Negotiate Pay to Achieve a Win / Win

Why does salary negotiations give most people a bad case of the shakes? Almost all of us work for pay, after all! Yet job seekers are reluctant to do it.

Negotiating pay is the last step in the job search process. After getting that far, job seekers don’t want to jinx anything or take the chance that all that hard work gets flushed by discussing money.

But talking about pay is the way you maximize your family funds to get the most value from your hard work. It behooves us to improve this skill to achieve a win / win for you and the company – the optimal outcome.

You need ammunition to make salary negotiations a win / win!

Don’t go into negotiation discussions unprepared. That is the surest way to accept whatever the company offers, which might be less than you want or less than what you’re worth. Read on to learn how to achieve a happy balance point between you and the employer.

Research competitive salary.

Get actual data from sources like,, or to create a clearer picture of how companies compensate other people doing the same job. You want to be paid within the competitive range for the work you do. Notice we are not referencing what you were paid at your last company. Strive to be paid competitively.

Consider the big picture.

Base salary is often one part of a total compensation package. What other elements of your total compensation are important to you? Would you trade a little pay for more paid time off? What kind of bonus do you want? Are you willing to put more of your total compensation at risk in commission? These other elements can add up.

Think in terms of range, not a specific number.

This is where your research comes in handy. What is the lowest amount of money you’ll accept, but that remains within the competitive range? This forms the lowest rung of your competitive range. Stay within the competitive range according to your research, but allow yourself to dream a little to come up with a top end to your personal salary range. You can’t get it if you don’t ask!

When to talk salary.

A few ground rules:

  • Defer salary discussions until you know the company is ready to give you an offer. If the salary question comes up early on in the interview process, use statements like: “I am sure we can come to terms when the time comes.” “I am comfortable with compensation within the competitive range.”
  • EXCEPTION: If a headhunter working outside the company asks for your salary history, give him/her the details. Otherwise they won’t work with you. An outside headhunter has incentive for you to get the best salary package you can.

When the company is ready to make an offer, the negotiations may sound something like this:

  • “I am really thrilled about this opportunity.”
  • “A competitive range for this position seems to be (insert the lowest salary you will accept) to (insert the highest salary that is within reason based on your research).”
  • “I am so excited to get started.”

Then, give your potential employer the floor to speak. Your silence implies confidence. If you keep jabbering away nervously, the company will not take you seriously. A solid company will be willing to pay its employees a salary within the competitive range.

Remember to discuss the whole compensation package.

Lead off with the salary range, but don’t forget the other compensation elements that are important to you. That could sound something like this:

  • “I know that base salary is only one part of the compensation package.”
  • “I am curious about paid time off. At XYZ Company, I received four weeks. That seems fair.”
  • “Let’s discuss incentive pay [or the other compensation elements].”

Your fear of rejection should not overcome your personal interests to be paid competitively. You work hard. You deserve to be paid competitively. That is the essence of a win / win salary negotiation!