As I mentioned in an earlier article Top 5 interview mistakes, it isn't a good idea to discuss money matters during the interview process. The problem with discussing salary early in the process is that it is difficult to revisit that discussion later. It is impossible to ask and justify salary higher than what you mentioned earlier in the process. On the other hand, if the employer thinks your salary expectations are on the higher side, they might decide to not engage with you any further.
It's good idea to avoid salary discussions before the intent of hiring you has been clearly communicated. Give them a broad range, if it is absolutely unavoidable. The more you delay these discussions, the easier it'll be for you to negotiate a better pay package.
The first offer is based on various factors -- previous drawn salary, internal salary bands, budget, etc. It's not cast in stone. Most hiring managers have tremendous leverage and can easily revise it further. They've already invested so much time and effort in screening and interviewing various candidates. You should be able to get 10-15 per cent over the initial offer without doing anything.
Take your time:
Your employer would always want you to accept the offer immediately because they know they'll get a better deal that way. Never accept the offer immediately. This puts you in a much stronger position. The hiring manager will think that they'll lose you to another employer (or competitors) and revise the offer so that they could close the position as soon as possible.
Research market salaries
This is always a good idea. Find out what your peers are earning in the industry. Check out iimjobs.com research on MBA salaries conducted recently. It'll give you an idea if you are over or underpaid vis-a-vis your peers. It's a good idea to share these reports with hiring managers, if you feel you are underpaid.
Maintain a positive attitude
Always maintain a positive attitude towards the employer and the job/role. Make sure you acknowledge the opportunity and conduct these discussions professionally. At no point during these discussions should they think that they hired the wrong person for the position. There have been cases of employers revoking the offer.
You would be in the best position to negotiate if you have multiple offers in hand. The hiring manager will treat you with a lot more respect if they feel that you are in demand elsewhere. They'll also be worried that they'll lose you to some other employer (or competitor). Even if you don't have multiple offers, try not to come across as desperate.
Having said this, it's never a good idea to take up a job/role for the salary and benefits alone. There is no great loss in taking 15-20 per cent salary cut for a role/employer that you like.
Tarun Matta is the founder of iimjobs.com -- an exclusive job portal for MBAs from IIMs and other premier business schools in India. He holds a BTech in Computer Science & Engineering from Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University and MBA from Indian Institute of Management Indore.