Negotiating Your Salary 101

arm wrestleNegotiating your compensation package for a position does not have to be an arm wrestling match; but it does require you to think strategically and fully understand your value. You know how good you are at what you do, so don’t ever feel like the company you are interviewing with is doing you any favors. It’s a two-way street! They need you just as much as you need them; otherwise, they wouldn’t be advertising the position and you wouldn’t be sitting there across from a hiring manager.

To be truly satisfied with a new position you have to get what you need coming into the job. Compensation isn’t just about money; it’s about the trade-off – how much you can get for what you are giving. How you rate the value of what you have to offer to a potential employer is what should determine your compensation package requirements.

I have had many colleagues and friends tell me stories about how they not paid enough for what they give to a company. My response is simple: “Well, that is what you agreed to!” Or as my kids always say, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset” (I guess they picked that up from their teachers). It is crucial to get what you need before you are hired. You don’t want to job-hop every one or two years.

What should you consider when negotiating a compensation package?

Your compensation package should be the bare minimum you are willing to accept to live the lifestyle you require. I cannot tell you what is best for you; only you can decide that. Things that may be a priority for you may not be a priority for someone else. However, I can tell you many things to consider while negotiating compensation.

Minimum desired salary. What you absolutely must have to meet your financial obligations, retirement, and leisurely spending. This should consider the work you are expected to do and your anticipated duties (the stuff they will add on without paying you for it).

Retirement benefits. Find out what the retirement package looks like. What is the employer contribution? Ask about the percentage they match and when you are eligible to participate.

Health benefits. Your health is essential to your happiness at work. Find out who the health provider is and when your benefits will start after your hire date.

Vacation time/Sick leave. How much time will you receive and when can you begin to accrue or use it.

Social responsibility. Does the company give back to any charitable organizations? Are they involved in the local community? You want to ensure the image of the company you work for is not negative because you will be affiliated with them and that directly affects your personal brand.

Flexibility. Is the company respectful of your family time requirements? Do they respect family commitments outside of work? Basically, can you leave work at 5pm to go pick up your kids without feeling like you are going to be fired? Do they care more about the hours you work or about the work being done and the quality of work delivered? Can you work from home or are you required to finish your work only during working hours at the office?

Expense/Reimbursement requirements. Ask about the corporate expense policy and reimbursement for business related travel expenses. Find out the reimbursement schedule and requirements.

You may want a corner office or dry cleaning services instead of a big retirement package or vacation time. The key is to find what is important to you and consider that when negotiating your compensation package.

What should you do during your interview to help with the offer?

Be confident. Keep your confidence level up when interviewing. Reiterate to the interviewer that you are a quality employee and make it clear that you will be a valuable addition to their organization. Discuss big projects you’ve closed which caused significant profits for your previous employer(s). You want the employer to look at you and see value so tell them why you are so valuable; tell them what you have done and what you will do to increase their bottom line.

Ask about growth opportunity. Find out what the potential career development programs are within the company. This lets the employer know that you are seeking to be there for the long haul and you are serious about your career choices.

You can’t expect that the employer will pay you what you want to get paid after you are hired. Once the agreement is made and you are hired negotiating time is over. What you have is pretty much what you will get paid unless you happen to get a raise/promotion after your first year. Even then, you may be simply catching up to what you actually needed all along rather than reaping the benefits of the increase.

The most important part of negotiating salary is being reasonable.

Don’t expect an employer to pay you an outrageous sum of money if you have never made anywhere near that amount in your previous work history. Remember, your employer knows the industry and knows what the going rate is; however they also consider your experience and work history as well. Be respectful, confident, yet stern in your negotiations.

At the end of the day, if you are not happy with your compensation then you are not helping the employer and you are certainly not helping yourself. Don’t settle for less when you are the best!

Profile PicMary V. Davids is the Founder and Managing Member of D&M Consulting Services, LLC. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management. Mary has over a decade of experience in cultivating employee engagement, enhancing employee motivation and workplace performance, leadership coaching and training & development. She also serves as Secretary on the Board of Directors for the South Florida Chapter of the National Association of African American’s in Human Resources. Book Mary to speak at your next event or hire Mary for leadership & professional development consultation today. Follow Mary on twitter @MVDavids.


About Mary Davids

Mary V. Davids is Principal Consultant at D&M Consulting Services, LLC., and creator of the Honest Model™. Mary has over a decade of experience in cultivating employee engagement, enhancing workplace performance, career coaching, leadership coaching and training & development. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Management. To connect with Mary, you can follow her on twitter @MVDavids or you can email her at
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