yourself When Negotiating

  1. Your work matters, or they wouldn’t have hired you in the first place.
  2. It’s not your job to always make the offer.
  3. What would they have to pay in order to replace you?
  4. You’re doing your employer a favor by allowing them to employ you.
  5. Your job is not a jail cell; you can always leave.

PayScale posts the following strategy:  Does this help?

  1. Do your homework.
  2. Know your needs and wants.
  3. Learn a methodology for handling the questions, “What are you looking for?” and “What kind of salary do you want?”\
  4. Know your options and ask, ask, ask.
  5. Always negotiate in person.
  • Do you “Always negotiate in person”?

Please comment, below!

28 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Jennifer Armitstead Says:

    Negotiating salary should start before you even apply to the company. I think it’s really important that you know what you’re worth and what your most critically important benefits are to you and your situation. Do your research about the salaries in the market the job resides. Ask people that work at the company about compensation (perhaps there are smoking benies that make a lower salary worthwhile). Use online tools for additional help too. I think that when you have clarity on what you’re comfortable with for compensation first, it’s much easier to negotiate and discuss with the powers that be. At the end of the day, if you’re starving and come across as desperate, the company will take advantage of you… you would too if you were on the other side of the desk.

  2. Robert Merrill Says:

    I’m guessing by “smoking benies”, you mean “they have a really great benefits package”?

    Also, what do you do when your market research (ala and the like) is totally out of line with what the company wants to pay for the job?

  3. Randy Block Says:

    Jennifer makes good points.

    In addition, the negotiation process really starts with the phone interview. Keeping money out of the screening process as long as possible is key.

    You really are in the best position to negotiate after you have received the written offer. before thinking about the $$, it’s important to review the fit of the position with your career goals. If it’s a great fit, then you may not want to negotiate.

    In my view, if you wish to negotiate an offer, you must be willing to walk away from it. If you counteroffer, then you are rejecting their original offer. As Jennifer said, do your homework. What you would say is: “This is the offer and terms I will accept”. It’s a gamble but it is very powerful.

    In my 30+ years as a retained search consultant, the placement always went together if the fit was excellent between the candidate and the hiring company. The compensation was anticlimactic.

  4. Robert Merrill Says:

    @ Randy, I always ask door salary in the first interview, and I really, really detest taking no for an answer. How do you coach your candidates in that situation?

  5. Jennifer Anthony Says:

    Weird. I actually just posted a very basic article about this one my blog.

    What to Do When Asked About Your Previous Salary —

  6. Jay Snyder Says:

    I say it all depends. There are SO many variables to the equation. With all that has been said, I completely agree. The only aspects I would add are putting into context: where the candidate is coming from (need or greed)? how easy/hard fought the hiring process went? what kind of talent supply there is for the position? how comfortable is the candidate with these kind of issues? what kind of personality is the hiring manager? how strong is the fit? how honest of an interview/relationship was built? what kind of foot does the candidate want to start off on?I am assuming coming this far, there has been homework done and the numbers are reasonably close. In the case where the number is not given, I think it is fair to ask for a ballpark range-expressing that, of course, it is DOE. My approach is more on honesty, less on games, up front (and beyond). I believe true talent and value will be recognized easily and there will be multiple opportunities for greater reward. Jay

  7. Jack Chapman Says: has jugunda free info on Salary Negotiations based on my [Jack’s] book “Negotiating your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute.

  8. Jack Chapman Says:

    The same 5 rules apply in good times an tough times. has immense free resources for Negotiating.

  9. Robert Merrill Says:

    I’ll be adding some comments I have received outside of this blog, below

  10. Robert Merrill Says:

    Christine H., wrote:

    To me, it depends on the tone of our conversation and how interested I am in the work.

    (Want more business? My engaging Social Media Relationship Marketing gets results! Christine at ChristineHueber dot com)

  11. Robert Merrill Says:

    DAVE M., ★ Tradeshow booth traffic builder / Lead generator ★ Parties / Events ★ GREEN ★100% recycled wire, wrote:

    Try and be direct and upfront without coming on too strong…
    Know what you want to be paid and go from there…
    If you want the gig and are willing to negotiate price, it could turn out to be a repeat customer…

    I’ve done this with quite a number of clients and it pays off nicely…

  12. Robert Merrill Says:

    Lisa Y. (LinkedIn) wrote:

    Do your homework! Understand the job description. Understand the market. Review the salary for the area and job. How large is the company? I would suggest you speak not only in terms of salary but in terms of the whole package. What does the package include? Negotiate if you can’t do this now then maybe a signing bonus or when can you reach it.

