How to Negotiate a Starting Salary

Negotiating a salary can seem like an intimidating task. On the one hand, you don’t want to undervalue yourself. On the other, you want to avoid the awkwardness of proposing too high a number.

It’s important to keep in mind that employers expect you to try and get the best possible salary. After all, you’re not taking the job simply to make friends. So don’t feel as if you’re out of line for requesting more money. If you genuinely believe that your skills, experience and drive warrant a particular salary, don’t refrain from making your case.

Just remember to wait until after you’ve been offered the job, but before you sign any papers. The worst that could happen is that they say “no.” At the very least, they could counter-offer, which still leaves you better off than you were before asking.

Do Your Homework
Before you even go into the job interview, make sure you know everything about the job there is to know. Have a clear understanding of what skills, time and level of expertise will be required of you.

After you’ve figured this out, research comparable jobs to come up with an average salary range, taking into account factors such as industry and geography. There are many websites that provide salary information including salary.com, glassdoor.com, payscale.com, jobsearchintelligence.com and careeronestop.org.

Once you’ve done your homework, you can determine an appropriate starting point for negotiations based on your own experience and education.

Know Your Personal Salary Range
There are two primary things you need to know when negotiating your salary. One, your ideal salary. And two, your minimum salary.

Make sure that what you’d ideally like to make is a feasible goal based on your research. But also, after you’ve determined a minimum salary, you should be able to explain why you’d be unwilling to accept a lower amount. It may be impossible for you to swing financially, or it might simply be lower than average salary for the job. But you may have to draw on these reasons during salary negotiations with the hiring manager.

Prepare Your Pitch
Negotiating a higher salary involves selling yourself and demonstrating how your contribution to a company will ultimately benefit their bottom line. Assess your strengths and try to specifically describe the unique value you’ll bring to their organization. Be enthusiastic rather than boastful. Nobody wants to work with a know-it-all, but a positive attitude is infectious and energizing.

Practice Your Negotiating Skills
Ask friends and family members to role-play a salary negotiation with you. Know what you’ll say if you’re offered a salary that is lower than what you want. Practice different scenarios and ways to persuade the hiring manager to increase their offer. But also, make sure that you don’t come across as simply being hung up on the money. Your primary interest should be in the job and what it can offer, non-financially as well as financially.

Remember to take into consideration the whole package, including benefits, vacation time, travel allowances and even flextime. A job with a reasonable salary that will increase your skills and offer plenty of mental stimulation while making life a little easier is worth its weight in gold.

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Nicole Cavazos

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Nicole Cavazos is a Los Angeles based copywriter and blogger. As a former contributor to the ZipRecruiter blog, she covered the job market and wrote advice for job seekers.

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