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Do’s and don’ts for successfully negotiating your salary

In today’s tight labor market, employers in many industries are struggling to fill open positions. It’s a job seeker’s market, and having the upper hand means having a better opportunity to successfully negotiate salary. Yet a recent many workers do not negotiate for better pay when they are offered a job.

The thing is, employers are often willing to at least entertain a counteroffer. Most employers are willing to negotiate salaries on initial job offers for entry-level workers. In fact, many employers will offer a lower salary than they’re willing to pay when they first extend a job offer to an employee, so there is room to negotiate.

“Savvy recruiters and employers are not surprised when the leading candidate negotiates,” says Nicholas J. Daukas, Managing Partner at human resources consulting company KardasLarson, LLC. “When the leading candidate is knowledgeable in what the market will likely pay the role, then the candidate will not appear to be asking for an amount that is not reasonable.”

Here, we lay out some do’s and don’ts for successfully negotiating your salary:

DO check your attitude at the door
“Before you do anything else, check in with your attitude as you enter a salary negotiation,” says Denise Dudley, author of “Work It! Get In, Get Noticed, Get Promoted.” “Remember that this is not necessarily an adversarial situation … In theory, and most likely in reality, you’re both on the same side, so start with a cooperative attitude. There’s nothing wrong with showing a little enthusiasm, even. Behave and speak as if you believe your salary negotiation is going to be a pleasant, successful endeavor—and it just might turn out that way.”

DON’T forget to do your research
Andrea St. James, director of the Career Development Center at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass., says that while you’re conducting pre-interview research, you should also be researching salary ranges for the position. “You should be prepared to know what the average starting salary is for that position, in that specific location, and for someone with your experience level.”

Some helpful online resources to determine salary ranges include The Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, and CareerBuilder’s own Explore Careers tool.

DO consider your take-home pay
“Your base pay is not your take-home pay,” Dudley says. “You will have taxes, insurance, public transit charges, gasoline bills, parking lot fees, toll road tariffs and all sorts of other potential requirements that will eat away at that salary number, and you can definitely use this information as a negotiation point. There’s nothing wrong with explaining to the hiring manager that, after taxes, insurance, etc., your take-home pay ‘won’t actually cover the median cost-of-living requirements of my local area.’”

Dudley recommends using one of the many cost-of-living calculators on the internet to give you a sense of what your take-home pay will be before agreeing to accept a salary. “It’s possible that by explaining ‘deduction realities’ to your hiring manager, you just might nudge the base up by a few dollars – and every little bit counts toward a victorious negotiation.”

DON’T think you have to give an exact number
St. James says it’s always beneficial to start by stating your salary request in the form of a range. “That way you do not price yourself under or out of consideration, and also show that there is room for negotiation.”

DO ask about benefits
Salary is just one factor in the total compensation package, so don’t just get caught up on the number. “Don’t forget about benefits and other variable compensation programs like bonuses, and even sign-on bonuses,” Daukas says. “The ‘total compensation’ (base salary, benefits and other variable pay) amount is critical when making an informed decision.”

To that end, remember that benefits can always be negotiated too, especially if there isn’t much wiggle room with your salary. Elene Cafasso of Enerpace, Inc. Executive Coaching recommends trying to negotiate benefits such as vacation time, personal days, bonuses and stocks. “Assume everything you care about is at least worthy of discussion. If you can’t get everything you want right now, ask for a review in three to six months.”

DON’T accept the offer on the spot
“You’re not required to accept, reject or counter a job offer on the spot,” Dudley says. “It’s perfectly OK to thank the hiring manager, and then let her know you’d like some time (not more than 24 hours) to consider the offer and get back to her with either your acceptance or negotiation requests. Just make sure you respond in a timely fashion, or you might lose the offer.”

Got the salary you wanted but still not sure the job is right for you? Here are 5 reasons to decline the offer.

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