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When salary negotiations begin, hiring managers often don't start with their best-and-final offer. As many as nine out of 10 hiring managers leave room for negotiation when they first offer you a job, says Barbara Safani, head of New York City-based career management and consulting firm Career Solvers. Because the first offer isn't the final offer, it means you should do your homework and dust off your negotiation skills to get a higher salary based on your work experience.
Know what you're worth in the labor market. This is a key element in negotiating a higher starting salary for a new position or a raise in your current job. Do your research on salaries for comparable positions to determine the typical compensation for someone with your work experience. Salary information is available through wage surveys, federal and state government resources and job listings for similar positions with other employers. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides useful data for thousands of occupations. Also, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management publishes annual salary tables for government positions; compare duties and responsibilities and then adjust for the difference between public-sector and private-sector employment.
Understand how employers set their wage and salary structures. Wage-setting for many employers rests on three values: minimum salary, midpoint and maximum salary. The minimum salary often is an adequate salary for someone who's new to the role. And many view midpoint as the salary at which an employee exhibits the ability, expertise and job knowledge to be fully proficient. Maximum salary indicates long tenure, exceptionally high-performance ratings or both. The spread between minimum, midpoint and maximum salaries can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
It's unlikely that an employer will offer the maximum salary if you're in the negotiation stages for a new position. Bringing someone on board at the maximum salary gives little room or motivation for employee development. There's no reason for an employee to strive for high-performance ratings if she's already at the top of the range. Instead, many companies use a percentage of the salary midpoint when they begin salary negotiations. If the annual salary range for the job you want is $50,000 to $80,000, the midpoint is $65,000. Using the midpoint as the basis for calculating starting wages, many employers begin negotiations using a figure that's 10 to 15 percent below the midpoint. Yes, below the midpoint. It's up to you to justify a higher salary for a new job based on your expertise and prior experience once you know what the employer's offer is and the salary range for the position. But if you possess only the minimum qualifications for the job, your starting pay might be closer to the minimum salary for the job.
The rationale for justifying a higher salary might seem quite simple, given that the midpoint is the level at which an employee is fully competent. If you didn't have the skills and expertise to perform all the job functions, you wouldn't be in the role to begin with. On the other hand, if you're negotiating a salary for a new job and your competency was below par or you didn't meet the company's standards, you wouldn't have gotten this far in the selection process. This should form the basis of your argument for a higher wage starting wage or salary increase.
- Job-Hunt: Winning Negotiation Strategies for Your New Job
- The WorldatWork Handbook of Compensation, Benefits & Total Rewards: A Comprehensive Guide for HR Professionals; WorldatWork
- Personnel Administration Service: Developing & Maintaining a Sound Base Pay Program
- U.S. Office of Personnel Management: Pay & Leave: Salaries & Wages
- BLR.com: How to Set Pay Scales
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.
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