Inside Salary Negotiation Secrets from HR


salaryMost people would agree that the most difficult part about landing a new job is the salary negotiation. It can be an uncomfortable conversation, but it has huge impact on your financial future. Wouldn't it be nice if you could get a sneak peek into what's going on inside the head of the HR rep on the other side of the table?

While we can't offer mind reading, we did interview an HR expert with extensive hiring experience and asked her what the negotiator for the company is generally thinking about during a salary negotiation.

Stacey Carroll, MBA, HRCP is the director of customer service and education at and she gave us her insider view and top tips for maximizing your salary from the start.

What Employers Think About During a Pay Negotiation

When an employer is deciding on compensation during the hiring process, Carroll says, there are three factors they're balancing to determine what the job should be paid.

1. External Market Pay

An HR professional will first find out the external market pay for a job. "External market pay" means what other companies are paying for the same job position. Employers want to keep up with their competitors by offering, at least, a similar salary range. But, they also can't spend so much that they are overpaying for the talent they need. Studying the market gives them a guideline.

Tip #1: Help yourself and the HR person out with this issue by doing some research on what the market is paying for the position you want. There are multiple sites online that can give you salary information, from salary websites like PayScale ( to government sources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Not only will doing your research help you have an informed conversation about your salary, but it just may impress your new employer

2. Internal pay alignment

The HR professional you're talking to has to figure out how the salary for your job fits in, or aligns, with other similar jobs inside the company. HR folks call this concept internal alignment. In other words, you can't have two people who have similar skills and responsibilities making dramatically different incomes. This means that you won't likely get hired for the job at a higher salary rate than a current employee doing the same work.

Tip #2: You should not only ask what the salary range is for your position, but also the internal hiring range. That helps you know what the company is thinking that they would pay for a newly hired employee in the job

3. Budget constraints

The amount of money budgeted for the position is the third, and most important, factor. Budget constraints will usually override any internal or external analysis the HR person does. The company has set aside some amount of money for your position and, in some cases, that amount may be all they can offer.

Tip #3: Don't get too upset if you're disappointed by the salary you're quoted. There are other benefits you can look for. Know that the HR person is focused on staying both on budget and competitive with the market. They are under pressure to perform a tricky balancing act. If they are offering you the job, they want to keep you. If you want the job, respect their limitations and get creative with your total compensation package. More time off? Ask for it. A work-from-home day? It could be yours.

Carroll reminds job seekers that a pay negotiation is about multiple facets. It's not just about you and the job and negotiating with a HR professional. There are a whole host of other things that happen behind the scenes that affect what you're offered.

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Dan M

The best way to negotiate your salary is to run your own business. If you don't like working for other people and want to call the shots and set what you feel you are worth then shut up and go out on your own.

It seems that independent spirit has been lost in America and this current Administration is doing everything it can to discourage it.

I walked away from both gov't and corporate 25 years ago at the tender age of 25 and never looked back. Didn't like who I worked with, saw nothing but assinine decisions being made, and was being paid dirt. So I took my skills and hung out a shingle. Now those same corporations and the govt pay me a ton of money to provide those services.

Anyone can do it if you truly believe you have a marketable skill that people want. You just need to have the courage and the guts to do it. Then be prepared to work your butt off to make it succeed. That determination is what made this country great. Now apathy and the "where's mine" attitude is killing it.

Look in the mirror. You make your life good, no one else is responsible.

February 24 2010 at 3:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The answer is to bring back unions. Join one or bring one in once you have the job. It's illegeal to fire someone for union activity.

February 24 2010 at 2:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Excellent suggestion! I've been saying, "Whatever you think is best." But that hasn't gotten me the job, so I'll lowball them from now on and see if that works. I know it's a employers market. I've been the 'second' choice 5 times now. It's disheartening, but we don't have a choice, we are but cattle in the stockyard waiting to head into the slaughterhouse........

February 24 2010 at 12:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Toni Moore

Phil I work in HR and you are correct. I am giving a salary range based on the pay rate of the employee who last vacated that position and my goal is to get as close to the lower end as possible but find someone to fulfill the commitments. This is a problem for applicants because, right now the job market is so bad that there are people who are willing to take that paycut rather than not work at all. My concern is that once the economy recovers I will be left trying to restaff and train my call center all over again.
*-* Now that I think about it that could be job security for me *-*

February 24 2010 at 11:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Toni Moore's comment

Call center HR person? Snake, drone, may you have trouble sleeping at night for the low down crap you do to workers. Job security? May you give them years of effort and get laid off as coldly as you do it now. Curses to all PERSONNEL DEVILS!

February 24 2010 at 12:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

First you have to get the job interview, then the job offer....

