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Before accepting that job offer, be ready to negotiate on salary.

The quote “You can’t win if you don’t play” has been applied to all sorts of topics — love, life and lotteries, to name three.

Anne Nowak has another category: salary negotiation.

Many people, especially women, don’t like to bargain for higher pay, said Nowak, who runs the Career Center for the East Baton Rouge Public Library. She cited these salary.com statistics:

  • Only 37 percent of workers always negotiate their salaries; 18 percent never do.
  • Just 44 percent say they’ve never brought up a raise in a performance review.
  • Only 7 percent of women try to negotiate their salaries in their first job; 57 percent of men do.

“I realize it’s a very uncomfortable topic, but if you do it, usually, it builds success,” Nowak said in a workshop on the topic. “They expect it. In any kind of corporate (job), and especially the higher you go, it is expected. If you don’t, counter, (they think) ‘What’s wrong with him? What’s wrong with her?'

“In other settings, like state or public institutions, maybe retail, it might not be expected, but it can definitely be beneficial. You should always try.”

Nowak’s three top rules are:

If you get a job offer, counter the proposed salary. In an existing job, ask for a raise or promotion. Is it possible an employer will be so impressed that you get offered more money and a better job without asking? Yes. But the chances are slim.

“You have to put yourself out there,” Nowak said. “It’s very rare that somebody offers. The same goes for a promotion. The same goes for other benefits.”

Be prepared for the negotiation. What do you need to know? A lot.

Foremost, learn the salary range for the position you seek in the industry and part of the country to which you are applying. Geography matters because cost of living varies by location.

Nowak said salary information is available at several online sites. Her favorites include:

  • onetonline.org, which provides a lot of information about the tasks, skills, educational requirements and technology used in jobs, plus average and median salary information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • bls.gov, the Bureau of Labor Statistics site, which provides more in-depth salary information based on location
  • payscale.com
  • salary.com
  • glassdoor.com, a job search site that includes information posted by current and former employees about working conditions, salary and likely interview questions, mostly for large employers.
  • vault.com, which focuses on law, banking, consulting and accounting firms

After getting a good idea of a company’s pay scale, job seekers need to determine the minimum compensation they could accept, the lowest salary they’re willing to accept and the salary they really want.

And it’s not all about salary. If you can’t quite agree on pay, benefits — health insurance, vacation days, car allowance, signing bonus — might be negotiated. If the company has an annual performance-salary review, ask for one in six months.

Don't provide your current pay or desired salary early in the process.

The negotiating rule used to be “whoever says a number first loses.” It’s still better to make the employer reveal its hand first, but that can be hard to do. Many companies require such information on applications.

The longer that information can be withheld, the better.

“If the salary question comes up early in the hiring process, you want to evade it and avoid it with something like, ‘I think I would like to discuss salary after we have both determined that I am a good fit for the job,” she said. “Once we have both determined I am a good fit for the job, I’m sure we will come to an agreement on compensation.”

If that doesn’t work, throw the subject back at them.

At some point, though, salary will have to come up. Nowak said a survey by salary.com found an oddity. Applicants who don’t ask for a round number — $65,500 vs. $65,000 — tend to be more successful.

Nowak recommends two books for those who want to know more: “The Five O’Clock Club: Kick off Your Career,” by Kate Wendleton, and “Salary Tutor,” by Jim Hopkinson. The Career Center, located at the Main Library, provides individual career assistance, including help with resumes, mock job interviews and salary negotiations. Call (225) 381-8434, email anowak@careercenterbr.com or go online to careercenterbr.com.


Follow George Morris on Twitter, @GWMorris.