7 steps to a decent salary. How to behave at a job interview

Finding a job takes time. You write a resume, prepare a cover letter, look at job openings. And then you get to the interview. Almost no one wants to argue with the conditions of the employer after all the effort. Surely you don’t want to risk it either.

Most will not. And will accept the salary offered by the employer. But in many cases this is the wrong decision. A higher salary can be negotiated. In fact, hiring managers are often ready for such negotiations. But are you ready for them?

What is salary negotiation and why you shouldn’t give it up

Negotiating salary is one of the last steps in the search for a new job. Such negotiations are not the same as asking for a raise in your previous position. The main difference is that they take place when the job is hired and after the interview, but before the employment contract is signed, not when the terms are revised some time after the position is hired.

Such negotiations are useful for several reasons. Even the fact that you initiate them is already a huge plus. After all, it tells the manager that you are confident in your own abilities and that at the first opportunity you will consider a more favorable vacancy. In addition, during negotiations you think about what level of income would suit you, and analyze the situation on the labor market. This, too, gives you a higher starting salary.

“The unemployment rate is lower now than ever before. At the same time, the demand for talented and skilled employees remains high,” says Luke Stratmann, manager of Robert Half, an HR consulting firm that has specialized in HR consulting for over 70 years and is listed on the S&P 500. – Professionals have a big advantage.”

When you say yes to an employer, you are agreeing to the entire set of terms, including the salary currently accepted. Otherwise, the salary is not usually renegotiated until six months to a year later. By refusing to negotiate, you forfeit an additional amount for all that time.

“Most employers expect, even welcome, discussion of their proposed terms of employment,” Stratmann says.

According to a 2019 study by Robert Half, 70% of hiring managers are willing to negotiate salary or extra bonuses. Also, throughout the year, 45% of job seekers accepted the employer’s terms without any discussion. Don’t do what they did. It’s about extra money, and you can count on it. Down with indecision.

How to negotiate salary

A job interview is an exciting event. And when combined with salary negotiations, it causes a lot of stress. And even a panic attack. Wishing to avoid such inconveniences, many miss the chance to conclude the most favorable contract. Don’t allow yourself that weakness.

This step-by-step negotiation guide will get rid of your empty fears, and you’ll get the best possible result. You’re sure to negotiate a really decent wage. And maybe even get an even better offer from the employer himself. And to achieve this, study the following instructions:

Step 1: Find out what salary a specialist at your level can actually claim

The best way to get rid of the jitters and confidently proceed to negotiations is to thoroughly study all available information about the company where you apply and about the desired position.

Lisa Gates, a leadership and negotiation coach for businesswomen and one of LinkedIn’s leading experts, advises to start preparing for salary negotiations by finding out what the income of other employees in the same position is. To get an idea of the average salary of professionals in the region and in a particular company, ask colleagues or look online for information. Do not settle for less.

Step 2: Know exactly how much your labor is worth

You’ve already figured out the average salary for your desired position. Now figure out exactly how much your services cost.

“If you’re a mid-level professional … target the average salary,” Gates advises. – But if your qualifications are much higher than average, you’re entitled to more income.

Don’t underestimate yourself. But you’ll need to prepare arguments to convince your employer that your demands are justified. Prepare a list of your skills and accomplishments. And determine how much the value of your services increases because of each of them. In numbers. Generally speaking, numbers, statistics are the strongest arguments during negotiations. And if you need a certain amount of money, say, for child support or rent, this is also quite possible to mention. But there are other arguments besides expenses.

“Employers won’t like it if applicants insist on high salaries, taking figures out of thin air, without reasonable justification,” Stratmann notes. Explain why your labor is more expensive, and there’s a good chance your terms will be accepted.

Step 3: Respond politely to the initial offer

You have just received a job offer (congratulations!) and it either pleased you or not. Maybe the company offers exactly the conditions you wanted, or maybe the salary offered is too low. In any case, the invitation evoked a strong emotional response. And so many act on impulse: respond or enthusiastic acceptance, or resentful rejection. But you take your time. Take a deep breath and don’t answer right away, even if it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Giving a decent, polite response to the first offer you receive is critical,” says Lauren Margolis, CEO and founder of Training & Leadership Success. – Listen to how you feel and pause.” Margolis is a professional training specialist and member of the Forbes Council of Business Coaches. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies. According to Margolis, even with a ready-made solution and a determination to negotiate immediately with an employer, it’s better to take some time to think about the situation. “If you start negotiating right away, there’s a great risk of succumbing to emotions. And you need to talk about money with a sober head, weighing every word carefully,” she adds.

Ask for time to think it over. It is acceptable to take such a time-out for 1-7 days. Most often, it’s 24 to 48 hours. But sometimes an employer needs employees urgently and doesn’t want to wait long.

“You can also ask the manager directly when a final decision is required,” Stratmann says. – This will avoid unnecessary excitement and misunderstandings because there is a clearly stated deadline.”

Step 4: Prepare a counteroffer

When negotiating salaries, it’s important to stick to the information you’ve mined in advance and give acceptable figures. They should be consistent with the realities of the market. Within the range defined by the local market, allocate a narrower one that meets your wishes and competencies. If you were asked the question, “What salary do you expect?” what would the answer be?