February 24 2010 at 11:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Due to the ammount of people looking for work......all employers say their firms have adopted a new lean/mean policy to protect their current staffs jobs or future interests. If you look into this lean/mean program, you will likely find the worker bees are being striped of their benifits in some manner and their raises & bonuses. Guess who is still getting their profits as usual? Thats right......the stockholders, management & dept heads. The excuse of bad times presents a window for employee abuse to fester forward once again.

February 24 2010 at 10:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Will's comment

You got it totally right! Workers/employees need to have a revolt! Present conditions are so like the turn of the last century which gave birth to the Labor Movement and Unions to represent the workers as a united front, to management to negotiate fair wages for ALL employees! Human Resources people are the complete pits. They need to be mineless drones to exploit fellow workers the way they do. Shakepeare said, "First, kill all the lawyers." I say, "Then torture, with forms to fill out,til they go insane, all the personnel people" (they don't deserve the word 'human' in their titles!)

February 24 2010 at 12:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I remember hearing that from some woman who interviewed me. 'We operate lean and mean, that's why we are profitable." She worked for the guy now doing 25 years for ripping off his company for MILLIONS - Kozlowski. Yeah, he knew lean (though he was a huge bully) and mean - yeah, no benefits for workers but he threw lavish parties in GREECE for his trophy wife. The woman I interviewed with bought it hook, line and sinker....but she's sadder and wiser now.....

February 24 2010 at 12:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

After giving 23 yrs to a major newspaper, my entire dept was outsourced - that is what corporations are about today - hire new people for far less and never mind the dedication of current employees - and if you are not bilingual, forget it - no more - maximum salaries are the pits - $10 an hr and no benefits - pray a lot, like me - if lucky enough to even get a reply, go for it and as soon as economy recovers, get the job you want/need to survive. Best of luck to all of us trying to keep afloat on unemployment. God Bless America

February 24 2010 at 8:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Joan's comment

Negotiating your salary??? Ha. Here's the real skinny. The HR Dept is the public face of the accounting department. These people can't make a decision, even to buy pencils, without the approval of another department. You, as a worker bee, are to have no access to the real decision makers.
Someone from from HR will perform a cursory glance of your resume, may call a few references, and make an initial low ball job offer, if they know how. Today, most advertised jobs are take it or leave it positions. (It's an employers market.) The HR professional, (glorified secretary), will welcome you to "the family", hand you a stack of paperwork, and ask if you want to participate in the 401-k. Next chump.
Welcome new corporate employee! Henceforth you are known as a number in the computer. You'll probably receive a little generic employee handbook detailing things like work expectations, progressive discipline procedures, termination offenses, and the ever changing sexual harassment prevention guidelines.
Now just show up for your job, keep your nose clean, and draw a few paychecks. Buy you a house and 2.5 cars, and get in debt. Be prepared to be laid off at any moment, (due to "rightsizing"), and start the whole process again. Sounds fun, doesn't it? And you went to college...for this?

February 24 2010 at 9:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I earned $23.00/hr with full medical benefits, life insurance, long-term care insurance, dental, optical, working for attorneys - no more - the same jobs are now going for $10 hr no benefits. LAWYERS CAN'T AFFORD IT? GIVE ME A BREAK, THEY ARE THE RICHEST WORKERS IN AMERICA! IT IS EXPLOITATION OF THE COMMON MAN, PLAIN AND SIMPLE. God will deal with them all in the end...

February 24 2010 at 10:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Phil Bittle

As your boss has the right to set the rate for the services and product he sells ... you have the same right to set the rate you charge for your services and labor. Tell him what they are and there's no need for negotiation. If he doesn't like it, why compete for a dime-a-dozen job. If it was advertised in the paper, remind him that you didn't advertise for the job ... he advertised for help.

February 24 2010 at 7:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Phil Bittle's comment

I assume you are indepently wealthy already. Have you looked for a job in the last 5 years? Wake up, you are but a cog in the wheel of profits......

February 24 2010 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The Best negotiator does not quit until all his terms are met, either one way or another, what you get is up to your mind skills in giving and taking, until an agreement is signed!

February 24 2010 at 3:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree with these guys. No more Mr. nice guy. I am a female that worked for a big name Hotel brand. After 10 years of loyal work and the most experience they first cut my medical. Just like 20/20 they would work you over 40 hrs and then H.R. would call and say take her off or we will have to give her insurance. The women running the whole deal is an ex- waitress for christ sake. She can't even put paper in the copy machine. She took care of the front desk and became a supervisor. That stands for Super Viscous..idot..snake..odious..rat...Hate corp

February 24 2010 at 2:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tamara's comment

i agree!

February 24 2010 at 3:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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