Naming a salary range gives you a chance to find a figure that is also in the range the company has in mind. In fact, many companies base their offers on sliding salary scales.
Here are a few strategies for success when an interviewer asks about your compensation requirements:
- “What was the compensation package for the individual previously in this position?” and then base your answer on that information;
- “What range did you have in mind?” where your answer is always that the high end of the range is what you were considering; or
- “What are you willing to pay an individual in this position with this level of responsibility?” and use that information to answer the question.
Suppose you have given one of the above answers and your interviewer responds with little or no information. He/she again inquires as to your compensation requirements. You must now respond with specific information such as (1) “My requirements are in the $50,000 to $70,000 range”; or (2) “My compensation in my last position was $65,000 and I am seeking to increase that by a minimum of 10%”; or (3) “I am interested in a compensation package including salary, equity interest, and stock options that will total approximately $80,000.”
The more information you can get from the interviewer, the more educated and appropriate your response can be.
If asked for your salary requirements, first ask for the pay range for the position. Then, you can respond with, “That’s in the range I was expecting. Once I better understand the requirements of the position and the value I can bring to the company, we can discuss the specific compensation.”
Don’t tip your hand. If the interviewer asks you to supply a dollar amount that would satisfy you, don’t give a concrete number for which you’re willing to settle. You don’t want to take yourself out of the running by naming a figure that is absurdly optimistic, and you don’t want to risk naming a figure that is lower than what the company is ready to offer. Instead of naming a price, say something like, “Based on my experience and skills, and the demands of the position, I’d expect to earn an appropriate figure. Can you give me some idea what kind of range you have in mind?”
Know What You Want
You don’t have to accept the first salary offer you’re given.
Jack Chapman, author of “Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute” suggests responding with a “hmmm” instead of “okay” when presented with a salary offer. (Okay constitutes acceptance; “hmmm” gives you room to negotiate.)
You can also ask if the company’s offer is flexible. The “worst-case scenario” might be that the interviewer tells you your salary is set by company policy and there is no room to negotiate.
You should also consider the full value of the compensation package — not just the salary.
Benefits can make a huge difference in your compensation package, so don’t overlook them! Perhaps the most important benefit to consider is health insurance. If the company pays only a percentage of these costs, make certain that you can afford to pay the difference out of your own pocket.
Non-cash benefits can add 30 to 40 percent to your total compensation package.
Other benefits and negotiable items may include:
- Health insurance
- Vacation and sick/personal time
- Retirement plans
- Bonuses and/or incentives (including a signing bonus and profit-sharing plans)
- Tuition reimbursement
- Stock options
- Flexible schedule (telecommuting)
- Other insurance (dental, life, accidental death, disability insurance)
- Company-supplied equipment (laptop, cell phone)
- Company car (or car allowance or other transportation expenses)
- Health club membership
- Association dues
- Relocation expenses
- Discount on company products
- Expense account
- Child care expense reimbursement
- Salary reviews (negotiating more frequent reviews and/or raises based on merit or performance vs. cost-of-living)
- Space (i.e., an office with a window, or possibly work-at-home or remote arrangements)
- Overtime policies (if it’s available, and you want to work it, to increase your pay)
- Severance package
Know what is most important to you. When asked if they’d like more money or a non-cash option like flexible scheduling or time off work, many employees will choose the extra time. If that appeals to you, keep that in mind when negotiating.
In your current position, if a raise isn’t available, ask about a bonus instead. Or ask for a non-cash benefit — maybe an extra vacation day, or flexibility in your work schedule (like being able to leave early on Fridays). Or you may want to come in early to the office but leave earlier in the afternoon. Maybe they’ll let you telecommute (work from home) one day a week.
Consider alternative compensation packages. Work is not just about a paycheck. If you are willing to invest your energy, talent, and expertise in a company, don’t you want something more than a paycheck?
You may also ask for additional responsibility — for example, a chance to lead projects or a task force. This gives you the opportunity to position yourself for a raise in the future, as higher-level responsibilities merit higher pay.
Remember, the point of your job search is finding a job that you will be happy with, that you’ll grow with, and that will allow you to be yourself. If your salary isn’t the one you dreamed about, but the job offers opportunity for learning and/or growth, think about the possibility of taking the position with the goal of making yourself invaluable to the organization … or positioning yourself for your next job search.
On the other hand, if what the company offers isn’t what you need, you don’t have to take the job. There are other opportunities out there.
The most important thing to remember about salary negotiations is that most salaries are negotiable. That doesn’t mean you name a figure and the company either matches it or not. It means you’re ready to listen to what the interviewer has to offer and give it consideration. Just remember to have realistic expectations and realize that you may not get everything you want.