You Can Earn the Salary You Want


Kate Lorenz,
CareerBuilder.com Editor

10 Lessons in Preparing for the Salary Discussion

Salary negotiations can be tricky. "When it comes to getting the best possible salary and benefits package, many job seekers are unprepared for the negotiation," says Martin Yate, the New York Times bestselling author of the "Knock 'em Dead" series, including "Knock 'em Dead 2005 – The Ultimate Job Seeker's Guide." Before you sign on the dotted line, be sure you understand the pitfalls and are well prepared to score the best possible salary package.

1. Do your homework.
Understand the salary range. Many job seekers receive an offer but have no idea how to determine if it's appropriate. Yate says it is important to identify a realistic range of pay by researching industry and trade Web sites, consulting the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), utilizing online salary calculators and carefully reviewing the job posting. "You'll also need to have an objective opinion of your skills and where you fit within that range."

2. Script it out.
Plan your discussion. "Before any interview you should have three figures in mind," Yate advises. The first is the least you need to put food on the table and a roof over your head. The second is the reasonable wage you should earn considering your experience, researched industry ranges and the geography." (Pay levels can vary dramatically based on geographic region and available labor pool.) "The third figure is what salary will make you feel like you've gone to heaven. Kick out the first figure -- that's personal and shouldn't be discussed. Make the second and third figures your desired range."

3. Bite your tongue.
Don't be the first to talk about money. "If you bring up pay before the employer does, you're not having a sincere conversation," Yate says. "If an employer doesn't bring up salary, it means you haven't convinced them yet that you are the ideal candidate. Concentrate on bringing the conversation to that point. Show how you can help them make or save money and make a positive contribution."

4. No questions, please.
Never close with a salary question. Most interviewers will conclude their battery of questions by asking if you have any. "The worst thing you can do is ask a question about salary. It shows you don't have anything else to say about yourself and your qualifications."

5. Just the facts.
Postpone salary discussions until you have all the facts. If you're asked how much you expect to earn, don't give your range immediately. Yate suggests candidates should say they need to understand more about the job before discussing pay. Ask further questions about the job requirements to gain clarity.

6. Stay forward focused.
Don't let your current pay determine your future salary. No two jobs are the same; therefore, Yate says, your current earnings should bear no relation to your starting salary at the new job. Point out how this job is different, then say something like, "I'm changing jobs, so obviously I want to make more. Make me a fair offer to match my skills and experience within the salary range. By the way, what is the salary range for this job?"

7. Be truthful.
Don't lie about your current salary. "Lying about earnings is reason for dismissal with cause," Yate cautions. "When you're asked to fill out an application form, you're granting them permission under the 1970 Fair Credit Reporting Act to check your employment history. Even if they don't always check, when they do, they're looking to verify dates of employment and salary."

8. Make 'em sweat.
Leverage another offer. "If you have a valid offer from a competitor, you can use this to get back in for a second interview. Tell the interviewer that you really want to work for them, but just received a serious offer from XYZ company (the competitor) and would hate to make the wrong decision if they were considering you for the position," Yate advises.

9. Practice restraint.
Don't take the first offer. Most companies also have salary ranges and some leeway in what they can pay. Unless the amount is beyond your wildest dreams, consider giving the employer the opportunity to dig a little deeper. "This is a crucial point where you have the upper hand," Yate says. "They want you but don't yet have you; you want to get as much as possible and this is your one chance to do so."

10. Leave the door open.
What if you really want a job, but the employer makes you a lowball offer? Yate says: "Don't turn it down; ask for a few days to think about it. Let them know that you are very interested, but wonder if they could do anything about the salary. Then call to see if there has been any change, or if they were able to do anything about the money before you give them your final answer."

More advice from Martin Yate, one of America's leading advocates for working professionals, can be found on his Web site at www.knockemdead.com.

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