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6 Tips for Negotiating Your Salary and Benefits During a Job Interview

Negotiating Your SalaryThe question of salary and benefits on a job application or in a job interview can be off-putting for interviewees – maybe even a little scary. Aren’t your potential employers supposed to tell you what they’ll pay you, instead of the other way around?

Unfortunately, most employers for salaried positions won’t reveal a salary range for a job – even during an interview. But the interviewer will likely want to know your expectations during an interview.

Recently, the rate of unemployment for Hispanics, in particular, has been falling rapidly. With more employers hiring, more Hispanics are finding good jobs and financial stability. Still, there are 2.3 million jobless Hispanic men and women in the US today, meaning competition for jobs is still fierce. But there’s always room for negotiation, even if it doesn’t seem like it. Here’s how to be prepared to ask what you deserve during your next interview.

1. Understand that it’s not a contract

First, understand that any time salary and benefits come up in a job interview – before you’ve actually been offered a job – you’re really not negotiating. Since you aren’t preparing a contract for the job (unless things are moving really, really quickly), you’re discussing your theoretical salary and benefits – not concrete numbers that will end up on your paycheck.

Still, the way you handle the question about your salary expectations can make or break your chances of getting this job.

2. Do your research ahead of time

The key to answering the salary question well is to understand what you’re actually worth in the marketplace. It’s vital to do your research ahead of time. Figure out what people in your field with your level of experience typically make.

But don’t just look at average salaries from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where averages come from across the country. Check out resources like Salary.com to find salary ranges for the area where you live, and, if possible, for the size of company.

3. Look at your own minimum expectations

But don’t just look at how the average salary ranges are set out on Salary.com. Look at how they would apply to your own life. How would such a salary fit your current financial situation, including your budget and what you’re living on now – as well as how much you’d need to live a more ideal lifestyle? Then, set your own minimum salary in your mind. (Again, remember to account for the area you’re living in. Your minimum salary with a company in small-town Montana will be totally different from what you’d need to get by in Manhattan.)

Knowing your minimum salary needs is essential because this number can keep you from accepting a job that won’t pay the bills. Sure, jobs may still be hard to come by, but if you can’t pay the mortgage and keep the lights on because you set your sights too low, you may be better off still job hunting for a few months or weeks.

4. Know how in demand you are

Part of your salary research needs to be understanding the job market in your field. How in-demand are people with your skill set? How many people in the area have the same skills as you? Are you looking for entry-level jobs, or jobs that require more experience? What complementary skills can you bring to the table that other candidates may not have?

If you’re in a high-demand career field, you’ll probably have a bit more room for negotiation. Likewise, if your role in the company will be absolutely vital, you can probably negotiate for a higher salary.

5. Be confident

Once you have a number in your head, turn it into a range. For instance, you should say that you would expect a salary of $50,000 to $52,000, not that you require $52,000 per year. This makes you seem more flexible, but also, hopefully, shows that you’ve done your research and that you know what you’re worth.

Make it clear that you’re open to negotiation when it comes to your salary, but that you are also confident enough in yourself to ask for what you’re worth.

A funny thing can happen in the marketplace – whether you’re selling commodities or your skills as a worker. If you price an item too low, potential buyers can see it as low-quality, making them less likely to bite. But if you raise the price just a bit, the exact same item suddenly becomes more desirable.

Although businesses and HR Departments may be a bit wiser in their spending than the average consumer, the same rule still applies. Price yourself too low, and you’ll simply showcase your lack of confidence, which could definitely be bad for your chances of getting the job of your dreams.

6. Look at the whole package

When you're comparing consumer credit card offers, you don’t just look at the reward structure, you also consider the interest rate and fees. You base your choice on a balanced look at the benefits of each card. Similarly, as you’re negotiating your salary during an interview, be sure to clarify that you’d like to look at the entire benefits package. Sometimes, it’s worth your while to take a slightly lower salary than you expected in exchange for other benefits that may lower your expenses – i.e., childcare credits from your job, a flexible schedule, or even some telecommuting hours.

When you do give your expected salary range, be sure to mention that you’ll be taking all the benefits into account in your decision, even education discounts or the existence of an onsite gym. That way, if your number strays from what the employer is willing to pay you, the interviewer knows there’s some wiggle room with you for negotiations. One of the worst things you can do when trying to negotiate is make it sounds like you are not willing to negotiate.

Recently, the Department of Labor has been focusing on the large wage gap between full-time Latino workers and full-time white workers. Making an average of $549 per week, Hispanics earn only about 70% of what whites in a comparable job market make. So don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself when applying for jobs so that you can help close this wage gap – and experience a better life for yourself and your family.

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