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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


Understand your hiring agency’s limits: Each announcement for a federal opening identifies a salary range for the opening. Although you probably can’t raise your offer beyond the ceiling of your opening’s salary range, you have a good chance of negotiating a higher salary offer within your opening’s range.

Justify your request: Explain to your hiring agency why you deserve a higher salary than you have been offered. Your explanation may be based on:

1. A description of your outstanding qualifications and an explanation of how they exceed the basic qualifications of the opening. For example, do you exceed the basic requirements for the job because of your degrees or work experience? Do you have a sterling academic record? Have you published articles or books in your field? Have you won awards?

2. Proof that the hiring agency’s offer is below your current annual salary or below a competing offer. (In most cases, a hiring agency will match the current salary or a competing offer of a new recruit.) If your hiring agency has based your current annual salary on your base pay, provide proof that your base pay underestimates your current annual salary because it excludes bonuses, opportunities to work overtime, free housing, free child care or other sources of income. Also if your most recent salary is more than one year old because you took time off since working your last job, remind your hiring agency that it should apply a cost-of-living adjustment to your most recent salary in order to accurately estimate its current worth.

3. The fact that accepting the job would require you to move to a city that has a higher cost of living than your present job;

4. Any additional sacrifices that accepting the job would require of you.

Don’t give ultimatums if you really want the job: Instead of threatening to reject the offer if your demands are not met, use a soft-sell approach. Phrase your negotiations in gentle statements, such as:

I am excited about the possibility of contributing to this organization. But is there any additional wiggle room in your offer?

Bump up your negotiations: If you receive your job offer from a staffer from your target agency’s human resources office and s/he declines to negotiate, request a meeting with your opening’s selecting official. (The selecting official is probably the same person who interviewed you for the job.) This is important because federal selecting officials usually have significant more power to increase salary offers than do human resources officials.

Use good timing: Initiate and complete your salary negotiations before you respond to your hiring agency’s offer. Why? Because once you respond to the hiring agency’s offer, you lose your bargaining power. Indeed, the time between your receipt of an offer and your response to it is the only tine during the selection process, and perhaps the only time during your career, when you get to call the shots and an employer twists in the wind, awaiting your decision.

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