Let’s say 60 to 80 thousand. Then focus on that range. Suppose the original proposal – 60 thousand a month, 4 weeks of vacation a year, plus health care and gym at the expense of the company. Let’s assume that this is quite in line with your expectations, and in the planned range of pay is quite in line. But negotiate all the same. “Always bargain, if only to show how you know how to have a difficult working dialogue,” Gates advises. – Knowing how to resolve difficulties and get your way is the art of negotiation.”

The exception is companies with “fixed” terms, which cannot be deviated from and are announced right away. If the salary is fixed and the employer considers bargaining inappropriate, you just have to put up with it. Unless, of course, you decide to refuse the job. In other cases prepare a counter-offer. Consider the following figures:

The minimum wage for which you are willing to work. For example, 65 thousand.

Target amount. This is the most likely outcome of negotiations. The target is higher than the minimum wage. Let it be 70 thousand.

The highest figure you will mention during negotiations. And that’s where you’ll start the negotiation. In this case, 80,000.

It is very possible that the company will not agree to pay you the “target” amount even after the negotiations are over. But don’t despair. Stratmann urges: “When thinking about a job offer, look beyond just the salary. Extra bonuses, career prospects, company culture and many other factors matter, too.” And those factors can be a topic of discussion, too. Maybe there’s a break room in the office building? Or is there an opportunity to work from home at least occasionally? Training stipends? Continuing education courses? Extended vacation time? Bonuses? Maybe something else? Think about what additional options would make the position more attractive to you and include them in your offer.

Step 5: Negotiate properly

You’ve done a lot of preparatory work. Are you ready to present the results in a dialogue? Clearly and confidently, despite the excitement that is almost unavoidable during a job interview? Hardly.

The dialogue itself can take place in person or remotely. But it should definitely be a conversation. Not correspondence. “By exchanging emails, you can discuss some general issues or arrange a meeting,” Stratmann says. – But it’s better to have basic conversations in person or on the phone, because you can get a better feel for the tone of the person you’re talking to.

In a face-to-face meeting, intonation is just one of the details worth paying close attention to. According to research by Robert Half, hiring managers note the following characteristics of the job applicant:



hand gestures;


facial expressions;

fidgeting, nervousness;

whether eye contact is maintained.

That is why correspondence is not enough. And knowing how to use all these features of behavior to your advantage requires a certain skill. “Practice negotiating with someone you know well. Be sure to ask him to make your task as difficult as possible,” Margolis advises. – Let him try to confuse you, embarrass you, challenge your judgment. Let him challenge you, and you will learn to respond professionally.”

Margolis also recommends writing down the most important points for you to discuss during negotiations. Then write down three of your qualities that set you apart from other job seekers. Spit these out on paper, and you’ll gain more confidence.

Ghaith, for his part, suggests crafting a small opening statement with the following structure:

list your strengths;

evaluate the results that have been achieved because of them;

tell how those results will be put to use;

state the amount of pay for which you qualify. Name the maximum possible amount (according to your previous research and your qualifications). After all, this is where negotiations should start.

Finish your speech with a question that starts the negotiation. For example: “How do you see the prospects for our collaboration?”

“I am a creative copywriter, a high-end professional who has created several successful ad texts for my recent clients that have increased their advertising revenue by 20% in one quarter. I believe that if your company has more resources and staff at my disposal, I can work even more effectively. Given my experience and merits, I expect a salary (you name the highest possible amount under the circumstances for the position). How would you feel about the possibility of cooperating on such terms?”. Your speech, of course, can be written very differently. Write in your usual language, change the structure to your liking. Don’t forget to mention how much you are hoping for and end your introduction with the question with which the negotiations themselves will begin.

When rehearsing your speech with a friend, try to go through several variations of the question to find the most appropriate one. Just don’t ask a question that can be answered one-sidedly, because your goal is to start a dialogue. Practice until you have enough confidence. And don’t forget to thank your “coach” properly!

Step 6: Get a higher salary

It’s time. Take a deep breath and start fighting for better terms. If you negotiate in person, don’t forget the body language. If you are offered a drink, do not refuse. Sipping an aromatic coffee or tea, you’ll successfully fill the uncomfortable pauses in the conversation and buy some time to gather your thoughts.

If the interview is over the phone, forget about sign language and other unnecessary details that are not transmitted by voice anyway. Feel free to use prepared notes. But remember how important intonation is. Speak clearly, take your time, and the negotiations will go great.

Step 7: Make sure the accepted terms are spelled out

The salary negotiation is successfully completed. You got the salary you were hoping for (or even more). Great! But remember that this fact must be documented. Sometimes the hiring is delayed, and quite a few of the company’s employees are involved. In such a situation it is not uncommon for all sorts of overlaps to occur and mistakes to be made. And valuable information is lost when it is transferred from one person to another. Let’s say a certain employee of the human resources department is responsible for negotiating with job applicants. Let’s say his paperwork contains only the salary that was originally negotiated, and nothing about changes in the results of the negotiations. Agreements can also be “forgotten” intentionally, but let’s hope that such troubles will bypass you.

“Ask to at least send you the notes from the negotiations in a letter. This will help avoid misunderstandings,” advises Margolis.

If it’s time to sign an employment contract, make sure that it accurately reflects all the agreements made. Only then should you feel free to sign it and go celebrate your diplomatic victory.