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Negotiate Like a Pro

By Gerald Walsh ©

Negotiating a starting salary can be stressful especially if you are not familiar with the negotiation process. But if you manage this process well and professionally, you should end up with the best possible outcome for you. Here are a few rules to keep in mind:

1. Always let the employer bring up the salary question first

Nothing turns off an employer quicker than a candidate asking about salary too early in the process. Arguably, there is merit in raising this question early so no one wastes time. However, this is one of the protocols that is so engrained in the hiring process that if a candidate violates it, it is almost considered rude.

2. The best time to negotiate salary is before you start

Say, you are offered $60,000. If you can get this offer up to even $63,000 (only 5% higher), the compounding effect of that difference can be sizeable. While the $3,000 might not seem like much at the start, over the lifespan of your career it becomes a meaningful amount.

3. Avoid being the first to quote a definitive salary amount

One of the core principles of any negotiation is to understand that the party that puts a number on the table first is automatically at a disadvantage. That’s because the other person now knows what your threshold is. If an employer asks, “What are your salary expectations?” try to toss it back to them by asking, “I am interested in this role. Has a salary range been set?”

4. Never accept an offer on the spot

Even if you are offered more than you wanted (which is rare), you should never sign immediately. If you do, you run the risk of coming across as impulsive and careless. Even if the employer wants an answer quickly, you can certainly take it overnight and think about it.

5. There is usually some room for negotiation but probably not much

Contrary to what some candidates think, most employers are not trying to take advantage of you by giving you a low-ball offer. You can usually assume the offer is within a reasonable range of what they feel the job is worth. So, while you might be able to move the salary up a notch or two, it is probably no more than the 5% - 10% range. 

6. Think about “total” compensation not just base salary

I have seen too many salary negotiations go off track because all the focus is on base salary only. Don’t ignore the overall value of benefits, pensions, memberships, parking, and other cash perks, as well as non-cash benefits such as vacation and flex time.


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 30 year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.