Salary Negotiation Recipe


Republished with permission

The interview is going well, you’ve jumped through the hoops, and it’s time to talk about salary before concluding the deal. What should you do? Simple: take the following 6 steps and get more money and greater respect from your future employer.

1. Accept Negotiation

You have to accept that salary negotiation is a normal part of the interview. There are several reasons you might not want to negotiate: you feel uncomfortable talking about money or trying to put into money terms just how great you are. Or, you might need the job badly, and don’t want to risk not getting it by asking for too much money. However, if you negotiate, and do so with the right attitude (step 6 below), your employer’s basic human nature will make it more likely that you will get hired, and hired for more money.

So what is the basic human nature of your employer? First off, people who are in the position to hire anybody negotiate already all the time. They won’t think negotiation is inappropriate or in bad taste. Secondly, negotiating about your salary shows confidence in your skills and in your person, and the employer will simply consider you a better candidate because of it.

Think of the negotiation in real money terms: the work that you are doing when negotiating, a few simple minutes of conversation, could mean thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary over the span of a few years of your career. It’s all there, you just have to have the courage to ask and initiate the process.

Finally, go into the negotiation with a concrete idea of what salary you would like to get. Do research on what they company pays, or what comparable positions pay, and specify to yourself a definite number that would make you happy and that you think you have a chance of getting. Otherwise, it’s easy to quit at the first offer and say to yourself, it’s acceptable. A definite goal will make you try just a little bit harder during the negotiation.

2. Get the Employer to Make the First Offer

You’re past step 1: you’re willing to negotiate. What do you do when they ask you, “What do you expect in terms of salary?” Simply, try to deflect the question. Get them to make the first offer. Tell them that you don’t really know how much they pay, and that you wish they would tell you what they think is a fair offer.

If they make the first offer, you might be surprised by how good it is. If the offer is low, lower than you expected, you should bracket: make a counter offer that is as far away from your target salary as the offer that they made (for example, you would like to earn 75K, they offer 70K, so you suggest 80K). Many people feel that splitting the difference is the fair thing to do, so even though they might scoff at your high offer, you will wind up with the amount you were hoping for.

In case of a low offer, you can also complain and plead without making a counter offer. Say that you’re surprised and you think what they’re offering is really low – you don’t know what the true salary is, but you couldn’t accept the job at this rate. Make this simple statement, then shut up. Let them pick up the conversation, and they will usually come back with a better offer.

Finally, quote some competition. Whether or not you have other offers, you can give them a concerned look and say, “I really like this position, but I have to tell you I think the salary is low. I was offered [some amount] just last week at [some other company]”. Again, make the statement, and let them take up the negotiation.

3. Otherwise, Give Your MPP

Sometimes, the employer refuses to make the first offer. He might be a seasoned negotiation hound, or might have some other stubborn reasons. What to do when you are absolutely the one who has to go first?

In this case, you should start with your maximum plausible position (MPP). The MPP is the highest amount you could possibly ask for with your qualifications and for the position you are applying for. How can you know what this is? Again, do some research beforehand. Talk to friends. Chances are, the MPP is much higher than you think it is.

An important thing to add is that, when your MPP is uncertain, you should make the offer with an implication of flexibility. Say something like, “From everything I know about what [company X] pays for [position y], I think [some amount] would be fair”. Making the offer in this way, even if it is too high, makes it possible to negotiate further.

4. Make Other Trade-Offs

In case the salary gets stuck at a level that you think is low, and you feel that there’s no hope of making the employer budge, you can still force other concessions that can make the overall package better. First off, say that the offered salary is less than you expected. Add that you are willing to accept it at present, if the employer is willing to agree to negotiate a raise in 3 months. You can also ask for reduced responsibility, for less working hours, or for other benefits like a paid phone (in case you don’t already get it), a gym membership (if the company offers it otherwise, but not to you), or that they should consider your commuting costs as part of your working time.

It’s critically important to accept their offer conditional on these other concessions. If you accept the offer first, the employer has no incentive to give you anything more.

5. It’s Smart to be Dumb

Play dumb during the salary negotiation. Specifically, take time to think things over, ask for explanations, ask for things to be repeated, show your surprise at low offers, and plead naively for a higher salary. If there’s no satisfactory agreement in the end, ask for time to consider the offer instead of making the decision on the spot.

You’ve already proven your expertise for the job. Not being authoritative during the salary negotiation won’t hurt; in fact it will help. First off, it will diffuse the competitive spirit that comes along with negotiation. Second, it will give you more time to think, and to get into the negotiation rather than nervously accepting any offer because you want to appear confident. Finally, it might make it easier to negotiate by getting into a bit of play-acting.

6. This is the Right Attitude

Finally, when you make your salary demands, be firm, be convinced, but don’t be arrogant, and don’t get combative. It’s important to maintain this attitude even in the face of possible theatrics that the employer might put on. When they roll their eyes in disbelief at your MPP, or they seem to get angry that you are challenging their offer, ignore this – it is as much a part of the negotiation game as all the things you are doing. Ignore the emotional displays, and focus on the offers and concessions that are going across the table. Keep working towards the amount you set out for yourself, and you’ll soon have a new job with a better salary.

And finally, if you’re interested in picking up more tips about negotiation, mediation, and arbitration [], check out other negotiation tips at [].



Jeff Altman, The Big Game HunterJeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes.

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