Negotiating Salary During an Interview

by Beth Tucker

“What am I worth?”

That’s a question that nearly every direct hire job seeker is faced with during the process of finding and accepting a new position.  Understanding your value in the marketplace is critical to your job hunting success.  If you underestimate your worth, at some point in the future you’ll likely be resentful that you allowed yourself to be “low balled” into a position.  If you overestimate your value, you might not receive a job offer in the first place.

The key to negotiating an offer is in understanding, and being able to communicate, your true value to a potential employer.  You don’t want to oversell yourself, but neither do you want to undersell your skills, capabilities, and experience.   How do you walk this fine line?

The first step starts well before the interview.  Take inventory of your education, on-the-job training that you’ve received, certifications that you’ve achieved, and specific experience that would translate to the employer’s needs.  Ask yourself: “Could I hit the ground running and be immediately productive?”  Not only does that question factor into your own bottom line for a compensation package, but the person you’re negotiating with will probably be asking the same question when they’re developing an offer.

Then, do some market research.  Salary ranges for the same type of position can vary widely from region to region.  For example, a total compensation package for a mid-career accountant in New York City will likely be much higher than in Des Moines, Iowa.  Many factors, such as cost of living and demand for available talent, influence what employers are willing (and able) to pay a job applicant. There are many online resources that provide market salary ranges for professions in specific geographic locations.  Use these resources to determine a ballpark compensation package that you’re willing to live with.

It should go without saying that you need to know something about the company you’re interviewing with before the big day.  Part of your research should focus on the benefits that the company offers to its direct hire employees.  In general, this information can be found in the careers section of most major company websites.  Whatever compensation package you agree to will be a combination of salary plus benefits.  If a company has a superb benefits package, you might be willing to settle for less upfront salary.

During the interview process, it’s generally very important that you don’t broach salary issues.  Allow the interviewer to make the first move.  If an interviewer asks you what you’re looking for in terms of salary, avoid giving a specific number, but rather, ask about the employer’s budget or salary range for the position, and see if it fits with the research you’ve done.

Negotiating a competitive compensation package for a direct hire position doesn’t have to be difficult or terribly time consuming.  The process starts with understanding your own worth in the marketplace, and knowing when to accept (or be willing to walk away from) a job offer.

For assistance in getting an interview, contact KNF&T here.

Beth Tucker is the co-founder and president at KNF&T Staffing Resources. She can be reached at