Negotiating Pay in Your New Job

by Mae Lon Ding, President of Personnel Systems Associates, Inc.

In negotiating the salary, commissions, bonus, stock options and perquisites for a job offer it is important to know the competitive compensation for the job and the employer’s perception of the value of the job. Knowing the competitive rate will keep you from asking for too little and will provide you with some persuasive evidence regarding the kind of offer they should make. Knowing the employer’s perception of the value of the job will inform you as to the amount of persuasive evidence you will need to provide the employer in order to get the pay rate you want. It will also show you whether there is room for pay growth in the job. When the interview appointment is being set up you can say something like the following “In the interest of wanting to make sure that we are in the same ballpark, may I ask what is the pay range, historical profit sharing, and historical average bonus for this job?” If the job is a commission job, then ask what is the historical average and highest commission paid. There is often a big difference between the two numbers.

Evidence regarding the unique value you bring to the job should include a summary to the employer of your qualifications both in a cover letter and at the interview. Resumes are good, but the big picture can be lost in the details. The typical employer spends only a few seconds reading the resume to determine if it is worth his or her time to read the entire resume. A good summary in the first paragraph of the cover letter will help to persuade the reader to spend time reading the resume rather than rejecting it. The summary should include the following if they match what the employer seeks:

  • number of years of job related industry, technical and supervisory experience (address each separately)
  • highest level of educational attainment and specialization, mention school if has a top tier reputation
  • most notable professional and business achievements

In order to determine the going pay, benefits, and executive perks for the job for which you are applying, check compensation and benefit surveys. Sources of survey data include the internet, professional associations and magazines, trade associations and magazines, compensation consultants, and compensation survey companies. An inexpensive source of basic compensation survey data on a large variety of jobs is The American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries by John W. Wright which retails for about $12. (However even in the latest editions of this book, the data is usually several years out of date.). It is important to realize that there are often large variances in compensation based on industry, geographic location, company size, and scope of management responsibility. The most valid and most detailed compensation surveys that are used by employers and compensation consultants may cost thousands of dollars. Free and low cost sources of data rarely include this level of detail. If you are seeking a moderate to high paying position it may be worthwhile to utilize the services of a compensation consultant to provide quality survey data and help you to strategize the negotiation of your employment offer.

Links to many free internet sources of compensation survey data and the most popular internet job search sites are available on our Internet Resources page. For a directory of trade and professional associations consult the Gale Encyclopedia of Associations which is available at most public libraries. For a directory of trade and professional magazines, consult the Standard Periodical Directory published by Oxbridge Communications which is also available at many public libraries.

Personnel Systems Associates, Inc.

Office in Southern California

Southern California
P.O. Box 28597
Anaheim, CA 92809