The idea of “negotiating” is nerve wracking for many people, especially when it is something as personal as your “salary”. It is tough to know how much to push and when to back off. You may not know how much leverage you have. You may be hard pressed to get a next job quickly, but don’t want to seem too needy. Being too brash or too eager can put you in a bad light. Here are some suggestions to consider as you go in to discuss and negotiate your next salary.

#1. Identify what is appealing about the position you are interviewing for, and what are the drawbacks. Might this job give you great new connections, an exciting challenge, good experience for your resume, a great company to work for, a chance of advancement, good benefits and salary, mentoring from experts in the industry, an easy commute, a great team environment or a big step in professional growth? Any one or a number of these might make an offer very compelling. Consider all the positive benefits that might come with this position. On the other side, consider the drawbacks related to any of the above issues. Rank and prioritize the pluses and the drawbacks and see how this position balances out. There may be issues on the plus side that over- ride salary, and that is important for you to know. Define your “minimum acceptable offer” including salary and benefits and you will have more clarity as you go in to negotiate.

#2. Research salaries and know the value you bring. Research the industry on, or, through professional and trade organizations, current and ex-employees, and in your networking, so you know the going rate in your geographical area for your job title. Sometimes you can ask the HR department directly before you apply-about the salary range. Remember that you need to bring in 3-4x your salary for them to justify hiring you, so come prepared to define the strengths, skills, connections, and unique offering that you bring. Try to find out why they are hiring for that position and what happened with the person who last held that job. You want to know what you are walking in to and that may be part of your rationale for a higher salary.

#3.  Let them bring up the issue of salary and ask them the salary range for the position. If they ask you about your desired salary, tell them you are flexible and are confident they will make a fair offer. You can also give them a range you are looking for, or  say you will be happy to discuss salary requirements after an offer is made. If they ask about your previous salary, you can say that your previous employer requires that information to be kept confidential, or that your last position isn’t applicable to this position. You can also give them a range of salaries you have had in your career i.e. 50-80K.

#4. Bring your dancing shoes.   Remember that negotiating is a dance that goes back and forth. Leave yourself room to side step. Don’t draw a line in the sand and get yourself locked in to an ultimatum. Stay focused on the big picture—your end goal, and be flexible as to how to get there. Start a little high so you can work towards a “middle”. Go for a win-win so both sides can feel good. Keep a positive, upbeat attitude and work on joint problem solving. If they offer you a low ball salary figure, pause- say “hmm” and frown. Write down the number and ask “why so modest”?   Ask for the salary range for the position, and mention the market research. Ask “ Is there anything we can do to close the difference”? If they stay firm on a low figure, ask for time to think about it. Go home and review the pluses and minuses of the job and your “minimum acceptable offering”.

#5. Sweeten the package.   When you return, if the figure hasn’t budged, discuss other ways to make it a better deal for you. Possibilities include: a signing bonus, more vacation, tele-commuting, paid training, relocation compensation, auto expenses, a different title, or a salary review in 3 months. You might also discuss how you will recoup the extra salary you are asking for. You might say that you can’t justify going under market rate especially because you have another offer or because your last position was higher. Throughout the negotiation keep expressing your desire to join them and the reasons why.

In Summary, be clear about your minimum acceptable offer, know the market research and your unique offering, stay positive and fluid, and always be thinking about ways to expand options that can result in a win-win for both. How you negotiate will set the tone for your relationship with that company and have a significant impact on how you feel starting employment with them.