Negotiating a salary can be tricky. Here's how to make a good impression while securing a great deal. [TWEET]

After spending countless hours freshening up the resume and practicing in front of the mirror for the interview, the boss is impressed and wants to offer you a job. Now that the interview is complete, the next step is getting the best return on your investment.

Negotiating salary and benefits are just as important as the resume and interview process. The negotiating style, or lack of, tells an employer what kind of team member you are. And, while it is important to impress your new boss, it’s just as important to ensure your new job offer will pay the bills and honor your skills and abilities.

And, while negotiating the salary may be a crucial career decision, negotiating salary doesn’t come naturally to many people. These six simple tips for negotiating salary and benefits will help ensure a great impression and fair deal.

Is this a firm offer or probationary status?

The status you enter the company determines the ability to negotiate higher benefits. For example, if the board of directors hire you to take on the role of sales vice president, it may be a six-month probationary agreement with little negotiating room. On the other hand, a firm job offer gives more wiggle room. Just ask the hiring manager if this is a firm job offer or not.

Do I have wiggle room?

After the interview team confirms hiring and the benefit package is revealed, the first question to ask is “Is this negotiable?” Their answer may surprise you. But never start negotiating salary and benefits without asking first. This mistake could cost you the job before you even warm up your computer.

If they say “No, this has been approved by corporate, and we can’t make any changes. Is this an issue?” Tell them no, but ask if there is an option for advancement in the near future. Should they tell you no, it may be a good idea to look for another career opportunity.

Ask about stock options.

You can impress the numbers people on the hiring committee if you ask about base pay versus total compensation. Total compensation means the deal on the table is all-inclusive, while base pay is the basic salary plus any benefits and compensation.

This is the time to ask if there are options to purchase stock in the company for reduced price, or do they offer retirement plans, travel and living stipends, or other areas to help you financially. Some news stations will offer a clothing stipend to on-air reporters because they are required to dress more formally. Jobs that require a lot of travel often offer a cell phone and gas stipend.

Be patient; don’t rush the job offer.

One of the most common, and unfortunate, mistakes applicants make is accepting the job at the interview. While it is understandable that you need to feed the dog and pay the electricity, waiting to give your answer can wield larger rewards. Sometimes businesses need to fill the position immediately and will toss more benefits on the table. However, be careful with this gamble; it could backfire.

Ask the hiring manager when they need an answer, and tell them you would like to think about it. This gives you time to think about your negotiating strategy, find out how desperate they are and show you are a professional that doesn’t rush to judgement.

Sign on the dotted line.

Never, ever, accept a job or offer without getting the details in writing. Your salary and benefits package should be represented in some form of a contract. If none is presented, start questioning the professionalism of the company and its management. Most companies will not hire a new team member unless they sign a benefits agreement. This not only protects the new hire but the company as well. Any company that doesn’t follow this practice could have legal issues in the future.

Always keep your eyes on better options.

Even if you decide to accept the position and benefits accompanying it, never turn a blind eye to other opportunities. Some may present themselves during board meetings and presentations, within the company, or, even, outside the company. Treat your career path the same as any company would treat its brand: Promote, Sell, Cultivate.

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