How to Negotiate a Competitive Salary

Even though the economy has recovered a fair amount over the past few years, the job market continues to grow anemically. As a result, many individuals — including those with graduate degrees — are happy to find any decent job, especially if it happens to be in their desired field or industry. Unfortunately, what often happens is that these individuals are so excited about the prospect of getting a job that they forget to negotiate a salary with which they will be happy long-term. This is important not only because you should be getting paid what you are worth, but you will also work harder for your employer (and provide the organization with better value for the salary it is paying you) if you genuinely feel that you are being properly compensated.

The following are a few simple techniques to remember when negotiating a salary.

Know the industry average
Before stepping foot into a salary negotiation, it is absolutely imperative that you know as much about the industry as possible. In addition to knowing the average salary for a position like yours, you should have an understanding of the general labor market in the industry, as well. Is there a shortage of qualified workers with your particular expertise? Knowing the answers to questions like these can give you the confidence and justification to ask for a higher salary.

Get the employer to make an offer first, if at all possible
Some employers will try to get the employee to make the first offer. The problem with this is that if you come in with too low a number, you might end up getting paid less than what the employer was willing to offer. This is compounded by the fact that you might avoid “high-balling” the employer, since the organization might just decide to go with a different candidate. Whenever possible, get the employer to make the first offer and negotiate from there. In addition, avoid mentioning specifics of how much you were paid in your previous position.

Explicitly point out the unique and/or specific value you bring to the table
Make sure you walk to the negotiating table knowing why the organization wants to hire you. What is it about your skills and qualifications that make you an attractive candidate? Speak to those aspects as much as possible.

While it can be exciting to get a good job, it will be even better if you are able to negotiate a fair salary you can be proud of.