Job Negotiation Skills: How to Answer the Salary Requirement Question


Many otherwise professional, savvy, mature job seekers turn into puddles of anxiety when it comes to discussing and negotiating their salary requirements when job searching.

The following tips can help you do negotiate a salary with which both you and your future employer will be happy:

Understand that employees cost a business a ton of money. Salaries, benefits, vacation time, etc. creates a huge dent in their bottom line. Many experts, in fact, say that personnel costs make up 70-80 percent of a company’s total expenses!

Naturally, then, an employer is going to try to hire you at the lowest price he or she can.

Your job, and you should accept it, is to get the employer to pay you the highest amount you can negotiate.

Here’s how to do it.

If at all possible, leave any and all talk about your salary requirements until you have a job offer. Spilling the beans before that puts you at a negotiating disadvantage.

If a Washington Metro employer corners you and says it must know your salary requirements before you’re even out of the gate, quote a range, with your stated low figure your actual middle and the high your “if wishes really came true” salary.

For example, let’s say you’ve done your numbers and the absolute bottom salary you can/will accept is $45K, but you tell the employer who insists on a number from the get go that your range is $50K-60K. That way, if the employer says “I can’t pay you more than $45K,” that’s OK with you.

Giving a range higher than your real range allows you lots of wiggle room — it’s easy to negotiate down than up. It also sets the bar high. Chances are good that, if the position pays $50-60K, you’ll get at least $50K.

Again, try your best to avoid any talk of salary until you have a job offer. The above tip is for those times when a potential employer pushes you to a wall and says “Talk price! Now!”

In addition, if an employer says she wants to know your current/last salary, do not give it. Mention desired range, as outlined above. Your last salary should have nothing to do with what this position pays. If you had to take a job that paid $25K annually while you got your life back on track after a personal disaster, but you have the skills for a position that pays $50K, you deserve the $50K. On the flip side, if your last job paid $50K but circumstances are requiring that you’re applying for jobs in the $25K range, telling a hiring manager or HR employee your previous salary will put you out of the running before the gate even opens.

If you’re asked for a salary requirement on an application, write “negotiable.” If the application (or job ad) asks that you include your past salary, leave it blank. Yes, there’s a chance you won’t get called. But employers tend to ignore these missing items in an application if you have pretty much exactly the skills and background an employer seeks.

Remember, it’s the position and qualifications that dictates the salary. Not your wants and past salary history.

With that in mind, be sure you have some idea what a company in this area pays for the type of position you seek. Salaries are much higher in some areas of the country than others, and even within regions. Salaries are much higher in Washington, DC than in cities outside the Beltway, for example. Do your research.

RealStreet Staffing knows the decision makers in the construction, architectural, engineering and Federal communities. We can help you find  terrific opportunities that fit your backgrounds and needs. We look forward to hearing how we can help you create a better future.

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