How To Negotiate A Starting Salary For A New Job

When you are looking for a job, either because you just graduated from college or hated your old one, advice on how to evaluate and negotiate an appropriate starting salary is invaluable. Obviously, the salary will often make or break the decision of whether the job offer is for you.

Here is some practical advice on negotiating a proper starting salary, courtesy of acclaimed salary negotiation expert and author Jack Chapman.

Five simple starting salary rules:
Rule #1) Postpone talking about starting salary until there’s an offer on the table.
Rule #2) Let the other person name a figure first.
Rule #3) Repeat their starting salary offer and be quiet.
Rule #4) Next, share your researched starting salary range and establish your individual value.
Rule #5) Cinch the deal and deal some more.

Starting Salary Rule #1 – When to Discuss Starting Salary
There’s not much point in discussing a starting salary unless you know you’re going to get an offer. But more than this, it is not to your advantage to initially talk about your starting salary because …

When an employer asks, “what are your salary requirements?” or “what are you currently earning?” they are gathering information on your likely expectations. There are maybe two or three right answers to this question and more than 20 wrong ones. Too high and you’re screened out, too low and you’ll lose money in the initial offer, or you’ll be eliminated as under-qualified based on your low salary requirements.

The proper time to discuss your starting salary is after the job position has been defined and you are sure the employer understands what you are bringing to the table.

Until then, a good postponing phrase would be, “All I’ll require is a competitive salary. I will likely be using PayScale and other resources to help determine this. As I presume you will, too. So I’m confident the starting salary will take care of itself, if I’m the right person for the job.”

Starting Salary Rule #2 – Who Goes First

When they are ready to make an offer, here’s a second piece of timing advice: Don’t share your own research too soon! When it comes to discussing your starting salary, let the employer go first. This way you have a firm starting point.  Generally, you’ll want to bump the starting salary up five to ten percent, or more. But, in the worst case scenario, if the hiring manager goes first, you certainly won’t get less than their initial offer. Additionally, there is always the chance that they will exceed the starting salary figure you were planning to mention.

NOW do you present your salary research? NO … Not yet.

Starting Salary Rule #3 – Repeat The Offer And Be Quiet
Once the company rep speaks first, you respond by repeating the starting salary offer and remaining silent. If they have given you a low-ball offer, and they know it, now is the time for them to increase their offer.

Okay, you’ve heard the offer, greeted it with silence, now do you get to use the information on a researched salary report?

Maybe …

Starting Salary Rule #4 – Share Your Researched Range and Establish Your Individual Value
If you are reading this article, you have probably done some research about what your salary should be. If you haven’t or want more accurate and reliable salary information, complete the brief salary survey, available at, to determine what the average salary and salary range is for your new position.

Now that you have the salary information necessary for negotiating, I want you to learn the value of having this salary information in hand. The best way to leverage a salary report for a successful negotiation is to set your own expectations about how you will use your report. Know what information your report contains and especially know what the data represents — what is behind the numbers — before taking it to the boss or a potential employer.

When you compared your research with the company’s offer, you were either under market, over market, or right in the range. If your salary research indicates the offer is below the range for your specific job and responsibilities, now is the time to verbally share your research with the employer and discuss how the employer arrived at his/her estimates. Often you will find some points of disagreement when negotiating an increase.

Keep in mind that the employer will likely view compensation data differently than the employee. Two common points the employer may wish to discuss are the sources used to obtain the data in the report, and whether the data in the report matches your job profile, the company profile, and job location.

Finally, when a company wants to buy your time and effort, remember it’s a human being who makes the decision. It isn’t a cut and dry assessment; it’s a rational-emotive process that takes into account many factors that aren’t always fair or logical. Your awareness of these factors can greatly improve your chances for improving your salary.

Starting Salary Rule #5 — Cinch the Deal and Deal Some More
Finally, you receive an offer you can live with and is fair. Do you sign it then? Well, yes and no.

Yes, you now have a firm base to agree to, one you know that will make you happy. But, don’t stop! It is now time to put your attention on the other factors of the salary-equation gold mine … benefits and perks …

Betsy Ribera is the vice president of consumer marketing for PayScale, Inc., a market leader in online compensation information, providing access to accurate compensation data for both employees and employers. With the world’s largest database of individual employee compensation profiles at her fingertips, Betsy provides immediate and precise insights on the job market.


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