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How to Boost Your Salary Offer

How to Boost Your Salary Offer

By Lily Whiteman, author of How to Land a Top-Paying Federal Job

So you’ve received an offer for a federal job. This means that you probably beat out dozens, or perhaps even hundreds, of competitors to rank as the hiring agency’s number one pick. Congratulations! You should feel great about your success.

But even though you have bagged your target job, the application process is still not over. Why not? Because you have one final chore to complete: negotiating you salary.

How should you kick off your salary negotiations? Simply by asking your agency contact person, “Is this salary negotiable?” There is a good chance that those four little words may be enough to compel your hiring agency to increase its salary offer.


Granted: Few people enjoy negotiating salaries. The process feels uncomfortable and undignified – disturbingly similar to haggling over the price of a used car. But odious though salary negotiations are, they are important because:

Contrary to popular believe, federal salaries are often negotiable. I know this from my own experience: by negotiating my first federal salary for a job at the Environmental Protection Agency 17 years ago, and by campaigning for numerous raises and promotions since then, I increased my own total federal take-home pay by more than $250,000.

What’s more, I have coached dozens and dozens of other professionals in their successful negotiations for federal jobs. These clients include a military transitioner who recently use my tips to rais his offer by about $30,000 annually and an Information Technology project manager who recently use my tips to raise his offer by about $10,000 annually, to name just a few examples. And yes, despite the collapsing economy, most federal agencies are still negotiating the salaries of new recuits.

Like most private sector employers, most federal employers lowball job applicants: they offer them the lowest acceptable salary. Why? Because most applicants – relieved that their job search is finally over and unaware that federal salaries are frequently negotiable — lunge at the bait and take lowball offers. But for only a few short minutes of negotiating discomfort, you may increase your salary by thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars per year.

You won’t get what you don’t ask for. You owe it to yourself to advocate for what you really deserve. Remember: if you don’t advocate for yourself, no one else will.

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