Tips from the Top: 5 FAQs for Successful Salary Negotiation

Danann SmithDo these questions that dance around the topic of salary negotiation sound familiar?

"How much money does this job pay?" "Is that amount negotiable?"

"How many vacations days would I get?" "What kind of stock options to you offer?"

"Is there a signing bonus with this position?" "And what strings are attached with it?"

They are just a few of the somewhat awkward, hard-to-bring-up queries that could be associated with your next interview for a job. We recently found that employers are open to discussing salary and benefits early in the hiring process, and that there’s little downfall to bringing up these topics in early-round interviews as part of your salary negotiation.

See the full survey results.

To tap the perspective of a top career expert who has seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to salary negotiation and benefits, I sat down with Danann Smith, vice president with Robert Half Finance & Accounting, for her thoughts. Here are five FAQs on the subject:

Salary and benefits in the interview process

1. During what part of the interview does talk about pay come in? 

A: The interview process can be a challenge in itself aside from negotiating a compensation package. Concentrating more on doing your very best throughout the interview process will make negotiating your compensation easier. You want the potential employer to want to hire you and be part of their organization. Once you have proceeded successfully through all parts of an interview process, then begin your negotiations.

2. When should you ask, and what tips do you have in terms of bringing it up in conversation?  

A: Once you understand that the company, culture, position and management team is a good fit for you and your career, allow the organization to make the first move in bringing up compensation. Once they indicate they would like to make an offer this is when questions can be asked about benefits, salary and other compensation. Begin with questions around benefits and other compensation areas before discussing salary. As an example, in most cases, salary can be negotiated; however, items such as health insurance typically can't.   

3. Who should bring up salary details first? The person hiring or the job candidate? 

A: If at all possible, allow the hiring company to bring up salary. You normally would not have details related to the budget for the position, what others are compensated within the company and other benefits that may be important to you. Once the hiring company has revealed some of these pieces to the puzzle, you can begin to discuss if the compensation package would be something acceptable for you as a potential employee.  

Preparations for salary discussions 

4. What should you do if a potential employer can’t meet your salary and benefits expectations? 

A: Be honest with the potential employer. If the offered salary and benefits do not meet your expectations, let the employer know and allow them to adjust the offer to be more suitable. Also keep in mind the benefits of working there that reach beyond compensation, such as career goals and advancement opportunity with the potential employer. These things should be part of your analysis of accepting an offer.  

5. How should a job seeker seek helpful information?

A: Being prepared with as much knowledge about the position and comparable salaries for the area is the ideal situation. You can gather this information through your network and professional organizations. Seeking information from a third party is always helpful because the information given is not subjective. Use the Robert Half Salary Guide and work with a recruiter who can handle the difficult conversations for you. 

Editor's note: This post was updated in 2016 to reflect more current information.

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