Workplace Rights

Weekly (4/26/10)

Topic of the Week  Show Me the Money - Negotiating Your Salary

• DO research salary figures before.
• DO discuss ranges rather than amounts.
• DO wait until a job offer is made.
• DON'T be the first to offer an amount.

It's difficult enough to negotiate your salary in good times, in uncertain times it can be daunting. Which reminds me of when a passenger in Cyprus bolted from his plane just as it prepared for take off. He opened the rear exit and slid down the emergency chute. The 28-year-old sailor, who held a Greek passport, jumped the Larnaca fence and just disappeared.

That sailor left his plane prematurely. And we've all got to watch being premature in talking about salary with a potential employer. Negotiating your salary too early almost always guarantees that you'll have less money in your pocket when all is said and done. I'll give you three Do's and one Don't for being patient, and successful, in your next salary negotiation. For more, check out Daniel Porot and Frances Bolles Haynes' book "101 Toughest Interview Questions." (10 Speed, 2009).

DO research salary figures before. The web has many different salary calculators that can give you specific salary ranges for almost any job title. It is very important that you have this in hand during any job interview. But just because you have the salary data, don't be over eager to discuss dollars and cents. Don't ever initiate the conversation about money, and if they start it, try to stall getting into specifics as long as possible.

DO discuss ranges rather than amounts. Salary ranges give both you and your potential employer wiggle room in terms of salary. Don't get too pushy on a specific dollar amount until they actually offer you the job. Until that point, keep it in a range, if you have to talk about it at all.

DO wait until a job offer is made. Why do you want to wait to discuss a specific salary until the job is offered to you? Simple, that's when you have the maximum leverage. When they want you. Also remember that cash is king, but benefits, job flexibility, training, etc. can also add value to your life.

DON'T be the first to offer an amount. This is the classic rule of negotiations. You always let them offer the first dollar amount. Why? Because they could start with a number much higher than you'd expect. On the other hand, if you throw out a lower dollar figure, it can take you years to catch up with what you've left on the table. I know what you're thinking, "But what if they throw out a much lower salary figure?" Well they were going to do that whether you offered your higher number or not. Sure it can be uncomfortable to wait them out, but trust me, it is well worth your while. I've actually told an employer that it was my personal policy that they always threw the first number on the table. One employer actually laughed, and then made his first offer.

Hold off salary negotiations as long as possible and the chances will increase dramatically that you'll end up at the right destination, with the biggest possible paycheck.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

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"I didn't decide I was crazy until 1952. That's when I began making a steady salary and could afford to be crazy."

–Allan Sherman

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