Seven Tips for Successful Salary Negotiations

Job seekers who want potential employers to “show them the money” may be in luck, a new Robert Half survey suggests. More than one-third (38 percent) of executives interviewed said they are more willing to negotiate salary with top candidates than they were one year ago. Just 5 percent of respondents said they are less willing to negotiate.

The survey was developed by Robert Half International, a leading staffing firm. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with more than 1,600 chief financial officers (CFOs) from a stratified random sample of U.S. and Canadian companies with 20 or more employees.

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CFOs were asked, “Compared to 12 months ago, are you more willing or less willing to negotiate salary with top job candidates?” Their responses:

  • Much more willing: 11%
  • Somewhat more willing: 27%
  • No change: 54%
  • Somewhat less willing:  4%
  • Much less willing:  1%
  • Doesn’t apply/not hiring:  3%

“Job seekers, especially those with skills in high demand, are gaining leverage in salary discussions today,” said Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International and author of Job Hunting For Dummies, 2nd Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

“Still, there are many things that can go wrong when negotiating pay, and candidates should approach these discussions with a clear understanding of how far they should take the conversation.”

Robert Half offers seven tips for successful salary negotiations:

1. Do a reality check. Is the firm in a position to bargain? Find out before attempting any salary negotiation. If you’ve been offered a job at a newly formed startup, or a company that recently announced layoffs or weak financial results, your leverage may be limited.

2. Get your figures right. Don’t enter negotiations without doing your homework. Research the latest salary trends for your city, industry and job title by reviewing compensation surveys and publications such as Robert Half’s 2012 Salary Guides and talking to colleagues and recruiters.

3. Don’t jump the gun. Wait for the hiring manager to bring up salary in the discussion, and make sure you fully understand the requirements of the position before answering questions about your desired pay. Ask prospective employers what they think would be an appropriate range for the position so you can avoid giving a range that is too high or low.

4. Go for your goal. If offered a salary figure that doesn’t meet your expectations, it’s OK to request additional compensation. Employers may start at the lower end of their salary range, leaving room to negotiate.

5. Don’t bluff. It’s never a good move to mislead a prospective employer about your current compensation or other higher-paying job offers in an effort to get more money. Instead, reiterate the value you can bring to the firm, and be honest about your desired salary.

6. Think beyond the paycheck. Be sure to look at the full picture when evaluating a job offer. A generous benefits package or opportunities to learn and grow with the company may compensate for a lower starting salary, for example.

7. End on a high note. If negotiations aren’t successful and you decide to walk away from an offer, remember to do so gracefully. You never know when you might cross paths with the hiring manager again.

To highlight some of the most common salary negotiation mistakes, including those made by professionals seeking raises, Robert Half recently released several light-hearted videos. The videos are part of the company’s ongoing career bloopers video series, Don’t Let This Happen to You, and can be found at

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Rakesh Raman