I. Introduction: When and How to Talk Compensation


With any luck, the money topic will be brought up at some point during your interview. This is a sure sign of an employer’s interest in you and your skills. But, you should not push the issue. Never bring up the subject of compensation until the prospective employer broaches it first. Otherwise, you risk sending the wrong message; that you’re more interested in money than in what you can do for the company. This might cause an employer to think twice, as it were, about your candidacy. No one wants to hire someone whose only interest is getting paid. Be strategic when approaching salary negotiation.


If you are an employer – check out this article by our vendor Prevue HR.


Worst-Case Scenario: The Salary Discussion is a Screening Device.


If the subject of pay comes up early in the interview, you should understand that this is probably a screening question. The wrong answer here could take you out of further consideration for the position. Thus, your best strategy at this point is to avoid answering any questions related to money. If you must respond to such questions, you should ask the interviewer to first tell you what his or her compensatory range is for the job. For better results, try to focus on the job, what it requires and what it should pay instead of your own economic needs. This will help keep you calm and collected. You don’t want to let emotions guide your salary negotiations.


II. The Principles of Salary Negotiation


A. The first principle of salary negotiation is deferral.


Delay any discussion of compensation as long as possible.


There are two reasons for this tactic. First, you do not want to damage your chances of getting a job by throwing out a number that effectively removes you from consideration. If you were to suggest a high figure with the intention of letting a potential employer know that you will not be pushed around, you have sent the wrong message. In this instance, many employers will screen you out of consideration, figuring that you would not be happy with their offer. They keep looking and you are out of the picture.


Another reason for delaying talk of pay is to avoid selling yourself short by confining yourself to less money than you might have gotten had you not offered a particular figure. Once an employer has heard your asking price, it is highly unlikely that he or she will offer you more-regardless of whether he or she was willing to pay more in the first place. Your answer could cost you thousands of dollars over the years.


What to say to the compensation question during an interview


To win at salary negotiation, don’t be the first one to mention a figure. Here are some examples of dialogue meant to postpone a discussion of money, or to get an employer to mention a figure first:


  • “It is my understanding that your organization pays a competitive rate. I want to make sure this is in line with my compensation requirements, and this is a good time to confirm that. What is your salary range for the job?”
  • “To be frank, I’m not comfortable discussing salary issues until you’ve decided you definitely want me and I’ve decided I will be able to help with your tasks here.””
  • “I’ll gladly talk compensation with you, but could you first help me to better understand what the job involves?”
  • “Salary is not the main issue here. What is more important to me is the corporate culture, job, company, environment, etc.”
  • “I am open to any reasonable offer, and I’m sure that you pay a fair salary.”


What to say to the compensation question during a screening phone call


Sometimes, salary requirements will be used by a potential employer to decide whether or not to schedule an interview in the first place. In such cases, you will receive a salary screening phone call. Here are two responses, both of which ensure that you will get to the interview phase and protect your monetary interests:


  • “I know we don’t want to waste each other’s time if we’re far apart on the issue of money. May I ask you, then, what type of compensatory range you are considering at the moment for this position?”
  • “Depending, of course, on the management philosophy of the company, the number of overtime hours required, the medical and dental benefits, my commuting and/or travel time, how well the position fits my long-term career goals, and how much room for advancement you offer, my salary expectations range from $_____ to $_____ [give a very wide range]. When would you like to get together to talk further about the goals for this position?”” If You Have to Throw Out a Number, Make It a Range. That’s because companies almost always arrange their salaries on a sliding scale, which factors in experience and seniority within the company. The difference from one end to the other can be as much as 50%. Your range might go from 10% below your most recent salary level to 20% above that number.


The idea is to create some room for negotiation. You don’t want to accept a 10% cut in pay, but you can negotiate the offer upward if the company really wants to bring you on board. To be sure, you don’t want to cheat yourself out of an opportunity to receive more pay than you did previously.


B. The second principle of salary negotiation is preparedness


Know what you’re worth in the marketplace.


There are many ways to determine your competitive market value. For example, you could:


  • Look up salary surveys in your field or in popular magazines, which often feature annual salary surveys.
  • Ask other people in your field. Your best bets would be those people in your network who most closely approximate your age and/or experience level.
  • Call similar companies directly and inquire about their salary ranges for the type of job you are seeking.


