How to Handle Tricky Salary Negotiation Situations

Salary negotiations are tricky, but the potential payoff is worth it. Increase your confidence (and your chances of success) by practicing these smart responses to tricky salary negotiation situations. With a little practice (and a few deep breaths), you’ll be a salary negotiation pro.

1. Early on in the interview process they ask: “What salary range are you looking for?”

First, make sure you’ve already done your research and know the appropriate salary range for the position. An easy way to do that is by taking the PayScale Salary Survey. That way you’re likely to be in the same ballpark as the interviewer and will have more confidence when negotiating.

If you are interviewing for a new job, you may want to let them throw out a number first. If you quote a salary that is a bit too high, you may not even make it through the full interview process, even though it might be possible to negotiate the salary up once you’ve dazzled the hiring manager. If you quote a salary that is too low, you might sabotage the offer they make you later.

For more tips on answering this delicate question, read this article by career expert Penelope Trunk.

2. They say “We don’t have budget for raises right now.”

This response isn’t a personal judgment; it’s probably just a reflection of the financial health of the company. First, you can try to avoid this situation in the first place by bringing up the salary negotiation conversation at the right time. But if belts are tight, there still might be an opportunity to negotiate benefits, like paid time off, flex time, personal growth opportunities and more that don’t come out of the payroll budget.

3. “Your pay is determined by your job title/pay band/job level, so we don’t negotiate salary.”

Some companies, especially larger ones, tie pay to specific hierarchies of job titles and/or levels. That makes negotiating your salary harder, but it doesn’t make it impossible – it just means you have to approach it in a different manner. Instead of coming at them with a specific salary number, find out what job titles correlate to the salary you have in mind and ask to be considered for a performance evaluation sooner. Then pick your boss’s brain (and appeal to his or her ego a bit) and ask for specific pointers about what you can do in the next couple of months to qualify for the job title or level you have in mind.

4. “We can’t give you a raise right now, but we can give you some extra responsibility that can earn you a raise or promotion soon.”

First, congratulations! If your boss or employer is trusting you with a big project, it means you are doing really well and they believe in you. But don’t forget that this is a great opportunity to negotiate a bonus based on your performance. Ask if the raise you’ll receive after the project is done can be made retroactive if you’re successful, or negotiate a bonus upon completion. Make sure you ask for specific metrics and get them in writing. Having very concrete goals will not only make sure they fulfill their promises, but will motivate you to perform your best.