Consider more than salary when evaluating a job offer
Once you have been offered a new job, you might assume the process is at an end. But is it really? Not all jobs are created equal, and the goal in getting a new job is (typically) to improve your situation. So job offers must be evaluated carefully to ensure that your goals, personal finance and otherwise, are being served.
The standard advice when interviewing for a new job is to avoid being the first person to put forward an exact number. Why? Because you risk low-balling yourself and losing any chance of getting the upper hand as you negotiate.
Of course, this depends on the industry in which you work. The majority of my own experience, for example, is at public universities, where salary ranges are posted as part of the job ads. Salary can be just as much of a clue as job title and description in determining whether you are a good fit for a position, and you can focus your efforts on negotiating for the top of the posted range (though I know from personal experience that doesn't always work).
If your job search takes you into an industry where salaries aren't posted, you can research job titles on sites like Indeed.com, Salary.com, and Glassdoor.com. You can network with your colleagues and friends in your industry to get an idea of what positions pay as well. As you research salaries, try to compare the job descriptions to ensure that you are in the right salary range given the responsibilities you would be taking on.
If you are fresh out of school or switching industries, you may not have much negotiating power when it comes to salary. The benefit of being entry-level is that you may have more potential positions to which you can apply. If you are more advanced in your career or possess a highly technical or unique skill set, you may be able to command a higher salary. However, there may be fewer jobs and/or employers that offer positions that cater to your skills, especially if you are geographically bound.
Remember that there is more to a job than salary
Of course, there is more to a job offer than salary. In fact, hiring managers may be more willing and able to negotiate the non-salary aspects of a job offer. As a result, you may experience more negotiation success by focusing your efforts on other things (assuming, of course, that the salary being offered is fair both in terms of industry standards and your own experience).
Non-salary aspects of job offers include:
Whether a retirement plan is provided
If the company provides a match of employee retirement contributions
Stock options or profit-sharing
Sick time (some employers categorize vacation and sick time separately while other employers lump it together and call it Paid Time Off or PTO — I think separate is better if you can get it)
Health/dental/vision insurance (consider availability, quality, and cost to you)
Whether overtime is available, and whether it is ever mandatory
Availability of flextime
Remote work policy
Company-paid training or continuing education in your field
Promotional opportunities within the company
I can't stress enough that there is more to being happy at your job than money. There may even be situations where someone voluntarily slashes their salary. Sometimes people downsize their homes after their children move out. Similarly, someone who has reached financial independence may take a job they feel they will enjoy simply because income is no longer the only factor or the most important factor to them. What non-salary factors are most important to you? Are there any biggies that I am missing?
What advice would you give to someone who is considering a job offer? What aspect of previous job negotiations are you most proud of? Is there anything you wish you had done differently?