How To Answer The 'Salary Requirement' Question

negotiate salary dreadingYou apply for a job: "What are your salary requirements?" Gulp.

You're offered a job: "Is the salary acceptable?" Gulp.

You want a raise: "Well, how much do you want?" Gulp.

Here's how to estimate your fair market value:

Plenty of websites offer salary estimates for thousands of jobs. Some of those sites allow you to customize those estimates to match your location, experience level and education.

To try to get even more localized information, query employees at your organization or at similar ones. Also, you might ask your employer's HR department. You're more likely to get such information in government, nonprofits and unionized organizations, where salaries are generally more transparent.

That should get you into the right range. But where in, or even outside, that range do you fit? These questions should help you estimate that:
  • Approximately how much dollar value per year do you add to your employer?

  • Approximately how much non-dollar value? For example, do you streamline processes, enhance office culture, augment your organization's prestige?

  • How easily could the employer find someone equally productive who's willing to work for less? Or someone more productive who's willing to work for the same? Alas, in this job market, the latter is often true. The good news is that most employers won't jump to replace a good employee, so don't give that excessive weight.

More: This Is What Your Co-Worker Earns

Getting What You're Worth
It's one thing for you to decide what you're worth. It's another to convince your employer to pay you that. This may help:

1. Assemble your ammunition. Not all of these will be relevant to your situation, so pick the ones that are: Comparable salary data; an estimate of the dollar- and non-dollar value that you add to the organization; a portfolio demonstrating your worthiness (thank-you letters from stakeholders, sample work products, etc.); how your job description is or should be higher-level; and perhaps even a business plan for what you'd accomplish with an upgraded job description.

2. Make an appointment to discuss it. For example, if HR offers you a job on the phone, ask if you could schedule a time to discuss the terms with your prospective boss. If possible, do it in-person. Face-to-face, more humanity is likely to be brought to bear.

3. Send your ammunition to the boss in advance so s/he has time to digest it.

4. At the meeting, say, "I hope the material I sent will make it easier to set fair compensation." Then just listen. You've made your case with your materials. Any more is likely overkill or perceived as insecure. The ball's in the boss's court.

After the salary discussion, it's often wise to discuss non-cash compensation because such items may not cost the employer anything and usually aren't taxable. Examples: benefits, title, who you report to, training, the option to telecommute at least part of the week, a salary review in a few months.

5. Unless the offer seems quite fair, express your concern without being insulting. "I was hoping that in light of those materials, a higher offer would be fair. What is the most you're able to pay?"

It's often wise to reject the first offer and accept the second. Any additional amount you get after that is usually, after taxes, too small to have incurred the risk of having created bad will or even a retracted job offer.

Upping Your Worth
Of course, your compensation will likely increase to the extent that you increase your value. Should you be acquiring a new skill? Working longer hours? Taking on a high-value project? Such things may do more to boost your income than will negotiation savvy.

Your Full Worth
Of course, your total value to the world is more than just what you're worth to your employer. How much value do you add to your friends? Family? Society? It all counts.

Lunchtime Live: New Year, New Career Goals




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Marty Nemko

Marty Nemko

Contributor

The San Francisco Bay Guardian called Dr. Nemko "The Bay Area's Best Career Coach" and he was Contributing Editor for Careers at U.S. News where he now also blogs. His sixth and seventh books were published in 2012: How to Do Life: What They Didn't Teach You in School and What's the Big Idea? 39 Disruptive Proposals for a Better America . More than 1,000 of his published writings are free on www.martynemko.com. He posts here weekly.

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Victoria

I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I'd be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless. Heres what I've been doing, Big44.com

March 17 2013 at 9:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Victoria's comment
Lisa

Victoria...Do you mind me asking you what you are doing? I am kind of in the same situation!

March 30 2013 at 11:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jmnardihrt

I founded a staffing agency for 17 years we operated in the NYC Metro Area. In the thousands of temporary and pernanent jobs I found people I always knew what the salary was, what we wanted to pay and told the person what it was before they came in. Now I'm looking for a job and all these professionals WHO WILL NEVER KNOW WHAT I FORGOT about staffing since I ran a staffing firm on Wall Street when I was 18, and these same crows that turn me down were running around frat houses giving out ********* ! "what are you looking for salary wise " is what I get. That is the most unprofessional approach because they figure if I am asking less than their offer they will have a feather in their cap when they go back to their manager ! What a bunch of douche bags !!!! Its so fruistrating ! Then they give you some unattainable metric to meet (I KNOW BECAUSE I CREATED MOST OF THE METRICS USED TODAY) and expect you to say YES I CAN DO THAT ! Its so rediculous what passes and a hiring manager or VP of Sales today !!!

March 15 2013 at 5:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mhsden

When I was asked how much do you need I said as much as I can get ; ) And when asked where do you want to be with this company I say on the other side of this desk ; ) lol Beleave it or not it always worked very well .

March 15 2013 at 7:52 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Swapna

Great tips. Thank You. Interviews test your presence of mind, how you tackle questions beyond your knowledge and preparation and the damage control measures after you’re caught off-guard. So obviously, during an interview, not getting panicky is the key to success. Check out for more... http://1stsalary.blogspot.in/2012/09/tackling-tricky-interview-questions.html

March 15 2013 at 12:44 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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