The Balancing Act of Salary Negotiation


By Nichole Johnson

A contributing writer for the Houston Chronicle reported many Americans (who don’t negotiate salary) lose thousands of dollars over the course of their careers. Most people are ready to negotiate prices for a new vehicle, house, or insurance rates. But, when it comes to their livelihood, they become timid.

You got the job; it’s time to talk money.

After all your interview prep, the time has arrived to reap your financial rewards: You’re in the interview room, and they pop the question. What is your salary expectation? Sure, you have a good idea what number is ideal, but you should do your research in advance of the interview so you are prepared to answer. This is an important aspect of interview preparation you don’t want to forego.

Before your interview, research online websites such as, Glassdoor, and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for salary ranges. Take the industry, job duties, your background, and the location into account.

Jobs at non-profit agencies, for example, pay at least 25% less than the federal government. If the federal government’s starting salary is $50,000, expect to earn $38,000 for the same position at a non-profit agency.

When the moment arrives, wait for the employer to make the first offer. A low offer cheapens your abilities; a high offer looks like you’re too big for the company budget. Both offers leave you out of luck. Some employers have a set salary for the position, and the first offer is their best offer. They ask what you want to see if you are willing to work with them.

Nevertheless, do not say the salary is negotiable. Always provide a specific range to ensure there is a comfortable figure in there for everyone. And it’s a number you should know before the interview.

Start with your low-ball figure. The number that should pay your bills and won’t leave you feeling as if you sold yourself short.

Next, figure out the salary you really want – what you think is reasonable considering the duties, your education, and experience.

Consider benefits, perks, stock options, and bonuses in your negotiations. If the salary isn’t attractive, the bonuses or stock options can be enough to get you where you want to be. A $10,000 yearly bonus, employer-paid tuition, telecommuting opportunities, and four weeks of vacation can make a $40,000 annual base salary doable.

If your ideal salary is not accepted, don’t give up. Refer to your resume or portfolio (if applicable) and put the accent on your accomplishments. Point out how you can help them save money and time.

Don’t make the mistake of being hard-nosed and set up a power struggle you can’t win. You’ll be seen as difficult and hard to work with. Asking for too much can cost you the job.

Be willing to walk away. Although you have a low-ball offer, come up with a walk-away figure – a final offer that’s so low you have to move forward. A job that doesn’t fulfill your financial needs won’t put you in a better position.

Always get your final offer in writing, and don’t finalize negotiations until this happens. If you quit based on a verbal promise, you’ll have no recourse. A prepared negotiator won’t leave money on the table.

Walking away from any offer will never be easy, but it’s important to know when a position is not a good fit.


Nichole Johnson is a career advice columnist, online college instructor, United States Navy veteran, and human services professional dedicated to helping others reach their full potential.

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