The Key to Getting Paid What You Deserve – It’s Not What You Think

You need to remember two key things in order to get paid what you deserve: Your current, or most recent salary is irrelevant to the job you’re seeking, so don’t reveal it. And once an offer has been made, always try to negotiate.

moneyLast month, Massachusetts made history by making it illegal for employers to ask job applicants for their salary history. And soon, a bill will be introduced by Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Jerold Nadler (D-NY) to prohibit employers from asking job applicants for their salary history before making a job or salary offer. This is great news for job seekers, and it helps to make great strides in pay equality.

Now, since the Massachusetts law doesn’t go into effect until 2018 and the bill is sitting on Capitol Hill (cue the School House Rock song), that means employers are still going to be asking for your salary history in the near future.

Without a law behind you, you need to remember two key things in order to get paid what you deserve:

  1. Your current, or most recent salary is irrelevant to the job you’re seeking, so don’t reveal it.
  2. Once an offer has been made, always try to negotiate.

I’ll go into the details behind each of these, and by the end of this article you’ll know how to figure out your true value in the marketplace and hopefully overcome some of your fear and hesitation about salary negotiation.

Why Negotiate?

The most obvious reason is to get more money. In reality, a new job offer is really your greatest opportunity to significantly increase your salary. When you negotiate a higher salary to begin with, it impacts your income over the entire time you’re at that company because your future raises will be based on that number. It’s a little like compounded interest. For example, let’s say two recent grads are offered a starting salary of $50,000. Sue negotiates a $5,000 increase on her starting salary and a raise of 4 percent every three years. Sam accepts the offer and only sees a standard 1 percent raise every year. After a 45-year career Sue’s total earnings will be $1,137,097 more than Sam’s.

Effects of Starting Salary Negotiation
A little starting salary negotiation goes a long way over the course of a career.

Besides just getting more money, when you negotiate it shows your potential employer you have good business acumen and you are assertive. In fact, according to a survey done by, 80 percent of employers surveyed said they are not upset or offended when job seekers negotiate during the interview process. And, 57 percent of HR personnel expect people to ask for more when presented with a job offer. Finally, the most surprising statistic was that 48 percent expect their employees to ask for a raise at least once a year. So keep this in mind if you’re currently employed. And if you’re currently in transition, remember this for when you do land.

What Prevents You From Negotiating?

Fear and lack of skills. In another survey from, 32 percent of respondents claimed they didn’t negotiate because they were afraid of losing the job offer. Then 22 percent said they lacked the proper skills to negotiate. Others said they find the whole negotiation process unpleasant (18 percent) while the other significant reason was lacking self-confidence (9 percent).

The Key to Salary Negotiation

Because your current or most recent salary isn’t relevant to the new position you’re pursuing, the essential step you need to take is to know your market value. Before you even have that first interview, you need to create an accurate salary range that includes three numbers – your delighted number, your desired number and your don’t take it number. Think of this as your three Ds.

  • Delighted – what will make you really happy, thrilled, or ecstatic. It could be a package you think you’re not likely to get, but there is a possibility.
  • Don’t take it – as low as you’ll go. If the offer is below this number, don’t walk away immediately, but definitely declare you’re too far apart and ask for time to consider it.
  • Desired – between these two. It’s where you realistically think you’ll end up.

In order to figure out these numbers for yourself, you need to do your research. First, discover what other people with the same title are earning. You can get this information from websites like, or lists the median salary for a marketing manager at $93,459. You can look at industry surveys too. Sometimes the larger recruitment firms, like The Creative Group do their own salary surveys. Or, even a niche recruiter like Bernhart Associates Executive Search offers salary ranges for digital and direct marketers. This can give you a basic salary range.

Next, know how well you can do the job versus other candidates’ abilities. Are you above average? Are you well known in your industry? Do you have a special expertise? These things factor in to your special value. In other words, what do you bring to the table to raise that basic salary range?