When Should You Negotiate a Salary?


Timing a salary negotiation is tricky business. Getting the best salary and benefits package requires some finesse, tact and patience. Although you may be sure you have the job in pocket, it will pay off if you wait for the employer to make the first move.


The first interview is definitely not the best place to negotiate a salary. You do not know at this stage whether the interviewer is even still considering you for the job. Unless he offers the job to you on the spot, which is an unusual, but not unheard-of occurrence, save your negotiating skills for a bit further down the road.


When the employer brings up the subject of salary for the first time, often in a second interview or after a job offer, then you can begin speaking about your salary expectations and concessions. It is presumptuous on your part if you are the first one to talk about salary. Patience is necessary to get a good spot from which to negotiate. If you are already assuming you have the job and begin negotiations before a job offer, you may have just inadvertently talked yourself out of any previously forthcoming offer. Try to delay salary negotiations as long as you can to give yourself time to get a good understanding of the job’s responsibilities and the company. You may not even want to negotiate salary after you do some more research on the company after the first interview. Say, “That is possible” to delay specific salary negotiations and immediately agreeing to each item the company offers.

Before You Start

The best time to negotiate salary is after the job offer and before you start the job. Once you sign any employment contract or other new hire paperwork and get behind your desk to begin work, your bargaining power is gone. If you have agreed to work for a certain salary, you generally cannot go back and change that agreement. Get the final salary and benefits package in writing.


Be aware that some companies may not be able to offer what you expect in terms of salary and other benefits. This can be due to a number of factors, including general business climate, size and health of a company and salary grades that the company policy dictates. Be ready to offer some concessions such as a week of paid vacation each year instead of a few extra grand a year in salary. Use “If / then” statements to negotiate. You might say, “If I take $5,000 less in salary, then will you be willing to offer a flexible work arrangement and waive the health insurance waiting period?”

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