One of the most vexing issues for job seekers is the delicate dance with prospective employers over salary.

You don’t want to low-ball yourself. But you don’t want to ask for a salary so high that you’ll be eliminated from consideration. Read on for tips on how to navigate the money minefield.

Dollars and sense

First, do homework before your interview. Learn what the pay range is for the position you want. Search business and trade publications for annual salary surveys. Another good source is the United States’ Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Web site, which has job descriptions and salary ranges. A reference librarian may also be able to help you.

Once you’re in the interview, do the following:

  • If the interviewer asks what you expect to be paid, don’t give a specific figure. Doing so will leave little room to negotiate. Instead, just say you expect to be paid fairly for your work or that you’re confident you can reach an agreement if it’s determined you’re the right person for the job. If the interviewer persists, ask the salary range of the job. You can then respond by saying it’s within your range, or if low, that it’s near your range. Beware: “At this stage in the interview, mention a figure that’s too low and the employer will think you certainly must lack the skills to do her job,” writes Robin Ryan in “60 Seconds & You’re Hired!” (Penguin USA, updated version released in January). “If you are too high then she’ll believe you’d never work for less.”
  • Only if a job offer is later extended, should you get into salary specifics. Don’t go into negotiations from a position of need or greed. Think instead of negotiations as a means of assigning value to your qualifications and promises of performance.
  • Decide beforehand on the lowest salary you’ll accept. In doing so, consider other factors such as potential job satisfaction, promotional opportunities, vacation policy and other benefits. Don’t try bluffing an employer into a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum. That gamble can cost you the job.
  • Reaffirm why you should be hired. Reiterate the assets you can bring to the company, as stated in your initial interview. It’s a reminder of why you should be paid what you think you’re worth.
  • Ask a lot of questions. If the base pay is lower than you’d like, for example, maybe you’ll be eligible for overtime. While some companies pay lip service to paying overtime, it may actually be discouraged. Get a feel for the employer’s policies.
  • Compromise. If the employer offers, say, $40,000, counter that by saying that in light of your experience and accomplishments, you were hoping for $45,000. Then be prepared to settle on a wage somewhere between the two figures.

See also…

Salary and Workers Compensation