Whether you're a new or experienced employee, negotiating salary in private sector jobs is common. However, it may not seem possible in government jobs, where publicized pay scales and career steps seem to be set in stone. In reality, many of the same negotiation rules apply.
During the Interview
When you are being interviewed for a position, you should focus on selling yourself early on before ever mentioning your salary requirements. Highlight your skills and experience and focus on what you bring to the organization.
Know the Pay Scales
Be sure you know the employer's salary range for the position you're applying for, as well as other similar posts. Government positions are often set up as a base pay in steps with a range of salaries within each step. This information is public knowledge and can easily be found on the department's website or at the public library. For federal jobs, check the salary guide published by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The information can serve as a starting point for negotiations based on your experience, job performance or education.
Forbes.com strongly recommends that you practice your salary negotiation approach before discussing it with your supervisor. Prepare a list of your selling features, such as your education and work experience and create an outline of the presentation that you will use to make for your salary request. Role play with a friend or, even better, with someone you know with government human resource experience. Have this person offer objections that you will need to overcome to get the salary you want. The more you practice this process, the more comfortable you'll feel when you actually are negotiating.
Remember to negotiate benefits, too. While some public employers may not have flexibility on some benefits, others may be able to make concessions. Ask about options such as telecommuting, which may save you money on uniforms, travel or commuting expenses and may give you more family time. Consider other perks, such as flex and vacation time and use of your department's vehicle.
Remember that even in government jobs there is almost always a pay range. Be hesitant to accept a first offer since your human resources employee typically has a range in mind. Do not inflate your previous salary in your negotiations because it may be verified, even after you are hired. Do not allow your ego to affect your negotiations in a way that leads you to have a bad attitude. When you are done negotiating the package, restate your agreement and politely ask to get it in writing to avoid any future misunderstandings.