III. Get the Offer First


If the employer brings up the issue of money later in the interview, but has not offered you the job, you should press for a written offer or what an offer may look like. Simply put, your interests are better served by getting an offer on the table before you start negotiating your salary. It is important to ascertain whether compensation is the only barrier to your getting the job.


IV. Now that You’ve Gotten the Offer


Here are some guidelines for negotiating the job offer.


  • Remain enthusiastic except about the financial package. You don’t want to risk losing a job offer to another candidate, just because he or she seems more enthused about the job itself.
  • Know what you’re bargaining for. Get an exact understanding of the job, its responsibilities and reporting relationships.
  • Expect to negotiate. People rarely state the best offer at the start.
  • Never immediately refuse an initial offer as being too low. Think about it overnight, and, if the salary is simply not enough, state your compensatory minimum.
  • Have all the elements of the financial package on the table before you negotiate.


Remember, you do not have to accept the job offer on the spot; it is always best to say this is an important decision for all of us: can I have a couple of days to think about it and discuss things at home.


Although you may have already been considering the possible offer, you need time to evaluate all the factors involved in this decision. Remember not to get caught up in the excitement of the offer. Be prepared to negotiate when you will let the employer know of your decision.


When reviewing:


  • Weigh your salary against your own needs. Do you like the work? The people? Are these responsibilities likely to stimulate and challenge you? Is the opportunity for growth in the job compatible with your needs and desires?
  • Think in terms of standard of living. Will this salary afford you the type of lifestyle you are used to? This is particularly important if the position requires relocating to an area with a higher cost of living.
  • Be prepared for a negative response. Also, be prepared to accept or decline the original offer in the event that your requests are turned down.
  • Don’t feel like you have to keep talking. The employer will let you know when he or she has reached the limits of negotiation. One rule of the negotiation process is that he or she who talks the most usually gives up the most.
  • Stall if you have to. If you expect offers from multiple companies, you will want to delay accepting any one of the jobs. Make sure to negotiate for adequate amounts of time to consider whatever offers are on the table. …Last Resort: Go out of town, and explain to an employer that you’ll have made your final decision by the time you return.
  • Commit fully. Whether it was a hard decision or not, let your employer know that you’re with him or her 100% and willing to put forth your all in getting the job done.


V. Other Negotiables


You may, along with you prospective employer, consider some of the following items in determining your compensation package. Any one of these things could be open to negotiation.


Basic Compensation:


  • Base Salary or Wage
  • Signing Bonus
  • Commissions
  • Performance Bonus
  • Profit Sharing


Standard Benefits:


  • Pension or Matching RRSP Plan
  • Health Benefits
    • Medical, Dental and Optical
    • Disability
    • Employer Portions: Percentage Covered?
    • Deductibles?
  • Paid Sick Leave, Personal Days Off (be careful this may be a sensitive area)
  • Vacation Time: How Long? How Soon?
  • Life Insurance




  • Participation Stock Options
  • Stock Bonuses


Relocation Considerations:


  • Coverage of Moving
  • Secondary Living Allowance
  • Expenses /Trips to Find Housing
  • Cost of Living Subsidy




  • Country Club/Golf & Tennis Fees
  • Health Club Membership
  • Reserved or Paid Parking
  • Professional Association Fees
  • Tuition Reimbursements


Vehicle / Equipment Allowances:


  • Gas, Maintenance and Insurance
  • Expense Accounts
  • Cell Phone/Computers


VI. The Offer Letter


Request that the job offer be outlined in writing. Until you have the offer in writing, you have nothing. A verbal offer can be withdrawn-it happens all the time. Furthermore, having the offer in writing ensures that there will be questions later on about what was initially agreed upon.


The offer letter normally consists of the following items:


  1. Job title
  2. Total Compensation; including variable income, incentives
  3. Agreements as to salary and/or performance reviews
  4. Starting date
  5. Vacation, Employee Benefits
  6. Relocation Allowances
  7. Employment Agreements
  8. Hours of Work
  9. Conditions of Offer



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