    Job satisfaction is not only salary.

  13. Robert Merrill Says:

    Mark R, CFO Maximum Communications/Creator – said:

    I would agree with Lisa that you should do your homework. There are professional groups, recruiting firms, LinkedIn groups, etc.

    You need this baseline to help make an appropriate counterprosal.

    I have walked away from an opportunity over salary, primarily because the risk/reward mix was not in-line with what I had ability to influence.

    Hope this helps.



  14. Robert Merrill Says:

    Ed H, Wordsmith, said:
    I liked Lisa’s answer a great deal.

    1. I don’t believe in mentioning money first as a job seeker. My research should have told me if the compensation offered is in line with my range. I also believe that discussing money up front hobbles my efforts as a candidate to demonstrate the extent to which the opportunity itself is a good fit for my strengths and interests.

    2. As a job seeker, one doesn’t always have the luxury of waiting until the organization mentions a figure first. Here is where the research should pay off: by permitting me to provide a range that is in line with the amount the organization has budgeted.

    3. Usually, yes. As a rule, I believe employers expect negotiations.

    4. No.

  15. Robert Merrill Says:

    Robert R, Group Head of Incentives and Variable Compensation, Royal Bank of Scotland, Said:

    Know what you want; know what is important and rank them accordingly. There are lots of thing to go into ‘total rewards’ with salary being a component. And everything is negotiable. Never forget as a candidate, this is as good as it gets.

    Hate to say it, but in this day and age, one must also have an idea how long one is going to be in the job/role/company.

    I have walked away from offers, not only because of salary, but because there were other issues that were important (which I told them were important) which they were unable or unwilling to compromise.

  16. Robert Merrill Says:

    Sathish K, Assistant Manager-HR at Financial Software & Systems Pvt Ltd, said:

    Know what the market offers you, find out what the company offers from various blog sites and put forth your demand reasonably. You might get what is due for you.

  17. Robert Merrill Says:

    Kiberly R, HR Professional looking for a new challenge with a progressive and forward-thinking organization in NJ or Philadelphia., said:

    Hi Robert,

    So much of what you asked also has to be something you’re comfortable handling. Also keep in mind that what you’re saying is important but HOW you’re saying it is even more important. You want to be confident, but not arrogant.

    1. Never be the first to raise the issue of salary. Let the hiring manager bring it up first. The only time I would go against this way of thinking is if the position was a contract position or one for which I was overqualified. That’s practical so you don’t waste anyone’s time in the interviewing process.

    2. No. If you’re worried you might be in high range, present a range when you’re asked and tell them it’s negotiable — provided you’re being honest with yourself. In this market, salaries have dropped slightly so research before you start throwing numbers out.

    3. As far as the counteroffer, I would say that it depends. If you receive an offer for a job that you really want and the offer is good, perhaps you can accept and negotiate other things — more time off, etc. Be realistic about this and know the company’s financial position and also how many candidates have been interviewing. No offense friend, but it doesn’t matter how wonderful you are…if you fight them too much on salary, they’ll just go to pick #2 — especially in this job market.

    4. I was presented with an offer in January. The hiring manager low-balled me and it was borderline insulting. It was a senior level gig and companies are doing that now with many good people out of work. I did present a counter off and backed it up with research via a salary survey based on my level of experience, geography and company demographics. He was unwilling to negotiate any of the terms: time off, position name, etc. I walked away. If I would have taken that job, I would have walked in on the first day not being happy with myself and that’s a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.

    Good luck to you and remember that it’s OK to take time to reflect any offer that comes your way. List the pros and cons and put a dollar value next to every single item in the offer.

  18. Robert Merrill Says:

    David C., Recruitment Business Partner, Twitter: @McAfeeCareers or @davidcherry4, said:

    Be honest with your answer, so many times when I have interviewed someone who tells me their salary, i.e. 50k and then says they are looking for 70k – this always follows with me asking something like ‘So you looking for a 20k pay rise, why?’

    Pre-closing is often the best, I start talking about salary right and the begining of the 1st interview, this way you avoid complications when you going to offer someone a position.

  19. Robert Merrill Says:

    Nicholas L. wrote:

    While I don’t recall off the top of my head exactly what it was, I do
    recall that the advise from the book “what color is your parachute”
    was very good. (Any library or bookstore will have a copy–it’s very

    I do recall hearing it said that whoever states a price first loses
    the negotiation. I think it’s probably true in many cases.

