Tips for Restarting Salary Negotiations

Q. Four months ago, I applied for a government public information officer position. During the application process, I got asked about my salary requirement. At the time, I listed $60,000. Since then, I've interviewed with them once, and after the panel interview they gave us (five candidates) a week to put together a one-year communications plan. I worked hard on the communications plan and turned it in. They called me back in for a second interview. 

However, after working on the communications plan and seeing all that will go into the work, and after seeing the allotted salary range for the position ($55,000-$80,000), I'm wondering if I should ask for more, or if I even can. 

Coming from journalism, $60,000 is definitely the most I've ever made, but because this position is with a fire department, I will be called in at all times. And because this is a new position for them, I'm wondering if I'm selling myself short. This is especially so since I hear that women tend to make less than men, even when they do the same work. I know it's easier to start off asking for more than to try to negotiate more during raise time. 

Is it too late to ask for a higher salary from the start? Do you think on their end, I have made it to round two partly because of the requested salary? When it comes to their decision-making, how can I find out if salary is a consideration? 

Is there a way to broach the topic? Or should I wait for them to bring it up?


A. I think there is hope. We cannot know how big a role your initial number played in calling you back for a second interview, so I wouldn't worry about it.

You are absolutely right that starting salaries are very important. Raises tend to be small -- less than 5 percent these days -- so your rate won't change much unless you change jobs, and you want all your raises to be on as large a base as possible.

I would definitely tell them that, based on what you now know about the hours and requirements of the job, you think you should ask for more money. It is inappropriate and presumptuous to do that before you have an offer. The right time is after they make an offer. To get ready, figure out what you think is fair compensation. Consider the entire package, including health, medical, pension and vacation.

When they make the offer, it will have a salary on it, and you should ask about the benefits. Be ready to do a quick calculation if an offer comes. At that point, or in a call soon after, if the number you specified comes back, you could say, "I am excited to get this offer, but I have to be honest with you. After seeing what the position requires, I need to ask for more money." Then tell them what you think is suitable. This will be your counter-offer.

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They will talk to one another and come back to give you a new number or to tell you they won't budge. They could withdraw the offer, but that usually doesn't happen, especially if they are pretty sure you are right for the job and really want it.

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Career questions? E-mail Joe for an answer.

  • Joe Grimm

    Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website.


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