Agreeing your salary package is an important part of getting that new job, however few people try to negotiate. Your room for negotiation varies according to your sector, level and the payment systems traditionally used as explained later.
Firstly, a word on when to negotiate.
Only start the real negotiation once you have the formal offer. This way they have committed to you and will want to move on quickly. It is OK in the interview process to discuss salary and certainly put down markers (see below) so that when you receive an offer you can refer to previous discussions when you indicated your requirements.
Negotiate face to face
You will probably receive an email or letter of offer so you are not sitting with the person. Negotiating over the telephone and especially over the internet is not recommended. It is too easy to take entrenched positions and you cannot see the body language and gauge your position. So when you get the offer arrange to meet. Say you are really pleased to receive the offer but want to meet to just check a few points and to see the working environment.
How to negotiate
You must have arguments to back up your request and use these strongly, apply the technique of reflecting issues back to them or asking them to agree. This way they have to provide arguments as well. For example:
"You've impressed on me the company's desire to be the industry leader and to provide world class benefits but the salary you offered doesn't reflect this, can you tell me why?"
"We discussed salaries at our last meeting when you asked me for my thoughts but your offer doesn't seem to take that into account, what has changed your view?"
Build in scope by looking at the whole package.
Salary is only one aspect of the package; when it suits you talk about the full package, especially where you seem to be disagreeing strongly on one element like salary. Bonus arrangements provide an area where you can compromise saying:
"You seem reluctant to reflect my experience in the initial salary, could we agree that the difference forms the basis of the first 6 months bonus, based on the performance criteria we agree?"
In addition Pension Payments, Health Care, Car Provision, Relocation costs and Child Care allowances are some other areas which could be part of the package and to include in your discussion.
What Salary should I ask for?
A difficult question as there are many variables. Is the job a promotion or are you anxious to get a foothold in a new area, is it a large or small company, do they have a graded or banded system or are salaries always personal? Even so there are some general rules you can apply.
Always pitch higher than you would accept - they can always offer less (in fact very few people are offered more than they ask for!) and you can then start the negotiation.
Look at market rates, web sites can give you a feel for reasonable salary levels (use our Salary By Job A - Z), taking into account location and size of company.
If you are going for a promotion or a job with more responsibility then 15% to 20% uplift should be your guide.
Remember the interviewer may have been given the salary by the HR people and may need to go back to them to agree changes, so give good arguments.