How to Get the Salary & Benefits You Deserve

You’ve got the job offer. Now what?

Just getting through the interview can be bad enough, but figuring out how to negotiate your pay, benefits and other options can be trickier than stuffing toothpaste back in the tube.

Of course, you may be perfectly happy with the company’s first offer or hate negotiating so much you talk yourself into accepting less, but if you really want to get ahead in your career, you need to learn the when, why and how of negotiation.

Our Twitter #careerchat tackled this hot topic with HR insider Claire Pena, Senior Recruiter for Manpower.

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In a hurry? Key takeaways:

  • Location matters when it comes to figuring out your market value. Use tools like or NACE’s Salary Survey for recent grads.
  • Don’t use only online survey tools, talk to people within the industry for advice and current information. Titles vary, but skillsets and education won’t.
  • If you’re working with a recruiter, ask about salary, benefits and any perks. When you evaluate what you’re worth, don’t forget to include these!
  • When answering “What’s your salary range,” make sure you’re comfortable with your minimum expected salary before giving your range. Your range should include Base + Bonus + Perks.
  • If you’ve been underpaid and are hoping to get a higher salary in your current company or a new one, give market data to support, show what you’ve been doing and where you’ve helped the company.
  • The offer stage is the time to discuss what you want. Companies today expect a candidate to negotiate.
  • When you receive an offer, if the base is not what you want, negotiate sign-on bonus or guarantee of commission. This is the right time to ask when merit increases happen.
  • You can’t base your entire negotiation strategy on research. You have to also prove you have the capabilities for the compensation you want.



Question #1: You’re in a job search. How do you determine what your worth is?

  • LesleyMWeiss: There are great salary data tools available from places like, and they can be keyed to specific locations
    • MyPath_MP: Great tip! Location matters when it comes to figuring out your market value.
  • ClaireAPena: Look at your salary history and compare to the market. Also consider if you have missed any merit increases.
  • ClaireAPena: If you have not seen a merit increase since the economic downturn, you should evalute your income to include this
  • buzzandrea: I do a lot of formal and informal research – using online survey tools, asking people within the industry, etc ..
  • buzzandrea: You can’t be shy about it either. It’s up to you to make sure you have current info by skill and location.
    • ClaireAPena: There are a number of web sources to find salary specific to position and demographic
    • buzzandrea: I tend to prefer
      • MyPath_MP:  Would you say has the most accurate data out of the other tools?
        • buzzandrea: I don’t know. I’ve used a few others, can’t remember which, but I like its ease of use & query areas best.
    • lyn_nelson: we recommend to our students and alumni, too. It’s great.
    • lyn_nelson: We also use NACE’s Salary Survey for recent grads
      • MyPath_MP: How does that differ from, is it more focused on grads?
        • lyn_nelson: It gives average starting salaries for college grads each year
        • lyn_nelson: It is really useful for young career starters
          • MyPath_MP: That sounds like a great tool.
  • Jelfster: Depends on your skills and experience. The more you bring to the table, the better negotiating power you have.
  • LesleyMWeiss:     For salary data tools: What if your job title isn’t listed? And how do you know where in the range you should be?
    • buzzandrea: that’s why you have to ask people in roles similar to yours – titles vary, skills, edu, etc … won’t.
    • Jill_Perlberg: Look for jobs that have the same skillsets, it’s not always about title
    • lyn_nelson: If your position isn’t listed you can probably look for a different title on your level
    • Jill_Perlberg: if your title isn’t listed, you can also look for like job descriptions on job boards and see what job titles are used
  • buzzandrea: I think you also have to utilize the expertise of your recruiter. Ask them questions!
    • ClaireAPena: Using a recruiter can be very beneficial as they are there to give you the information on salary, bene’s, etc
  • Jill_Perlberg: re: perks, don’t assume that perks are always part of a package.
    • ClaireAPena: When you evaluate what you are worth, you need to look at all bene’s and perks – Ask what these are.
  • buzzandrea: You can’t base your entire neg. strategy on research. You have to also prove you have the capabilities for the $$
    • Jill_Perlberg: Absolutely! You have show the proof’s in the pudding.
    • ClaireAPena: Yes! You have to show what you can bring to the organization.

Question #2: How do you answer “What are your salary requirements?” to get what you’re worth and not price yourself out of the market?

