As we’ve mentioned before, it is never appropriate to bring up salary, benefits, etc. until you have received the offer. If asked directly about your compensation, be honest about your most recent compensation (In fact, many companies ask for proof of last salary on your first day of employment. If they discover you inflated your salary during the interview process, your offer may be rescinded!). However, if they ask you your salary expectations, the best answer is that you are most interested in learning about the position, company, and career growth and expect a fair offer.
One thing to keep in mind prior to your first interview though–know your limits. In other words, think of 3 numbers in terms of what can accept financially. First determine a salary that would be the least amount you could accept. Next, think of a number that would make you content. Finally, determine a salary that would make you ecstatic and you’d accept on the spot. These numbers are particularly important when you have someone negotiating your salary for you, such as a recruiter.
The Offer–What to Expect
Given the current state of the economy, current job seekers should not expect a significant increase as in years past. In fact, if you are applying for a job where you will require a lot of additional training to be brought up to speed, or something that is a career change, pay cuts may be possible. Normally, a 5%–10% increase would be industry standard.
Common Misconception: Companies shoot low and then expect you to negotiate.
In reality, most companies put their best foot forward.They look at your current salary and think of that as your market value, and consider your offer from there, taking into account internal constraints. Those employers that will negotiate have a range in mind (budgeted for the position) and may start at the low end of that budget to give themselves some negotiating room. This does not mean they will try to low-ball you and pay less than they think the position is worth for your skill set. This is usually not in their best interest since they are looking for qualified candidates.
If you do decide to ask for more money make sure you have your reasons clearly outlined and KEEP YOUR ENTHUSIASM HIGH! Make sure they know your only hesitations are the compensation package, not the opportunity. Make sure there are no doubts about your suitability for the position first. You will have the most influence if salary is the only source for hesitation. Make sure that there are absolutely no other concerns from your employer or doubts that you are the best candidate for the position. It is best to build your case based on your personal qualifications and credentials. Make sure they are good, solid and fair reasons. Also, know when you will walk away and be ready to do that. Often companies will leave their offer standing.
Make sure you are very respectful of their offer and appreciate the reasoning they provide for their number as well. Make your salary discussion a friendly experience. Assume amiability when discussing salary, not conflict or controversy. You should make the employer feel that you are on the same side and working together to find a compensation package that would satisfy everyone’s needs. Anticipate a win-win situation.
Be creative. If the company just can’t afford a higher salary, try asking for other benefits, bonuses, including sign-on bonuses, 3-6 month performance raises, stock options, profit sharing, vacation days. Because most companies have internal equity and other restraints to what they can offer, other items may be more easily negotiated. Keep in mind smaller companies are often more able to negotiate on vacation and other benefits than larger ones.
People often think of their base salary only when deciding on an offer. Companies however, think of your whole compensation package, including bonus, benefits, etc. Keep in mind the value of these items as well when communicating your current earnings and deciding on a new package.