Skip to main content

The Seattle Times Career Center

In-depth info by local experts for job seekers and workers.

April 10, 2014 at 1:00 AM

Dos and don’ts of salary negotiation

You’ve received a job offer. Congratulations!

But wait — don’t relax yet. You have reached the most powerful moment of your job hunt: the moment after you’ve been offered a job and before you say yes. This is the ideal time to negotiate your pay and benefits.

You might be saying, “But I can’t negotiate!” Maybe it’s a job that pays a set rate, or maybe you are so desperate/eager for work that you are afraid to rock the boat.

But you can always negotiate something. Optimizing your situation is not “rocking the boat”; it’s smart. And people respect people who are smart. Here’s what to do:

First, know the going rate for your kind of job. (How? This is where your network comes in handy. Ask people.)

Also, know how much you want. Normally, this is somewhere between your ideal pay (the number you’d be proud to flaunt) and your rock-bottom price (the number right above the one you would hate yourself for accepting).

Next, realize that negotiation is a game, and make up your mind to have fun playing it. Be pleasant, calm and honest. You may, however, need to be a little evasive.

A lot of employers think it’s reasonable to base salaries on what you got paid at your last job. But what you want is the market rate. So if your potential employer asks, “What is your current salary?” remain cool. Say, “My research shows that the market rate for someone with my skills and experience is $X. Does that coincide with your range?”

Don’t forget to consider perks. Bonuses, extra vacation days, flexible hours, good insurance or a company car can make up for a less-than-amazing salary.

Once an offer has been made, don’t answer immediately. Ask for a day to think about it.

If, after thinking and crunching the numbers, you decide to take the job, ask for the offer to be put in a letter or email that spells out both your responsibilities and your compensation. This can save you a world of heartbreak later on.

Throughout the process, remember the first law of negotiation: If you don’t ask for something, you will never get it.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at

More in Work Life Blog | Topics: career advancement, job search strategy, negotiating, salary

Blog contributors

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Randy Woods Writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Former contributors

Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.


The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►