The Odyssey of the Salary Offer
You’ve made it through several rounds of interviews. You have been notified that the company has made their choice. Congratulations! You have been chosen.

Now it’s time to negotiate an offer that will make you feel good about working for the new company.

You will be in good shape if you made the right moves from the beginning of The Odyssey of the Salary Offer.

The Screening Process

Much of the groundwork is laid here. There are several websites such as, which can be helpful in determining compensation for the position.

As a candidate (especially if you are unemployed), it is very important to defer talking about compensation until the entire screening process is completed. It’s been my observation that those companies insisting that you give a salary history and a salary desired on the front end are shopping on price as a major qualification. My advice here is asking yourself: “Is this the kind of company you want to work for?” If you specify a salary desired, the chances are over 65% that you will be wrong (too high or too low).

One caveat... Most government and other non-profit groups such as public schools etc. do not “negotiate” as outlined above. Instead, they adhere to strict compensation guidelines.

Know Yourself

Understanding your career values, what you love to do and the definition of your value proposition are imperative. Without a clear awareness of these, decision-making is very difficult. Clearly, a critical part of the preparation is to discern whether the position you are applying for is a really good fit:

  1. It has to benefit your career and the goals you have set.
  2. You must believe in the company, products and markets.
  3. You must be genuinely excited about becoming part of the team!
The Initial Screen and The Compensation Question

Whether initial screening is by telephone or in person, when asked about salary history and a salary desired:

  1. Even before this question is asked, turn the tables early in the screening and ask them what the salary range is for the position they are trying to fill. Most will answer the question before they ask you.
  2. State: I will be happy to have a discussion of compensation after we have completed the screening process. If it is a good fit for both of us, I am confident we can reach a mutual agreement.
  3. If they continue to press, give them a number. You can prepare for this by adding up your “bare bones” living expenses. You will come up with a number (monthly or annually—don’t forget taxes). Your response then would be: “The minimum offer I would consider would be $______.” Note that you said, “consider” not accept. This leaves the door wide open. Let’s face it; if they are going to make you an offer below your minimum, then you can then reject them!
During and after the interview process, these responses can help you deflect the compensation question, should anyone ask.

NOTE: When you are working through a third party such as an independent recruiter, it is very important that you share compensation information. They want to make a placement and they need as much information as they can get to help put the transaction together.

When The Offer Is Made

Now is the time to hear what they have in mind. You receive the call.

Some suggestions:
  1. Listen carefully
  2. Ask good questions for clarification
  3. Thank them graciously (even it’s high or low)
  4. Never accept or reject their verbal offer
  5. Always ask for the offer in writing (even if it is from your best friend!)
You typically have five working days to get back to them after you have received a written offer. This will give you a chance to contact other firms that you are interviewing. Tell the other companies that you have a written offer but refrain from any details.

Be wary if the company making the offer wants an answer immediately. This could be a sign of desperation on their part.

If you are 100% delighted with the offer, then accept it and give a reasonable starting date.

If you are unhappy with the offer, there are definite steps to explore with the company. Keep in mind that a job must be a good fit for you, as well as for them.