  20. Robert Merrill Says:

    Aaron T wrote in reply to Nicholas

    On 4/15/2010 5:27 PM, Nicholas L. wrote:
    > I do recall hearing it said that whoever states a price first loses
    > the negotiation. I think it’s probably true in many cases.

    I’ve heard this as well, and this advice has been good for me. I wait
    for the employer to bring it up, then I start higher than I know they’re
    willing to pay, and haggle down. It seems to be a lot easier than asking
    what they’re willing to pay, the employer starting low, and trying to
    haggle up. It’s worked for me, and in most cases, I’ve gotten the salary
    I was hoping to get.

  21. Robert Merrill Says:

    Merrill O. said in reply to Nicholas:

    The statement of “Whoever states a price first loses” is absolutely true.
    Notice how often you’re asked to state the price first in almost all situations.
    Example, buying a car. The dealer asks “So what can you afford to pay
    per month?”

    I’m certainly no expert – and I’ve made plenty of mistakes. But
    here’s my 2 cents.

    My advice: think of compensation beyond just salary. Think of it as a package.
    What other benefits are included, e.g. health insurance (how much do
    you pay vs the employer), retirement (matching etc), vacation days,
    flextime, etc.
    I would also consider such factors as work environment, opportunity
    for growth, learning, etc.

    So when you’re asked “What are your salary expectations?”
    The answer could be “Well, it depends. Can we talk about the other
    benefits and potential opportunities?
    Once I understand what these are I’ll be more able to understand
    better myself what my salary expectations are.”

    This defers the question, buying you time, so that hopefully they’ll
    reveal their thoughts on salary before you have to.

    The real power in negotiations is to have… just that “power.”
    Remember the control factor. “He who cares that least controls the

    At the end of the war in Vietnam, the North Vietnam negotiators felt
    they had the upper hand and were not very willing to negotiate.
    The US launched the Christmas bombings, this drove the NV negotiations
    running back to the table.

    Both the Soviets and US during the cold war built up their nuclear
    stockpile, partially in an effort to have something to negotiate with.
    The US could have hardly asked the Soviets to disarm, without having a
    nuclear stockpile themselves.

    Negotiating with terrorist is tough, because they don’t care about
    anything except their cause. “When question is asked, what do you
    want, often the answer is ‘We want you dead.'”

    When, my wife and I were shopping for a used Ford Expedition a couple
    of years ago. We visited all the dealerships and said, “This is what
    we want to buy. Please list which used expeditions you have for sale
    and the lowest price that you’re willing to let that car go for.”
    We got a lot of “Well how much do you have to spend?” Our reply “As
    much as it takes to get what we what. We don’t know what that number
    is. We’re shopping for the best deal.”

    So the best situation is field as many offers as you can, then
    employers are competing for your services.

    Unfortunately, most of the time, there are more people looking than
    jobs, therefore, the employers have the upper hand and the option of
    choosing between several qualified people.
    With this is mind, if I don’t have a job, I negotiate very carefully,
    feeling my way along, because a job (even one that doesn’t pay as much
    as I feel I’m worth) is better than no job.
    And one can always switch jobs.

    Studies show that most salary increases come when people switch from
    one job to the next – not from a raise from his/her boss.

  22. Robert Merrill Says:

    Richard E said in response to Nicholas:

    I used to believe this.

    A while back I read a summary of a study that looked at the question. The study found that whoever stated a price first set the tone for the entire conversation and had the most influence on the end result. Once a price expectation has been set, it is up to the other person to attempt to meet the expectation or try to change the setter’s position. The key is to start high and express a willingness to be flexible.

    Also: Don’t sell yourself short. Remember that money is a small part of the employment experience. Be confident and willing to walk away if it isn’t a good fit. If you aren’t in a position to walk away, then don’t bother negotiating. Hiring time is not the only time to negotiate salaries–you should have that discussion whenever you are in a strong position (i.e. have other options).

  23. Robert Merrill Says:

    Ryan B. wrote:

    I think the key to any good negotiation is to make it multiple-aspect.
    Don’t just deal with one value like salary(even in a salary
    negotiation.) What else is important to you? Vacation days? Work from
    home days? One time bonuses? Try to negotiate a package that combines
    all of those. Maybe your boss can’t raise your salary by as much as
    you want but he/she does have a pool of money for bonuses. Personally,
    being able to work from home one day a week would be equivalent to,
    say a 5k raise.

