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How to negotiate your starting salary

Sharon Florentine | May 19, 2014
You got the job offer. While you cleared the biggest hurdle, you're not finished yet. Now it's time to negotiate your compensation package. These tips will help you get the best deal while keeping the process a positive one.

Besides the obvious benefit of gaining a higher salary, your negotiating skills and the respect you'll earn from standing your ground is a powerful thing, Gillis says.

"I advise my clients to always negotiate, even a little, if they think it's appropriate," Gillis says. "They can always go back and say, 'On further consideration, I do accept your offer,' but the respect and admiration they'll get is something that will stick with the employer," he says.

Of course, negotiating and salary and negotiating the whole of a job offer aren't one and the same, as Professor Deepak Malhotra says in this article for the Harvard Business Review. (You can also check out Professor Malhotra's video presentation that he makes to students.) But unfortunately, many job seekers believe negotiating salary and negotiating a job offer are synonymous.

"Much of your satisfaction from the job will come from other factors you can negotiate," says Malhotra in the article, "Perhaps even more easily than salary," he says, and Bardaro adds that focusing a negotiation solely on salary might send the wrong impression to employers.

"If you make it all about the money, your potential employer's going to wonder what your true motivations are," says Payscale's Bardaro. "Are you actually going to care about the future and success of the company as a whole? Are you going to work hard to contribute to growth and development of the business? That's why you also should focus on other types of benefits," she says. Those other benefits can be things like vacation time, flexible work arrangements, child care, tuition reimbursement and so on.

A potential employer considers your salary their monetary investment in a business asset — you, says Gillis. If you're focused only on the financial benefits, they'll begin to wonder how sound their investment is; it's important to help them understand your total business value, he says.

"If you can't get the salary you want up front, see if you can negotiate a salary review in six months," says Gillis. "In that six months, you need to focus on kicking butt and delivering over and above what's expected of you to prove you're worth the salary increase," he says. Get any agreement like this in writing, and make sure you're documenting and quantifying your contributions to demonstrate your value, he says.

You also can ask for a better title or perks like more vacation time, paid parking or commuting expenses, memberships to professional organizations or trade associations, relocation expenses — get creative, says Gillis.

This can signal to your employer that you are not only invested in working for them, but are a great problem-solver and are willing to persevere even if conditions are not ideal.


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