  • ClaireAPena: Make sure that your range does not price you out of the position
    • MyPath_MP: Agree, make sure you’re comfortable with your minimum expected salary before giving you range.
  • ClaireAPena: After research, give a range of what you are looking for. Show Base + Bonus + Perks
  • ClaireAPena: Ensure that the start of your range is the lowest amount of acceptance
  • Jill_Perlberg:’s ranges show 25th percentile and up. You can use this range to help you figure out approx. ranges
  • ClaireAPena: When you discuss salary with the recruiter, make sure that you ask about bonus potential.
  • ClaireAPena: As a recruiter, I never give a salary range of pay w/o getting candidate’s salary history
  • buzzandrea: How do you handle it during your initial submission – cover note – when it’s asked for in the job alert?
    • Jill_Perlberg: goes back to research. You need to know what the market drivers are.
    • Jelfster: Good one – is it too vague to say ‘Negotiable’ in the initial application and tackle the issue at the interview?
      • ClaireAPena: I don’t recommend that. Give your desired amount and let them know it is negotiable. But you should give a number.
      • buzzandrea: I don’t know. In this tight market, will it appear as if you aren’t serious?
        • Jelfster: ‘So, Mr Hayward, what are your salary requirements for this position?
          • MyPath_MP: Good one!
        • Jelfster: Possibly, they might be vexed that you are being non-commital. Best to give a range I think
          • ClaireAPena: This can be handled by research. Always look at what the market pays demographically
      • MyPath_MP: And it goes back to doing research on your “market value” and making sure you’re comfortable w/your min.
        • Jelfster: I reached out to people on discussion forums for my industry – good some good advice as to realistic salary ranges.
          • MyPath_MP: Good point! Use discussion forums for your industry. Weed out the chaff to get good salary advice.
  • Jill_Perlberg: can you ask the hiring team what their range is?
    • ClaireAPena: Yes, if you are working with a recruiter. The recruiter will be able to share the range.
  • buzzandrea: What if a candidate’s salary history is low for reasons that do not include performance, skill, etc?
    • LesleyMWeiss: Common issue!
    • ClaireAPena: If a salary history is low, you should ask yourself why? Do you lack education or certifications?
      • buzzandrea: I mean what if it’s low because the company underpays – and you’ve accepted it for whatever reason?
        • ClaireAPena: Certain positions may pay more based on the industry. Take a look at changing industries.
          • LesleyMWeiss: What if it’s industry related, and you’re switching industries but using the same skills?
    • buzzandrea How do you get back to where you should be? Is there a good strategy?
      • ClaireAPena: You can also discuss with your current manager on where you think your salary should be. Give market data to support
      • MyPath_MP: Be flexible as well, if your salary won’t be raised, ask about extra wks of vacation, bonuses, etc
        • buzzandrea: Yep!
      • MyPath_MP: I think proof is one way to go, show what you’ve been doing, where you’ve helped the company.
    • ClaireAPena: As a recruiter, I have negotiated amounts higher based on an individuals that might have been paid too low
  • Jill_Perlberg: Always include the industry in your research. There is a large difference at times ,i.e travel industry vs. consulting.
  • Jill_Perlberg: Myth: You don’t have to be 100% honest about your current pay. Add a little bit especially if you think you’re underpaid.
    • buzzandrea: Hahahaha …
    • ClaireAPena: I would hold off on that. You should be honest about salary because someone could find out.
      • Jill_Perlberg: Great point! Glad you think so. We just busted a current salary neg. myth

Question #3: Once an offer’s on the table, how do you counter?

  • MyPath_MP: And should you even counter if it’s what you actually want?
    • Jelfster: So tempting to bite their hand off at first offer, especially if it’s your dream job. But best to play it coy.
      • ClaireAPena: Keep in mind, if the base is not what you want, negotiate sign-on bonus or guarantee of commission
      • ClaireAPena: An average sign-on bonus is based on the position. The higher the position the higher the bonus.
    • MyPath_MP: So is it better to make a token resistance, would you say?
      • Jelfster: I think so. I don’t think there’s any harm in at least trying. It shows you have backbone too
      • lyn_nelson:  I agree, take a moment to consider the offer.
  • ClaireAPena: No. The offer stage is the time to discuss what you want. Companies today expect a candidate to negotiate
    • Jelfster: Nail on head. They wouldn’t make offer unless they want you, and they’re likely to lowball you in current climate.
      • ClaireAPena: In the current climate, many companies understand that merit increases have not been paid out in 2 years.
      • ClaireAPena: This is the right time to ask when merit increases happen.
        • Jill_Perlberg: re: merit increases…You might be starting with increases and reviews around the corner that could bump you up
  • latravelgal: That’s a good one. I have and it worked for me. RT: And should you even counter if it’s what you actually want?
    • MyPath_MP: That’s good to hear!
  • MyPath_MP: Is a sign-on bonus ever a percentage of the salary?
    • ClaireAPena: Most often not. It generally is a lump sum based on the level of position
    • ClaireAPena: Bonus payouts are based on level of position. If a position is revenue generating the bonus is generally commission
  • lyn_nelson: If they really want you and know you are considering the compensation package they should be willing to neg.
  • ClaireAPena: I have had candidates negotiate PTO. This can be a challenge if the company has strict PTO policies
    • ClaireAPena But – it can be negotiated!
  • Jelfster: More wiggle room if it’s a loftier position. Execs can negotiate to a greater degree than those lower down pecking order.
  • buzzandrea: @ClaireAPena Have you seen bonus structures for non-sales positions?
    • ClaireAPena: You can negotiate a guarantee of bonus or commission – especially if you are hired in Q3 or Q4 as you would not get a full year
      • buzzandrea: I mean below the typical management level?
        • ClaireAPena: Yes. For high level (Manager and above) bonus payouts are common
        • ClaireAPena: This would depend on the industry and the value of the position. Yes if it is a low position but has a unique value.
        • buzzandrea: Good to know. Any suggestions on how to negotiate this?
          • ClaireAPena: It is easier to negotiate a sign on bonus. The company may have a policy on annual bonuses that can’t be negotiated
            • LesleyMWeiss: Even if you aren’t at a management level?
              • ClaireAPena: Yes. You can discuss sign-on even if you are not at a management level.

