Many candidates lose a job opportunity by negotiating salary too soon…and they don’t even realize it. The employer asks what you are looking for and you answer with a specific number. Yikes! Once you quote a specific salary, you have started the negotiations. Perhaps you quoted too low, and now they wonder if you are really qualified. Or, they do want to make you an offer but not they can keep you at the low end of the potential range. Even worse, you may have quoted too high, and they may already eliminate you from consideration.
How to prepare? First, understand that salary is only one aspect of your total compensation. Determine in advance, what your total needs are including salary, vacation, benefits, commuting costs, etc. Decide where you are able to be flexible. How to answer that question? First, ask the employer what the salary range is for the position and you can then affirm (or not!) that the range is within your ballpark. Of course, they may not be willing to provide that information to you. Alternatively, you can state that you would like to be paid fairly for the level of the position and try to avoid further discussion about it until an actual offer is on the table. Also, you can quote a salary range that you are looking for, based on a determination of your needs. Be cautious though – do not say it is based on your needs – state that it is based on fair market value and you can easily fine this info online beforehand (try www.salary.com). Do some research to see what average salaries are for your position and level, and now you will have factual info to quote to the employer as to what ranges are appropriate for your level. Let them know that the acceptable salary offered will be influenced by what is included in the rest of the compensation package. Remember, keep a poker face during these discussions and always let them know how excited you are about the position itself. You may be surprised how employers rise above their initially quoted range to close a deal when they can focus on your value and not get bogged down by the numbers coming up too soon in the process.