How to Negotiate Federal Job Salaries

Federal employer reviews the compensation package with a new employee.
Federal employer reviews the compensation package with a new employee. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Negotiating a federal job salary requires proper planning and research. The federal government is the nation's largest employer, with approximately 1.9 million people employed in the United States and around the world. While the U.S. federal government's workforce ages, the need to hire qualified replacement workers increases with time. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management anticipates approximately 241,428 federal employees will have retired by end of the 2012 fiscal year. Most qualified professionals who are considering a federal government job offer will have a great opportunity to negotiate their job salary as the government seeks to replace its aging workforce.

Research the general pay schedule for your job title and area. Start your search by reviewing the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's most current general schedule grade level for your job title and the area where the job is located. For instance, if you are considering a job as an accountant in Atlanta, Georgia, whose title is "accountant for general schedule level 11," you would want to review the most current rates for the general pay scale 11 for the Atlanta area, which as of 2011 ranged between $59,987 and $77,981. You can view this information online at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's website.

Review the job title's description and qualifications to determine what skills you have and prior work experience you offer that will assist you in negotiating your salary package. Write down those reasons why you believe your federal employer should hire you at the salary level you desire. For instance, if you served previously as a supervisor in a large private sector accounting firm where you mentored over 20 accountants to senior positions in the company you can make the case that this prior experience will serve to increase overall worker productivity in the agency's fiscal department.

Negotiate the salary being offered to you by the human resources specialist. Include in your negotiations the written down reasons why you believe you merit an increase in salary based on the general schedule pay scale for your grade. For instance, if you were offered an accountant job at the general schedule grade 11 step 1 which at time of publication pays $59,987 in the Atlanta, Georgia, area and you believe you are qualified to receive pay at grade 11 step 3, which pays $63,986, make your case based on the skills and work experience you have written down.

Request that the human resource specialist mail you a copy of the final salary package. This written confirmation ensures the integrity of the final salary package you agreed to with the human resource specialist.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be realistic about how much you can be compensated. Do not expect your employer to pay you more than you are truly worth.
  • Do not try to negotiate your salary before you have received an offer. Wait for the human resource department to contact you with an offer before you begin your negotiations.

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