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For some jobs, we don't have a say in how much we get paid -- we're offered a salary and either take it or leave it. In other cases, employers may give prospective employees a salary range dependent on experience. And in a few instances, it may seem like the salary is set, when employers are actually willing to have a bit more flexibility in pay.
So how do you know when you can negotiate your salary? And what's the best way of handling those negotiations? Here are a few tips.
Start With the Contract
Just about every employer will have an employment agreement or work contract that will spell out the terms of employment, including duration, responsibilities, benefits, and, of course, salary. Make sure you read the employment agreement thoroughly and understand all the details and components so you know exactly from where your potential negotiations would start.
Just because it's already written down doesn't necessarily mean it has to stay in the final version, and you never need to sign something you're uncomfortable with. Make sure you know what you're being offered, your current or former compensation package, and what others in similar roles are making so you can start off on the right foot.
Move on to the Contact
You're better off waiting to introduce the topic of salary -- what you're currently being paid and what you want or expect to be paid -- until the latter stages of the interview process, when you're more certain that the employer really wants you. You don't want to volunteer your current compensation unless cornered on the topic, and even then you can say, "I've been paid between X and Y over the past 3-5 years," or break down the various details of your salary, benefits, and any bonus to give the highest total compensation.
The best way to negotiate a higher salary is to give prospective employers a good reason to pay you more. Glowing reviews of your work, added recent experience, and demonstrations of why you're indispensable can only help. Be firm, but don't whine: complaints about why you're underappreciated or underpaid won't endear to your new or current employer.
Finish With the Contract
Make sure you get any oral agreements regarding your compensation in writing. If you've got questions about your current employment agreement or a new agreement you've been asked to sign, you can contact an experienced employment attorney near you.