The recession is over, “they” tell us, and now might be a good time to look for a job. My husband just finished his Ph.D., and he is on the hunt. One thing that he has noticed is that many prospective employers offer a salary range for the job (which can cover a range of $20,000), and then expect him to name a salary somewhere in there.

Salary negotiations are tricky things. You hate to ask for more than the employer wants to pay you, but you also don’t want to ask for a salary that’s too low. Not only might you look desperate or unqualified, but you will probably end up with that low salary. My husband has just taken to listing his own salary range that covers about $5,000 somewhere in the area of the middle of the range listed on the job advertisement. Here are 7 tips that might help you when it comes to salary negotiations:

  1. Wait as long as possible before providing your number: Whenever possible, let the potential employer throw out the first number. You can go up from there. However, if the employer insists that you come up with the number first, share a range that is acceptable to you. This provides you both with room to negotiate, and keeps you from being locked in.
  2. Do your research: You have to know your own worth, and what sort of worth the market is likely to assign you. Do your homework. Know how much others make with your experience and with the job responsibilities you will be expected to shoulder.
  3. Be flexible: While you are doing your research, be sure to read up on employee benefits, perks, bonuses and other forms of compensation. Think about your compensation package as a whole, and not just your salary. One job my husband is applying for comes with an excellent health plan and a retirement plan with a generous match. If he gets this job, it’s worth it to take a little lower salary, since the benefits package is so outstanding. Consider accepting stock options or some other type of compensation. Remember that your compensation package is just that — a package. You can negotiate the whole thing, and be more flexible on your actually salary.
  4. Show your worth: Make sure you have concrete examples that demonstrate your ability to perform the job, and perform it well. Be clear about your past successes, and if you have numbers to show that you improved something by x%, make sure you share those. You will need to sell potential employers on the fact that you are going to be worth what they pay you.
  5. Employ silence: If you are negotiating, silence can be an effective tool. If you are not happy with the first offer, fall silent and show that you are deliberating. If you have done your homework, and demonstrated your worth to the employer, you might get a different offer if you just wait a minute or so, in an attitude of hesitation over the compensation package. However, be aware that in the present climate, too much silence might lose you the job. If the offer is fair, don’t hold out too long, or you might miss your chance.
  6. Be honest: This seems like a no-brainer, but a number of people try to lie — or stretch the truth a little — during salary negotiations. Remember that potential employers can double check information on your job performance and compensation. Make sure you are up front about your current salary and benefits package so that, if you are asked, you can answer accurately.
  7. Be prepared to walk: Do you have a back-up plan? Back in journalism school, one of my professors called this “F-U Money”. If you aren’t being treated fairly, do you have enough to walk away? Before you go into a salary negotiation, take stock of your emergency fund, and whether you can afford to turn down an offer that seems too low. If you are in a position where you have to take what’s offered, there’s not much you can do. But if you are in a place where you can walk, show that you mean business, and be prepared to walk away unless the potential employer comes up a little bit.

Even in these tough times, you can still get a salary that’s fair, as long as you can show that you are worth what you are asking.



Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.