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How do I Negotiate a Bottom Line Salary?

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Negotiating a bottom-line salary can be tricky if you've been in the job market for some time, or are interested in a job that doesn't pay well to start. Go into salary negotiations armed with statistics about industry pay averages for your line of work. This will give you negotiating power and help you make an educated choice on the ultimate bottom-line salary you're willing to accept.

Do Your Research

Before talking salary with a potential employer, learn about the going rate for your position by visiting the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics website. This resource details pay ranges, as well as necessary job qualifications and educational requirements per industry. Salaries may vary based on the size of the company and its geographic location. For example, cities with a low cost of living typically pay lower salaries than larger cities with a high cost of living, so factor that into your decision-making process.

Know What You Need

Make an assessment of your financial needs to help you decide what you can reasonably take as a bottom-line salary offer. For example, if a salary doesn't come close to covering your living expenses, the job likely is out of the picture because you won't be able to support yourself. On the other hand, if the salary will cover your living expenses, with money left over for discretionary spending and investing, but it still isn't in line with your expectations, you have to decide if the job is worth accepting a lower salary.

Don't Make the First Move

Let the employer throw out an initial salary offer and negotiate from there. If you're prodded into stating a figure first, you run the risk of asking for too much money or devaluing your worth. If you’re pressed, offer a salary range and use your research to back up the figure you put on the table. Remember, an employer is not likely to make his best offer right away, so there's usually room for negotiation. Aim higher than where you want to be so you have room to negotiate.

Consider all Factors

Examine the job offer and consider whether you'll have an opportunity to increase your earning potential in the short or long term. For example, you might be able to negotiate a pay increase, or at minimum, a salary review within the first couple of months on the job. Also factor in the value of your benefits including bonuses, profit-sharing and other perks that have monetary value. If you can't negotiate more money, you might be able to negotiate additional perks.

Take Time to Consider

If you're uncertain after a salary offer is extended, ask the employer to put the offer in writing and then take a few days to think about it. In addition to the salary, think about whether the job fits in with your long-term career planning strategy and allows you to take advantage of your skills and expertise in an environment you feel well-suited to.


Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.

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