DEAR JOYCE: Only looking for two months and am a finalist for a job I want. I have research showing that my salary should be way bigger than what I think they'll offer. But I'm worried that if I tell them my real desired salary, they'll pick someone else. What's your advice? -- C.H.

The issue of whether or not you should "ask for the moon" in today's jiggly economy is debated by differing camps of advisers.

Today's guest columnist, Jack Chapman, paymaster extraordinaire and author of the best-selling strategy guide "Negotiating Your Salary, How to Make $1,000 a Minute" (Mt. Vernon Press), says go for it -- with two caveats. Here's what Chapman recommends:

You'll do better negotiating down from a high number than up from a low one. Because you are correct in fearing that a big number might prompt employers to skip over you for a lower-priced candidate, here's what to do.


Name your ideal (big) compensation number only after you've laid the groundwork by explaining how you can make or save money for them.

Explain how your skills will nurture the organization and how your past accomplishments will translate to your future accomplishments. Make them anxious to hire you. Any time before that point is too soon.

If money comes up earlier in the interview, say -- with confidence -- that you anticipate no difficulties working out a salary if you're the candidate they want to hire.

Your best advantage is gained by not disclosing any numbers at all. Not past earnings, nor future expectations. Just remain open on the subject. But this silence may not be an option, as many employers and almost all recruiters will insist on knowing your salary parameters. Your answer then: Give info that is in a range that won't screen you out.


Once they extend an offer or say that they'll be putting one together, it's almost time to share your research. Before you do, when you're still worried that they'll abandon you for a lower-priced candidate, do a "lockdown" move, which is my term for getting an agreement that they'll hang in with your negotiations until you get an agreement from upstairs on you and your price tag.

Here's an example: "An offer! That's really good news. I presume this offer is firm, right? I would like to negotiate on a few points and want to make sure that the offer, as it now stands, is firm."

This lockdown move gives away a little negotiating leverage, but that's the price of safety. It doesn't guarantee they won't talk to an interloper, but it has the strength of a "handshake deal" if they agree.


Now it's time to shoot for the moon. Let them know your ideal compensation number or range; "ideal" means the absolutely biggest package you can possibly imagine getting. Tell them the number or the range. Share as many indicators as possible that validate your ideal amount: salary surveys, other offers you're entertaining or applying for, projected earnings or savings you'll create on the job, past earnings, recruiters' estimates -- and anything else you can think of to corroborate your number.

If you choose, you can add: "I'd like to tell you my absolutely ideal compensation -- what would make me ecstatic. It's probably out of your range, but I think it's valuable to share it."


Imagine their offer of $80,000 when you want $95,000. Instead of trying to split the difference, lock down the $80K, then share an ideal compensation plan that would pay you $125,000 made up of salary, bonus and commissions.

Justify your reasoning and then say, "So while the $125,000 is not unreasonable, it's more than you planned on. Can we discuss how we can start to approach that number?"

This tactic is much more likely to reach the $95,000-or-higher level than starting with the $95,000 figure.

Thanks, Jack Chapman, for tips on how to ask for the highest salary you can justify.