Are you being paid what you are worth? Do you know how to get "top dollar" in a salary negotiation session? Most people are uncertain how to negotiate effectively for  their salary in an interview. Here's good news! With a minimal investment of time and effort in following these simple steps, you may increase your starting pay by thousands of dollars! 

1. Know the salary range you can expect to be paid for the position you have targeted. Not knowing the typical salary range is like trying to negotiate on a new car without knowing the dealer's costs. You must know this in order to negotiate effectively.

The most accurate salary information for your local area can be obtained by conducting a labor market survey: Call five to ten employers who would hire people for the position you are targeting. Ask them (1) how often they have that type of position open, (2) how many people they employ who hold that position, and (3) the typical salary range for that position. By gathering "live information" from employers you should be able to determine an appropriate salary range for your targeted job.

Salary information can also be obtained through resources like the "Occupational Outlook Handbook" and the "American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries", on the Internet (for example, www.salary.com) and through state/federal employment departments and employment agencies.

2. Always remember that pay is negotiable. Employers usually do not have one particular dollar amount in mind for a position. Instead, they typically have a range (for example, $40,000 to $50,000) within which they will be willing to negotiate.

3. Let the employer discuss his/her salary range first before you give your range. This gives you an advantage in negotiating a fair salary amount.

4. Avoid discussing salary (and other benefits) until the employer is interested in hiring you. The only time you have power to negotiate is from the time the employer wants you to the time you accept the position. If salary questions are brought up early in the interview, attempt to defer the question by stating, "Mr. Employer, of course salary issues are important to me, but at this point I'm more concerned with whether or not I'm the right person for your position and whether the job and company are the right fit for me. Once we determine if I'm the right person, I'm sure that we can come up with a salary amount that would be satisfactory for both of us."

Usually this approach will defer the salary discussions. If, however, the employer insists that you answer at that time, or if you are asked after the employer has indicated that they are interested in you, go ahead and answer in this way. "Mr. Employer, depending on the company, the job and the responsibilities of the position, I'm looking for a salary range between $45,000 to $55,000." This statement will give you room in which to negotiate later on.

5. If you have to indicate your salary range first, never hesitate to ask the employer what pay range he or she has in mind. This will give you a sense of how much room there is for negotiation.

6. When you are given a firm job offer and they have offered you a particular salary amount, you are now ready to negotiate, if needed. Let's say for example that you are offered $45,000/year. Based on your market research, an appropriate salary for someone with your skills and experiences is $50,000/year. When negotiating, it is important to ask questions and not give ultimatums. Therefore, you can state, "Mr. Employer, I appreciate your job offer. I am excited about the job, the company seems to be a good fit for me, and I believe that you and I could work well together. And Mr. Employer, I'm wondering if you could come up to $50,000/year." If needed, you can always discuss how you have conducted some market research and have determined that $50,000/year seems appropriate for someone with your skills and experience.

If the employer says, "No, I'm sorry we can only pay $45,000 per year," you are still in a position to be able to accept the job if you so desire. But in many cases they will negotiate with you. And just thinkby asking questions you could add several thousand dollars to your salary!

7. Remember that other benefits (for example, vacation time) can also be negotiable. Your overall compensation package may be what is most important to you.

8. It is easier to get a pay raise before you accept a job than after. Once again, your power to negotiate is strongest from the time that an employer wants to hire you until the time you accept the position. Do your negotiating during that window of time.

9. Practice answering salary questions and negotiating with a friend or family member. Better yet, consider professional coaching to fine tune your ability to get the salary you deserve!


Kevin & Kay Marie Brennfleck, National Certified Career Counselors, are the directors of the Christian Career Center and Church Jobs Online.  (Through these sites you can search hundreds of current job listings from churches, ministries and Christian employers, post your free or featured resume and obtain career counseling and testing to discover work that fits your God-given design.)