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How do I discuss and negotiate salary rates during a job interview?
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Discussing salary can be an uncomfortable part of the interview process, but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a quick primer on how to approach a salary negotiation.

The question

How do I discuss and negotiate salary rates during a job interview?

My answer

Determine the market value for your skill set and experience

Use Google , Glassdoor – Get Hired. Love Your Job. , Welcome to!, and similar sites to see if you can determine the typical salary range for the job you’re pursuing in your geographic region.

Spend some time talking with friends and trusted colleagues in your industry to see if you can determine approximately what their companies pay for someone with your skill set and experience to do the job you’re pursuing. (NOTE: It may be considered rude to outright ask someone what salary they are making, but there’s a pretty easy workaround—ask them what salary they think someone with your skill set and experience might make in the job you’re pursuing. Asking them a hypothetical will usually make them more comfortable talking about salary since they’re not necessarily divulging their salary.)

With those there sources—online search, friends in the industry, trusted colleagues—you should be able to get a sense for the typical pay range for the job you’re pursuing. Then you need to determine how you stack up relative to the typical person doing that job. Are you more experienced? Less? More efficient? Less? That should enable you to determine about what salary you can expect in the job you’re pursuing.

Determine your minimum acceptable salary

Next, determine your minimum acceptable salary to do the job. What is the salary that the company must meet to prevent you from walking away from the opportunity?

Once you have that number, you’re ready to negotiate.

Don’t divulge your current salary or desired salary

Most companies (usually the recruiter or hiring manager) will ask you what I call “the dreaded salary question”:

“So where are you right now in terms of salary, and what are you looking for if you make this move?”

This is really two questions in one: What’s your current salary, and what’s your desired salary?

Give an answer like this:

“I’m not really comfortable sharing that information. I would prefer to focus on the value I can add to this company and not what I’m paid at my current job.

I want this move to be a big step forward for me in terms of both responsibility and compensation.”

They may be persistent, but if you divulge either or both of these numbers, you will likely cost yourself money.

This forces them to name the first salary in the negotiation

If you resist the dreaded salary question, then they will name the first number in the negotiation. When they do, thank them for the offer and ask if you can have some time to think it over. “Is it ok if I take a couple days to think this over and talk to my family?” is a good way to buy a little time.

Then you should counter

Take those two days to determine your counter offer and consider your strengths that justify your counter. You should counter 10% or so above their offer. The more they need you to do the job, the higher you can counter. The more you need the job, the lower you should counter. But 10% is a safe counter regardless.

One caveat: If your counter would be below your minimum acceptable salary (from above), then just counter with your minimum acceptable salary and say “I’m sorry, but I can’t accept your offer below such and such salary.”

You will often deliver your counter via email, so take that opportunity to include a few sentences explaining why you’re worth your counter (more than they offered). “I will be a great asset to your team because I have a lot of experience with your methodology and I can contribute from day one.” or something similar.

Haggle to get to your final salary

They will usually counter your counter, so prepare ahead of time by deciding how you’ll respond to any salary between their initial offer and your first counter. It will usually be a small window that you can break into reasonable increments (like $500 or $1,000), so you only need to plan for five or six possibilities.

The final discussion where you come to your final salary will often be a quick verbal discussion on a phone call. Use the script you prepared in the previous paragraph as your guide in case you get nervous during this discussion.

That’s a pretty brief overview, but that’s my method in a nutshell. Hope it helps!

You can also get “How to ace your next interview”—a free chapter from my book Fearless Salary Negotiation—at How to ace your next interview. That chapter could also be a big help to you in your job interview. Or you can get the full book here: Fearless Salary Negotiation: Get it here