How to Get a Great Job: Negotiating the Best Pay & Benefits


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Wise job-hunters will be ready and willing to negotiate salary and benefits when the appropriate time comes. Those who aren’t prepared with solid research, industry knowledge, and confidence in their position are likely to lose out. And as negotiation expert Cheryl Palmer points out, once the opportunity for negotiating the terms of your new job is over, you’ll never be able to make up the difference between what you get and what you could have had.

Why Negotiate?

If you’re uncomfortable talking about money or asking for what you want, don’t worry—go ahead and do it. Employers and HR professionals expect you to negotiate your starting salary. It’s very rare that the first package offered—pay and benefits, that is—is fixed. So think of it as a starting point, and reach higher. Basic tips for successful negotiation include:

  • Have a solid grasp of what is realistic in terms of pay, benefits, and perks for the type of job you’ve been offered.
  • Also understand where you fit in the range of experience, skills, and value.
  • Let the other person begin. This ensures it’s the right time to negotiate—and you hold the advantage if the employer names their figure first.
  • If negotiations reach a point where the final salary offer is still low, move on to negotiate for more or better benefits.

If you don’t negotiate for what you want at this stage of accepting employment, Palmer warns, “You’re likely to leave several thousand dollars on the table. And you’ll never make that money up.”


Timing for Money Talk

If asked to supply your current or previous salary, don’t lie! If you’re hired and the lie is found out, this is legal grounds for termination.

The appropriate time to talk money (and benefits) is one of the firm rules in job interviewing. While the topic of pay may come up early—in a request for your salary history or requirements along with your resume, for instance—the rock-solid rule is, don’t bring up the subject until the employer makes you a job offer.

It’s important to understand that that initial question is not part of salary negotiation or discussion, but simply to see if you fall in the general range of what they’re paying.

DOs and DON’Ts for Talking Money

“You want to come away from that phone call with the company’s best offer. Once you feel you have that, say ‘I’d like a couple of days to think about it. Can I call you on Wednesday?’”
— Cheryl Palmer, CECC, negotiation expert and president of Call to Career

“It’s critical to practice negotiating. You may read books on the topic and understand the concept of negotiating, but it’s a different story when your living is on the line.”
— Cheryl Palmer, CECC, negotiation expert and president of Call to Career

DO be prepared to start negotiations as soon as your second interview—though the topic may not come up until the third or fourth interview. (See chapter 8.)

DON’T ask about salary during your interviews. “It’s not considered appropriate,” says Palmer. “It’s expected that when you get the job offer, you’ll have done your research and be prepared to negotiate.”

DO have any notes on your salary research ready to reference during discussions.

DON’T accept a job, salary, or benefits that you don’t want.

DO ask for time to consider the final offer once you’ve reached an agreement on salary and benefits. It’s acceptable to request a day or two to consider the final offer.


How Job Negotiation Works

Every organization has its own timeline and process for hiring new employees, depending on its size and agility, procedures and protocols, and the difficulty of finding the best candidate for a particular position. Here is a general guide for how job negotiations might take place:

“Typically, after all the interviews are over and the company has decided who they want for the position, an HR professional will make a phone call to extend the offer. That’s when the negotiation takes place. You want to be prepared for that call. You don’t want that HR person to have to go back to the hiring manager with your questions, so when you’re interviewing you need to have the mindset that you’re going to be hired. That’s when you should have asked all your questions.”

Best in Show — Negotiating

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In
by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury (New York: Penguin, 1991).

Get More Money on Your Next Job... in Any Economy
by Lee E. Miller (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009).

Next-Day Salary Negotiation: Prepare Tonight to Get Your Best Pay Tomorrow
by Maryanne Wegerbauer (Indianapolis, IN: JIST Works, 2007).

Get Paid What You're Worth: The Expert Negotiators' Guide to Salary and Compensation
by Robin L. Pinkley and Gregory B. Northcraft (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2003).

My Job Offer Negotiation Skills Are Solid (I Think) ... So Why Didn't I Get Anything I Asked For?
by Stacie Garlieb (Charleston, SC: CreateSpace, 2010).

QuintCareers, “Salary Negotiation and Job Offer Tools and Resources for Job-Seekers.”, “Negotiation Clinic.”

Susan Ireland’s Resume Site, “Salary Negotiation Skills.”



book cover: How to Get a Great Job: A Library How-To HandbookThis article is adapted from the book How to Get a Great Job: A Library How-To Handbook by Editors of the American Library Association published by ALA Editions.




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