When you reach the end of a long, tedious job search, you most likely will want to accept the first job offer that comes your way. The thing is, there is almost always room for negotiation. Is the salary offer lower than your expectations? Does it meet industry standards? What is the current state of the job market? When unemployment is low, for example, the advantage is with the job seeker (with the opposite being true when unemployment is high). This is something the hiring manager will be aware of, and he or she will do what they can to get you at the best possible price for the company. Don’t sell yourself short!

Here are a few things hiring manager knows that you don’t in salary negotiations.

Mentioning an exact salary figure costs you money.

Before you even get a job offer, experienced interviewers will try to get you to mention an exact salary figure. This is a tactic. If you provide a number lower than the range they had budgeted for, they know they can get you for cheaper. So, when they ask something like, “What salary are you looking for?” do not provide a specific number.

Your reply should instead be something like, “I know the industry standard for roles like this is $50,000-60,000, and my experience puts me near the top of that range.”

To be able to do this effectively, you need to put your research skills to good use. StatsCan, Payscale, and Robert Half all offer online resources to help you determine salary ranges for different positions. Do your research, taking region and experience into account.

Once an offer does come in, don’t be afraid to counter offer. Just keep in mind that the incremental change between the two offers should be realistic. Typically, it’s a good idea to base this on the level of salary. Below $45,000, the increments should be less than ten grand (so you might want to ask for $5,000 more, for example), whereas over $45,000, the range can be as high as $10,000. If the initial offer was over $75,000, you might be able to ask for as much as a $15-20,000 bump.

If, on the other hand, the initial offer is much lower than you are willing to consider, and you really want the job, try offering to work part time. If you want $60,000 and the offer is $35,000, offer to work three days a week as a consultant. This will allow you to pursue other work and have write offs for being self employed.

Perks are always on the table.

Salary isn’t all that has to be negotiated. Perks are almost always on the table. What are we talking about? Apart from the usual health and dental coverage (which are often set in stone), you can negotiate for vacation time, travel expenses, a car allowance, professional development training, flex time, working from home, and moving costs.

Before bringing any of this up, though, know what the industry standards are so you aren’t asking for the stars and moon. Most importantly, know what will make you happy.

Keep in mind that you might have to grow into some of the perks. Six months down the road you have a lot more to offer a company than you do on day one. If you’re confident in your abilities, this can be a negotiating point as well; ask for a review of compensation and benefits in six months and get it in writing (in the letter of intent or contract).

It is possible to lose a job offer at the last minute.

Even if you’ve survived the resume scan, wowed the interviewers, and been offered the job – you don’t officially have it until the contract is signed. If you come across as too demanding or unreasonable in the the negotiation phase, an offer can be rescinded. Don’t forget this; it ain’t over until the fat lady sings!

It’s also important to remember to protect yourself. No matter how low on the totem pole you are, ask for a letter or contract. When you receive it, read it over carefully to ensure all that was agreed upon is clearly and fairly stated in writing. Make any necessary changes, add your initials to the change, send it back to the employer and pray it all goes through.


Colleen Clarke is a career specialist and corporate trainer. She is also the author of Networking: How to Build Relationships That Count, How to Get a Job and Keep It and the co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind Group.