How do I negotiate my starting pay?

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Negotiating salary and wages

For some occupations, the pay is predetermined and there is no option to negotiate. However, it can be negotiable for many positions.


When to Negotiate

Avoid discussing salary until the employer mentions the subject or you have been made an offer. It is advisable to let the employer mention salary first. You do not want to give the employer the impression that salary is your only interest. If the employer asks about your salary requirements at the start of the interview, consider responding with: “I am very excited about this opportunity and would be open to any reasonable offers when the time comes.”


If you are in the middle of the interview and you are asked about your salary requirements, there are responses you can consider depending on your comfort level and how well you feel the interview is going. For example: “Are you offering me the position?” or “Is there a salary range for this position?”


The answers to these questions will help determine your salary range request. Never lock yourself into a specific dollar amount. If you provide too low a salary, you might unintentionally raise a red flag for the employer who may wonder why you are underselling yourself. On the other hand, if you provide a salary that is outside the employer’s price range, you may eliminate yourself from consideration.


How much money do you need to make? How much money do you want to make?

Effective salary negotiation begins with budgetary self-awareness. It is critical to evaluate your finances which may have changed since your last period of employment. For example, maybe you are no longer providing support for your children, and you don’t need to earn as much. It’s also possible that inflation has dramatically impacted your finances and you need to boost your salary. Create a budget that includes mortgage/rent, utilities, phone (home/cell), cable/Internet, car payment(s), gas, credit cards, insurance, food, and money set aside for emergencies and unexpected expenses. Review the budget to determine your lowest acceptable salary.


It can be a mistake to only focus on your previous salary or a specific dollar amount. If you are taking on a similar role, you may not earn as much in your new job as you did in your prior job. You also need to consider the benefits/potential savings associated with the compensation package offered by your next employer.


Research how much the job pays.

Once you have determined your lowest acceptable salary, the next step is to research the average salary for this position. In most instances, salary is not openly advertised. However, by conducting research, you should be able to determine a salary range for this position. The following sites can be used for research: and


Evaluate the job offer

What is the real value of a position beyond the base salary? When negotiating a salary or contemplating a job offer, it is important to consider the value of the benefits and perks in addition to your take-home pay. When considering an offer, keep these questions in mind:

  • Is there a career progression? Are there raises?
  • Does the healthcare package cover your medical needs including deductibles and coverage for pre-existing conditions? Does the healthcare include dental insurance? What are the out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare/dental?
  • How much vacation and personal time is being offered?
  • How long is the commute? Factor in your commuting expenses.
  • What type of retirement package are they offering?


What if you really want this position, but the money being offered doesn't work?

You need to ask when your salary might increase. If the salary will go up in 6 months or 1 year, you must decide if you can wait.


Get it in writing!

Exercise caution when an offer is made. It is critical to get the offer in writing in case the employer rescinds their offer. In addition, do not end your job search just because you have been given a job offer.

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