It's often quipped "Whoever mentions a number first, loses in Salary Negotiations." Generally speaking, that's true.
However, the economic climate has been changing and you need to be prepared. So, what strategies should you employ to win the negotiations?
BEFORE the Discussion:
Find your bottom line. How much do you need to earn to cover your expenses, including whatever “opportunity costs” (i.e., childcare, wardrobe, transportation, parking, etc.) might be associated with your employment? Use a cost-of-living calculator, such as this one from CNN Money to find out how much your current salary translates to in the new location.
Do your research. Do you know what the salary range is for this position, in this area, at this company? The Bureau of Labor Statistics allows you to search wage data by area and occupation. Salary.com is another online resource that provides this information.
Be prepared. Be ready with your desired salary range if required to give a number. Your range could start at your goal salary.
DURING the Discussion:
Show Enthusiasm. Express interest and excitement in the opportunity. You might even verbally accept, on principle, with the stipulation that the written offer meets your expectations.
Grab a Pen. Ask for the offer in writing. It should include starting date, expected work hours, title, details about the responsibilities of the job you are being offered, reporting structure, wages/salary, and benefits (including details about insurance offered through the company, vacation, etc.).
Read the Fine Print. Review the offer carefully to identify any points that require clarification. Is there any missing information? Did you discuss something during the interview process that you want to ensure is included in the offer? Ask appropriate questions on the points that need clarification.
Get the Best Offer. Identify elements that you want to negotiate. Starting date, job title, and vacation time are often easily negotiated elements. Salary, bonuses, and other elements of compensation can be trickier, but have been successfully negotiated by candidates who have done their homework and understand their value in the market.
BEFORE you Decide:
Review the details. Did you receive a fair offer? Compare the offer to the numbers you have researched.
Understand the perks. Have you considered benefits, such as health coverage and vacation? If a job offers two weeks of vacation while falling short of your desired salary, you may be able to parlay the difference into a third week of vacation. If you are applying for a position that normally includes a bonus, you may be able to negotiate for a higher bonus or an earlier evaluation of your eligibility for one.
Take your own pulse. Are you willing to walk away if your modifications to the written offer aren’t met? Your level of comfort on this point should govern how forcibly you push individual points.
Take a Pause. Much like negotiating on the price of a house, if you submit a counter-offer, you risk the offer being revoked. Understand this before proceeding, and you’ll be in the right mindset to negotiate. You can always ask for more time to consider the offer, as long as you mutually agree to a date that you will answer.
ONCE you've Decided:
Get it in Writing. Once you have clarified all points of the offer, including asking for any amendments in writing, accept the offer, ALSO IN WRITING, to ensure that the points you have negotiated are memorialized.
Be Professional. If you aren’t accepting the offer, decline with grace. Emotions can create an awkward environment and reflect poorly on your professionalism.