Executive Resumes & Career Transition Strategies Blog

Reflections of an Executive Resume Writer
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Executive Salary Negotiation: When It’s Time to “Show Me the Money”

You might think that the salary requirements question would be an easy one to answer, and that every executive looking for that next great opportunity would have a firm idea in mind of what the expected compensation package should look like. 

You might also think that determining an appropriate salary/compensation offer for an executive candidate would be a simple matter for the employer–based on the candidate’s executive resume, references, and interview performance. But things are not quite that simple.

One of the priority elements in your job search plan should be researching the “going rate” for executives with your level of experience and capability. One method of doing this research is consulting websites such as:

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The Riley Guide Salary Guides & Guidance
Bureau of Labor and Statistics 

Occupational Outlook Handbook 
U.S. Office of Personnel Management Salaries & Wages
JobSmart Salary Surveys


You might also Google salary data using a search phrase such as “average salary for (your desired or current job title).”

Once armed with real-world information on what employers are paying, it is important to play your cards well. Timing is everything in salary negotiation, and the first one to speak loses.

Let the potential employer bring the subject up, and try to avoid stating a number or range first. There is really no upside if you do. If your figure is too low, you may have just doomed yourself to a lowball offer–or worse yet, make them think you are a candidate of lower caliber than they had thought. If your figure is too high, you may have priced yourself out of the market for that employer, before you have them so convinced of your phenomenal value that they are willing to go to bat with top management to get you the salary you deserve.

If asked about your salary requirements, turn around and ask them what range they have in mind. You can then tell them if that’s in the ballpark.

If they will not answer the question and you do find it necessary to be the one who states a range, be sure your answer includes “plus insurance and other benefits”–with the bottom of the range being the minimum you would accept, and the top based on what your market research indicated.

My favorite guru on the salary topic, Jack Chapman, gives a great tip: When the employer gives you a range they have in mind, respond with “hmmm” instead of “okay.”  “Okay” indicates acceptance; “hmmm” is noncommittal and leaves you room to negotiate.

That dynamite executive resume and LinkedIn profile you prepared positioned you at an advantage–as someone an employer is eager to talk to about what you can bring to their organization. Your well-honed interviewing skills have vividly demonstrated the value you bring to the table. So take care that the third leg of the job-winning process–salary negotiation–takes you the rest of the way toward the job offer of your dreams.

For an in-depth look at executive salary negotiation strategy, I highly recommend Jack Chapman’s book, Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute, now in its seventh edition. Jack is one of a handful of folks I recommend to provide extra support to my clients, and I’m an enthusiastic affiliate of his services.