Bargaining for Bigger Bucks A step-by-step guide to negotiating your salary.
By Beth Brophy

(Business 2.0) – Employers may hold all the cards in this soft job market, but things are going to get more competitive fast. That's the time to make the boss (your current one or a potential new one) a pitch so cogent that she can't help but see your true worth--and pay you accordingly. Here's how.

1 Know the going rate You probably won't get very far by telling your boss that competitors pay better than he does (unless one has made you an offer). But knowing your potential value can help steel you to ask for what you're really worth (see "Researching Your Worth," page 105).

2 Don't fudge your past compensation Potential employers occasionally ask for a W-2, so be honest about what you're earning now.

3 Present cold, hard proof of your value Remember, you're selling your boss on a hot productivity tool: you. So provide concrete, quantifiable examples of how you made previous bosses look good and saved them effort, advises Los Angeles career coach Jonathan Goldstein. "Say, 'I improved revenues by 20 percent last year' or 'decreased costs by 15 percent,'" he says.

4 Let the other party name a figure first You don't want to show your hand. If pressed, suggest a salary range instead of a number. Career coach Lenore Mewton suggests upping what you think is a fair range by as much as 10 percent. "Notch it up a little without being unrealistic," she says. You can always come down later if you need to.

5 Don't nickel-and-dime Set a fairly high target, but once the company has agreed on a number within a range that you deem acceptable, don't nitpick--you might seem not to be a person of your word. "An extra $500 here, $1,000 there is never worth it," Goldstein says.

6 Avoid extravagant extras This economic environment is no time to ask for expensive perks. "I'd be embarrassed to ask for first-class travel or a fancy office," says Andy Ellenthal, a senior vice president at PointRoll, a company based in Fort Washington, Pa., that helps create Web advertising. "It leaves the impression that you want to sit around on your butt all day."

7 Seek incentives and practical perks In lieu of luxuries--or if you're stonewalled on a salary demand--request benefits that cost your employer little and suggest that they be contingent on how well you do your job. "Come up with trade-offs, such as a bigger title or time off for hitting goals," says Neal Schore, president and CEO of Midway Marketing Group, a media-industry professional services firm in Woodland Hills, Calif. "An extra week of vacation or more flex time has little hard cost to the organization." Plus, linking bennies to performance shows that you're willing to put the organization ahead of yourself. That alone makes you worth more. -- BETH BROPHY