Before you interview for a position, develop a sense of what the job is worth generally. Start by looking at salary calculators online. Indeed.com has one, as do many other sites. Be sure you are looking at information relevant to your area. Employers in New York City, for example, pay far more than those in small, rural towns because the cost of living in a larger city is usually higher.
Get additional salary information by connecting with people who do similar work for competing companies. Ask. When you tell someone why you want it, they will usually be willing to share ballpark figures. Turning to someone higher up is also a good idea. Managers do not usually mind the mentorship role and will give you current figures.
Some companies advertise a salary range when they post an open position. Pay attention to this, even if you are not applying to that company or if your job isn’t identical to the one posted. This will give you a good sense of what is fair for your position.
When an interviewer asks, “What is your salary requirement?” Do you blurt out a number? Not yet. Instead, try to establish grounds for negotiating. Find out what is on the table by asking, “Are you offering me the position?” This sounds overconfident, but it works. If the answer is no, the conversation needs to go back to addressing the company’s needs and your qualifications, and salary doesn’t matter yet.
If the answer is yes, you can formulate a smart response. Start with, “I do want this position.” Then add, “Based on my research, the pay range that seems fair is…” If you are afraid you’ll price yourself out, you can add a qualifier, “I have some flexibility because this is a position I’m very excited about.”
If the offer that comes through is lower, look for other benefits that would offset the difference. Flex time, health insurance and vacation time are areas companies are sometimes willing to negotiate. Accepting the offer contingent on a six month review is another way to negotiate a win-win compensation package. If the company expects sales to be better six months from now, they may be willing to review your compensation a few months down the road.
Don’t worry about showing your cards. If you do quality research, the number you name will be within the range most people are paid for the position.