    I’m sorry if that sounded like HR babble. I’ve done it and it works.
    Remember: multi-aspect!

  24. Robert Merrill Says:

    Todd H said:

    As a mention of bias, I rarely care much about salary beyond that it
    pays my bills. I talked frankly and openly with my last employer and it
    seemed to work out fine in both our favors.

    That said, I usually wait for prospective employers to bring it up,
    because if you bring it up, it never seems positive. I used to try to
    give a range, which would tell me, if an offer came, what they thought
    of my skills within that range (it’s not the best indicator, mind you).
    that range dips slightly below what I’d accept, and goes higher. If I
    were looking for 65k, I’d say something like 62-75k or somesuch.

    I have only lost one opportunity over negotiations when I was offered a
    ridiculous salary, came back with something reasonable, and got turned
    down. It was literally 8.50/hr for programming during a 4 week
    “training” to move up to 11/hr. I stated a programmer would have to
    think themselves worthless if they accepted so low, even for an entry
    level. That was in 2004.

    In the end, if they ask, answer honestly. If they offer X but you need
    more, counter with Y that meets your needs, but explain why. It’s silly
    to counter only because you think you should counter with something.
    That’s just greedy, even if indirectly.


  25. Robert Merrill Says:

    Bryan S. said:

    On Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 5:24 PM, Robert M. wrote:
    > here–how do you go about negotiating pay?
    > – Do you force the issue and bring it up first?

    I have a formula.

    When I’m job hunting, I apply to a lot of different places (at least
    five) — I cast my net wide. In my experience, the MOST important
    part of the the entire process is your interview. You really need to
    work the interview (nothing over the top, but you’d better have good
    eye contact, smile frequently, and a firm handshake) and get that
    potential employer to lust after you. I’m sure there are plenty of
    people who apply for the same positions that I do, and I’m sure that
    they have resumes that are as good or better than mine, but once they
    get a chance to interface with me, they’re generally more impressed
    and interested than they were when I was just a sheet of paper in
    their pile of resumes. Not because I’m so great, but because I
    interview well; because I know how important the interview is (while
    others may not?). The interview gives me an opportunity to directly
    connect with the people who will choose if they extend me an offer or
    not — so it’s a chance to showcase the value you’ll provide for their
    team, their department, the company, etc.

    So, because my perceived value is so much higher after the interview,
    I never talk numbers until after I’ve had at least my first interview.
    If I interview well, and I know they’re interested, then it’s time to
    talk turkey. If they don’t bring it up (which they usually do), then
    I will. You’ve seen my resume, we’ve talked face-to-face, now how
    much am I worth to you guys? The “how much am I worth” question is
    rhetorical, because I already know how much I want to make. I’m never
    ambivalent. If they ask, then I hit them between the eyes with the
    honest answer of what I want to make, and then we go from there.

    > – Do you make them tell you the offer-range before you cough up a number?

    I try to find a range before I even apply. If that’s not available,
    then I look through other positions that are similar to find a
    comparable. Sometimes, I’ll email the contact on a job posting if no
    range is specified and directly ask before I send in my resume.
    Sounding greedy up front my be to my disadvantage, but I’m applying to
    a lot of places, and if you’re range is 20k too low, then we’re just
    wasting each others time. I need to cut through the BS, and filter
    out those who aren’t serious about paying me, because I’m serious
    about adding value to their organization.

    > – Do you go back with a counteroffer no matter what they come to you with?

    No. I know what I want ahead of time. If the offer is where I want
    it to be, then I accept promptly. I think people appreciate the lack
    of chain-yanking BS.

    > – Have you ever LOST a gig/job because your negotiations broke down
    > and they walked away?

    Yes. That’s the way it rolls sometimes.

    > I look forward to your straight thoughts, not sanitized “HR-speak”
    > that I too-often find myself spewing.
    > Thanks!
    > Rob M.

  26. michaelneece Says:

    Hi Robert,
    The following article will definitely help.
    Conquering Salary Question Fears

  27. Cheryl Palmer Says:

    I’m sharing with you a couple of URLs for articles where I was quoted on this topic:

    And here is a blog post that I wrote on this subject:

  28. Qiubing Fan Says:

    I never talk numbers until after I’ve had at least my first interview.If I interview well, and I know they’re interested, then it’s time totalk turkey.

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