Dear Career Coach,

Can you still negotiate compensation when the job posting explicitly lists a salary? If so, what's the best way to approach this?

Signed,
Nervous Negotiator



Dear Nervous Negotiator,

Negotiations are often nerve-racking for candidates because they don’t want to ask for too much and have an employer withdraw an offer.

But I want to give you reassurance that as much as you fear losing out on an opportunity, companies also fear losing great talent (like you!) by coming in below expectations. That’s why companies and candidates often have an open discussion to meet somewhere in the middle.

With that said, what can you do if the job description clearly states a salary—yet you want more? Are you still even entitled to that attempt to find some middle ground?

If you’re applying to the public sector (government jobs), the pre-determined salary range is usually close to the final offer. However, if you receive an offer, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a number that falls within the range displayed. As with any negotiation, focus on objective facts of why you believe you’re worth more (for example, the job description asks for two years of experience and you have four).

If you’re applying to the private sector (non-government jobs), I would absolutely recommend negotiating despite what was displayed on the job posting. Most companies work with a compensation benchmark system and have a low, mid, and high end of a salary range. Typically, the salary advertised is the median compensation, so it never hurts to ask for more—especially if market research data shows that your title, skills, and experience are worth a higher salary in your geographical market.

Again, you will want to remain objective in your approach: What specifically about your background adds value to the company and justifies why are you worth more? You should use measurable and tangible facts instead of subjective, loose opinions.

It might also help to know that employers expect employees to negotiate. Employers typically don’t withdraw offers because a candidate starts that conversation. However, they do withdraw offers based on how a candidate asks.

If you demonstrate that you’re polite, professional, and perceptive, an employer’s often eager to consider your requests. It’s the requests that come off as aggressive, demanding, and non-compromising that breaks the deal.

That’s why it’s never a bad idea to practice several times before the real conversation to make sure you know exactly what you want to say. You can even run through it with a friend to confirm that you’re coming off the way you intended.

Finally, if the company says they have given you the best offer, remember there are a lot of other benefits and perks you can negotiate aside from your salary.

For example:

  • Sign-on bonus
  • More vacation days
  • Telecommute perks
  • Tuition reimbursement or ongoing education and training allowance
  • Timing of next raise
  • Stock options
  • Competitive commission structure (if in a sales-related role)
  • Relocation bonus (if applicable)



Negotiating might always make you a little nervous (that’s normal!). But, in the end, remember this: You won’t get what you don’t ask for.



This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Credible Career Coach in the subject line.

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