Question #4: How does relocation fit into the equation?

  • Jelfster: Excellent pt. If you have to move and they really want you, will they help? Not easy to sell property right now.
    • Jill_Perlberg: re: pay for travel, this happens and is definitely something to negot. as travel gets expensive
  • ClaireAPena: Relocation is a hot issue! Companies today are not paying full packages, but these can still be negotiated
  • ClaireAPena: You should discuss relocation with the company and inquire what they offer
  • ClaireAPena: If you are willing to relocate yourself for the right position, let the company know. This may be an advantage.
  • ClaireAPena: Back to relocation, ask the company to review their relocation policy at the time of negotiation
  • ClaireAPena: Relocation can include: temporary housing, realtor fees, moving expenses, meals for house hunting, lease buy-outs, and more!
  • Jill_Perlberg: make sure you know what moving will cost you so can compare the relo package to your situation
  • ClaireAPena: Make sure that your relocation package is documented. There can be a pay back clause if you leave.
  • PaigeHolden: If you are offered a lump sum, ask if they can moving expenses directly. It will save you a tax headache.
  • lyn_nelson: Could also make interviewing difficult if interviewing out of state or country!
    • ClaireAPena: In today’s virtual world, you can do a virtual interview. For the right candidate, the company will agree to fly in
      • lyn_nelson: Definitely. Some of our grads have requested Skype interviews. pretty popular now, it seems.
      • Jelfster: Absolutely – this will become more common. Technological revolutions mean it doesn’t matter where work gets done.
  • Jelfster: Some cos. may be happy for you to work in one location live in another and even pay your travel. More common at VP level.
    • buzzandrea: I’ve seen this even at the management level. Companies will make it work for the right candidate.

Open questions:

Jelfster: What’s the etiquette on negotiating hours of work? Some may need later start/earlier finish due to family commitments

  • Jill_Perlberg:  re: hours, definitely talk about this up front if this is a deal breaker. More companies are open to flex schedules
  • ClaireAPena: Actually, yes. It depends on the company culture. Some companies will let you work around a personal schedule.

lyn_nelson: Does anyone think there’s a downside to virtual envi? Less of a community / group feel?

  • ClaireAPena: The number one is to become very self managed. You need to shut down your office and have a personal life.
  • MyPath_MP: I think you can miss out on the daily team-building aspect. And the treats!
    • ClaireAPena: This is true. As a virtual recruiter, I can miss the corporate team building, but I do work with a virtual team
  • MyPath_MP: Though there definitely can be a “community” feel to a virtual workplace if you stay connected to others doing same.

Jelfster: So, the consensus seems to be to strike a happy medium between playing hardball and meek acceptance of first offer?

  • ClaireAPena: I would think very hard on the first offer. Is it what you want? Talk to your spouse – look at income vs expense
  • Jill_Perlberg: Don’t forget soft costs such as commute time, will you need to pay for parking (and don’t now), etc.
    • ClaireAPena: Parking is very important in specific locations – ie. San Fran, NY, Metro locations, etc.
  • Jelfster: and for those of us who rely on public transport, will my travel costs increase?
    • ClaireAPena: Can be if you use your own vehicle. For higher positions you can negotiate an Auto Package.
Adapted from my post here on MyPath.
Pic from here.

One thought on “How to Get the Salary & Benefits You Deserve

  1. Pingback: How to Job Hunt Using Social Media « Career. Food. Environment. Stuff.

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