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Money can be a highly sensitive topic to discuss in any context, but even more s o during the interview process.

With a quality job on the line, you may hesitate to press a hard bargain for the salary you want.

in any context, but even more so during the interview process. With a quality jo b on the line, you may hesitate to press a hard bargain for the salary you want. "I think there are a lot of people who are reluctant to negotiate who think they 'll lose the job if they do," says Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers, a Ne w York-based career management firm. But hiring managers anticipate attempts by candidates to secure a higher salary, and talks can be peaceful and productive, as long as both sides respect each other's preferences. "Negotiation is a collab orative, not a combative, process," Safani says. Here are some tips that will help you get paid what you're worth. collaborative, not a combative, process," Safani says. Here are some tips that will help you get paid what you're worth. less

Do your homework in advance Before reaching the negotiation stage, research industry salary norms for the po sition you're applying for. Salary comparison websites such as Glassdoor and Pay Scale let you tailor your salary search by company, position, experience and cit y and request a personalized salary report. For direct insight on how a company has handled matters of salary, contact a pas t or present employee through a mutual friend or social networking website like LinkedIn. "Employees who have worked there are the best source of that informati on," says Robin Bond, founder of Transition Strategies, a law firm that represen ts employees, and author of "How to Negotiate a Killer Job Offer." Avoid or ask the question yourself If salary is raised during the early phases of the interview, it's best to "tabl e the conversation," Safani says. "The problem with giving a salary too soon in the interview process is that it c an sometimes end the conversation," she says. A figure on the high end of the sa lary spectrum could leave you in the too-pricey category. But a low-end figure c ould lead a hiring manager to conclude you're too junior for the position, Safan i notes. To respectfully turn the tables on the inquiring hiring manager, recite the aver age salary for the position and ask if the company adheres to that norm, Safani says. Don't shortchange yourself Your eagerness to work for the company could blind you to a raw deal. Safani not es that most hiring managers avoid making their best offer right off the bat. "[ Hiring managers] have a range that they're working within, and they want to have

some wiggle room in case the candidate wants to negotiate," she says. Unemployment shouldn't soften your stance You may think being jobless puts you at a severe disadvantage or eliminates your leverage. "People feel that they can't ask for anything because they're unemplo yed," Safani says. While you may feel like you're bargaining from a position of desperation, remember the "value that you bring to an organization compared to a nother candidate is the same regardless if you're currently using your skills," she says. Take other perks into account A salary coupled with other financial incentives could put you on par with or su rpass what you're currently bringing home. "I look at a compensation package as having a lot of components in it beyond just base pay," Bond says. Start-up companies in particular, Bond says, will partner salary with various fo rms of equity such as restricted stock units, shares, performance shares and opt ions. If a financial stake in the company isn't offered, "you might want to nego tiate some things that are not directly related to the position but will make it a better offer for you," Safani says. ll partner salary with various forms of equity such as restricted stock units, s hares, performance shares and options. If a financial stake in the company isn't offered, "you might want to negotiate some things that are not directly related to the position but will make it a better offer for you," Safani says.

Picking up the tab for your Internet or cellphone bill and membership fees to pr ofessional associations are benefits that can "sweeten the pot," she says. More vacation time, the option to work from home, relocation benefits and career coun seling for a spouse who's recently lost his or her job are other items you can r equest, Bond adds. Be delicate, but convincing, in your dialogue Approach the talks, Bond says, like a long-term romantic relationship "that you care about and don't want to trample on." Opt for carefully calibrated words rat her than desk-pounding theatrics. "You can't be demanding - you have to be persu asive," she says. Emphasize your value Having attracted the company eye with your resume, bring the document's words to life by detailing how you're different from the pack. "You want to be talking a bout what you've done successfully in the past and how that's transferable to th e new position," Safani says. Leave nothing to chance Presuming a positive company review six months or a year after being hired, you calculate you'll gain later what's been lost upfront. With the expectations of a pay raise, you take a no-need-to-negotiate mentality. Safani advises against su ch assumptions, especially if the prospective employer is a large corporation. " If it's a large company, the chances of getting an earlier review are lower than if it's sort of a smaller company that maybe has more flexibility and less rule s," she says.

Rule nothing out Even after lowering your initial price tag, the company comes back with its orig inal offer. The burden of a decreased paycheck, particularly if you have a famil y or live in an expensive city, may be too much to bear. But the duties of the j ob would enrich your skill set in a way your current job never could. "Sometimes you take a job because it's going to round you out [and] give you som e great experience," Bond says of the experience-for-pay tradeoff. "You might ha ve to take a step back financially."