Salary Negotiation Strategies

By Dr. Tom Nitzsche

Salary/compensation negotiation is an area that job seekers think is carved in stone — that there is a certain salary or hourly wage for a certain position, and that's it — take it or leave it. The truth is, almost everything is open for negotiation. Approached properly, any salary (with the possible exception of entry level) can be boosted, or additional “perks” can be included. The trick is to know how to go about it. Here are some suggestions.


The problem here is that most employers want to know rather quickly in the first interview what your requirements are. At this point you need to remember the primary rule of negotiation:The one who mentions money first, loses.

In order to avoid being the first to mention money, you need to be aware of some basic “deflection” techniques.

Interviewer: “What are your salary requirements?”
You: “At this point, I don’t know all of the particulars regarding this position, such as duties, responsibilities, etc. Let’s defer discussing compensation until a later time.”

Interviewer: “What did you make in your last position?”
You: “That would be like comparing apples to oranges. Even though the job description may appear similar, there would be differences in how it is handled in your organization. Let’s defer discussing compensation until we have talked a little more.”

Interviewer pushing: “Surely you must have some idea of what you need.”
You: “I’m sure you have a salary range in mind for this particular position. What would that range be?” If you’re given a range, respond only to the top number. Ignore the bottom one. Don’t be concerned that this might work against you — if you’re worth it (and you better think you are, or you shouldn’t be in the interview) go for it.

Interviewer (annoyed): Any more deflection now will begin to work against you. At this point you will have to give some kind of answer, or risk losing any possibility of landing the job.
You: Know before going into an interview what your bottom number is regarding salary. When finally pushed to name a figure, move into your “uncomfortable zone.” That is, if you give a figure you seem satisfied with, and it doesn’t make you uncomfortable to give it, you’re probably too low. If the figure you’re thinking of giving makes you feel uncomfortable and cringe a little, you’re probably about right. Why? Because (remember?) the one who mentions money first, loses.

To avoid losing, give a higher figure than you will settle for, because the interviewer will try to negotiate you down from that point. For example, if your bottom is $40,000 give a range of perhaps $46,000 to $50,000. Another strategy is to phrase your answer as, “Mid to upper forties.”

However you want to phrase it, you always want to give a range several thousand dollars higher than you will accept. Then, at the end of the negotiation process, when you have reached an agreement, it will probably be about where you want it.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that when you give the higher range, they simply accept it. If so, you’ve just negotiated yourself a raise before you ever begin. Wouldn’t that be nice?

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