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Salary Negotiations – 5 Tips for Success

As a recruiter, I've learned a great deal over the years about the salary negotiation process and how to help my candidates get the best compensation package they can. Here are my top five tips for success:

1. Make sure the job is right

After each interview, reflect carefully. Does the job and company have the core components I want? Will the position help me meet my career goals? If you are unsure, continue with the process and gather more information. If you know it isn't right, communicate that to the employer or your recruiter. There is no point in getting an extra few thousand dollars to accept the wrong job. The search can get emotional, so don't forget to step back and remember what you originally sought out to accomplish.

2. Do your research

Markets are dynamic and the salaries candidates are getting today could be vastly different than a year or even six months ago. Advocate for yourself based on facts about the market, your achievements and experience. These are the things that will resonate with the employer.

3. Be prepared

Before you start salary negotiations, determine the number you'd be happy accepting and the number that would make you walk away. Think, too, about how you'll respond to that grey area in the middle. Considering these scenarios in advance will prevent you from accepting an offer lower than you wanted, or throwing out an unreasonably high number.

And while these numbers should be based on facts, when you add benefits to the equation, it's not always straight forward. When the time is right, find out about health insurance costs, vacation time, etc. so you can use that information to help determine your salary. Just be careful; you don't want to be presumptuous and ask for benefits too early, as this can be viewed negatively. Lean on your recruiter for help, or wait until the company has communicated interest in you.

If you plan to ask family, friends or professional contacts about salary, do so before you have the salary conversation with the company. You don't want to say you're looking for $80K and then go back the next day looking for $85K. This can be frustrating to the people on the other side of the negotiation.

4. Offer a range

When it is time to communicate a desired salary to your employer, start with your current salary and let them know that ideally you'd be looking for a bump. Avoid using a strong tone that implies, "Give me what I want or else I'm not accepting the job." It's better to use a calm delivery, which sends the message that you are there to work with them through the process. And avoid talking yourself in circles, saying, for example, that while you want $85K, you'd probably accept the job at $75K. Offer the range and then let the employer respond.

5. Tell them you want the job

While some salary negotiating advice suggest otherwise, there's a difference between saying, "I want the job" and "I will take the job even if you offer me $5k less than I'm making now". Particularly with smaller companies, I've found that employers are more willing to stretch their range for someone they know wants the position, rather than the person who is considering several other options. The hiring manager wants to work with candidates who are excited to jump on board.

While salary negotiations can be tricky, being well prepared, tapping into the experts, and staying professional through the entire process can help you get the salary you deserve.