The Salary Tutor Answers Your Questions

Last month, Jim Hopkinson taught a Hired Guns Academy class about negotiating your salary effectively. He’ll be teaching for us again, but until then, you can still learn from his ample experience. Below, he answers questions from the Hired Community about dealing with counteroffers and other potential salary complications.


I have an exciting new job offer and am in a bit of a quandary. I want the new job very badly but wish that the base were a little higher. Even though I desperately want out of my current company, I was thinking about going back and asking for a counteroffer so that I can get a bump from my new company. Good idea?

If you definitely have a firm offer in hand from the new company, then you have a lot of leverage right now. The first question I would ask is, did you negotiate the original offer at all? If not, then no matter what happens, I feel it is safe to go back to them and say that you really want the job, but that you have some concerns about the base salary. Go to them with solid information, such as market rates for someone with your skills, and reemphasize the positives that you will bring to the new company.

Should one of those pieces of information be a counteroffer from your current company? If you have a definite offer in hand, you plan on accepting the new job anyway, and you have a good relationship with your current boss, then it is OK to sit down with your current company and let them know you’ve received another offer and see what they say. But beware… what if they offer you $5K more to stay? $10K? A promotion? While these are good options to have, it could cloud your judgment and make your decision a lot harder. I’d also warn against a fake bidding war and leading your current company on if you have no intentions of staying. Better to negotiate the new job well and go out on a high note.

I am working on a highly visible project that will get me a ton of kudos in the first half of the year. Unfortunately, I don’t get reviewed until year-end. This has bit me before, when my boss doled out raises to the employees who had “hero projects” right at year-end. What can I do?

Your most important asset will be documentation of your early success. Make sure to have plenty of ammo from this project, including sales numbers, screenshots, client testimonials, etc. If you were skipped over for a raise at the end of last year, consider talking with your boss about a midyear review, when the fires are still hot from your recent victories. Lastly, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Maybe you won’t be able to latch on to a major project at the end of the year like your coworkers, but if you can be part of a team on a highly visible project, you can showcase that as well as your early-year success at review time.

I’ve done Project Management, Coordination, and Support for different industries, and I relocated from New York (after 10 years) to Dallas in 2008. I went back to school, so I had to diversify my income sources. I feel confident about Social Media (Management, Direction, or Support positions). In such an emerging field how can I find a reliable salary range here in Dallas? Thanks in advance for your advice.

You’re correct that knowing the salary range for a position is crucial before you start your job search. Here are five places you go to help narrow the range:
1. Look for job postings in which the salary is listed.
2. Check websites such as payscale.com, salary.com, and glassdoor.com.
3. Reach out via social media to friends and family who work in the industry and ask them about a range.
4. Reach out to colleagues and mentors on LinkedIn at companies you are targeting.
5. Attend a local job fair, where you can poll several companies within a short time.

After doing this you should have a general range. Then I recommend getting the potential employer to name the number first so that you know the company’s exact budget.

Do you have other salary negotiation questions?  Put them in a comment below, and we’ll get you the answers.

[Photo by Ryan McFarland/Flickr]

About this Gun

Jim Hopkinson

Jim Hopkinson

is an author, blogger, runner, and digital media guy living in New York City. Salary Tutor, his book about salary negotiation secrets, has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance, and the New York Post. He hosts The Hopkinson Report, a podcast about new media, technology, branding, and helping people pursue their ideal career and lifestyle. His energetic approach has been called "audible caffeine." The former marketing director for Wired.com, Jim teaches a social media class at NYU. Believing that every job-seeker should own their own domain name, Jim created GetYourNameToday.com, a step-by-step tutorial that shows how to create a website in 7 minutes.Follow @salarytutor.