Negotiate your Salary, But Do your Research Before the Interview

By: Josh Z

- "How much are you looking to make?"

Few people are ever prepared to answer that question. Should you aim high and negotiate backward? Human Resources will inevitably push your price down regardless of what you request; if you ask for too much you'll price yourself out of the job and risk losing the opportunity altogether. Should you just request a few thousand over your current salary? If you do that you'll likely leave money on the table.

Agh! This is the most important interview question; it comes up every time, but you never know the right answer.

(1) Scenario:
No matter how much thought goes into the salary question ahead of the interview it always seems to become a game time decision. We ponder over resumes, deliberate on job postings, and comb our wardrobes until we're completely confident. Equal effort goes into considering our salary request, but we always settle with an uninformed offer.

Salary is likely the primary motivation for seeking a new job, so how could anyone approach an interview without knowing what they're worth? Most people know what type of job they want and geographically where they want to work; in many cases they've even narrowed it down to a specific industry. Salary, however, is always a little vague. Job seekers generally want to make "more" than they are currently making, but how much more? Why settle for 10% more when you could negotiate a 20% raise?

(2) Problem:
Unfortunately there are few resources for researching salary and compensation. The American culture deems salary a taboo topic so it's rarely discussed. Most people keep their income private, which companies are aware of and leverage to their benefit. Generally speaking salary inequities allow companies to negotiate compensation below an employee's market value.

There are a few websites that provide salary guidance based on geographical location, title, and experience, but most sites only list salary ranges. Oftentimes the range varies by tens of thousands of dollars, frequently indicating a 15% difference in either direction. A search result of $85,000-$115,000 doesn't help much when you are narrowing in on your price tag.

In short, companies are going to low-ball you at every opportunity. It's important to enter the interview knowing how much you want make; have an answer before the question ever arises. Know your value because the recruiter certainly won't give you the benefit of the doubt.

(3) Solution:
www.Zenzia.com is an anonymous forum where subscribers can post and search salaries for specific companies and jobs. www.Zenzia.com is a free service to anyone who subscribes.

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