The $64,000 Question: To Negotiate or Not to Negotiate a Job Offer Salary?

Susan Tinder White

By: Susan Tinder White - Chief Executive Officer , Susan Tinder White Consulting, LLC

Categories: Business Negotiation , Career Advancement

You are on the phone with the company's recruiter. They have decided you are the one! The recruiter is talking through the specifics of the job offer: salary, bonus/incentive opportunity, vacation eligibility, health benefits, etc. - your mind is racing.

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Is the salary they are offering what you wanted? If it is more, you are probably doing a happy dance in your head and thinking about the student loans you are going to pay off, the tropical islands you will visit, or the roof you will finally replace. All the while you've missed hearing the other important information, but you will no doubt receive those details in an offer letter or a review during the company's onboarding process.

What if the salary is exactly what you wanted? Now you are wondering, did I ask for too little? Am I selling myself short? Are they testing me to see if I am assertive and will ask for more money? Do they want to assess if I have negotiating skills? Or have they stretched their salary budget limits to meet my salary needs and I should immediately accept the offer and thank them profusely?

Finally, how should I react if the salary is lower than what I expected? Do I like this opportunity or the incentive opportunity and other benefits enough to counter my disappointment over the wages?

These are all good questions. Unfortunately, you need to decide on your response relatively quickly as most employers want an answer to job offers within a day or two, so they can move on to other viable candidates should you decline. First and foremost, make sure you want this job - no amount of money will offset a miserable job fit.

"Look before you Leap"

Assuming this is the job for you, you need to do a bit of homework before you decide if negotiating the salary offer is warranted:
-Some public and private employers publish their salary ranges, so check their websites and read their job postings in detail
-Ask the recruiter or manager the hiring range at the conclusion of the last interview
-Research salary ranges for comparable roles in your community on websites like, or
-Leverage contacts you have in the company to learn if there are internal ranges and how the opening fits into them

The Sensitivity of Starting the Employment Relationship with a Salary Negotiation

Before you decide to push for a certain wage, consider if you really want to start the relationship with the new employer in an adversarial way. If the starting pay is a deal maker or breaker for you, than absolutely pursue it and then decide accordingly. If it is within the range of acceptability and you don't feel mistreated, I would accept the offer with appreciation and set a positive tone for your future relationship.

How to Navigate through a Salary Discussion with a Prospective Employer

As with most negotiations, whoever offers a number first is at a disadvantage. Many recruiters and employers will ask what you are currently earning before they extend a salary offer; if not in person, they will ask you on their job application. They are trying to see if you are in their price range. When asked, my suggested response is "That is something I would like to discuss." As the candidate who the company is obviously interested enough in to figure out if they can afford, you want to have this conversation in person.

In the actual discussion, I would first ask what the salary/total compensation range is for the role at their firm. If the recruiter/hiring manager provides that to you, and you are happy with it, you can voice where approximately in that range you expect to be and why. If they respond, "It depends on the skills and experience a candidate brings to the role," you then have to be a bit more assertive. You need to explain you've done some research (your web research and talking to people in the field) and understand this kind of role in this community pays $XXX - XXX thousand a year, and based on your capabilities you would hope an offer from them would be in that range.

If the recruiter or hiring manager blinks and says the salary range is not near what you just proposed, you will now likely hear what range they are hoping to spend. Now you can decide if this job is worth it to you. If they nod and agree with your assessment of what the salary range should be, you are on your way to getting the offer you want.

Susan is Chief Executive Officer of Susan Tinder White Consulting.

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