Negotiating Pay: Know When to Hold and When to Fold

If you’re like me, you’ve always thought that accepting a Federal job (via merit promotion or outside competition) also meant accepting the pay grade & pay step that were offered, that the pay offered for the job was established by HR and was “cast in stone” by Federal pay regulations. Did you know that it’s actually possible to negotiate a higher pay step when you’re offered the opportunity to make a job move in the Federal government?

I’ve never seen nor done this before, but according to GovCentral.com, it’s reasonable to negotiate the pay step for the grade level you’re being offered. For example: If you’re being offered a position at Grade Level 9, you can request to start at a higher pay step based on any of the following reasons:

  • Your previous job paid $45,000, and you would like to receive a 10 percent raise for career-development and advancement objectives.
  • You will incur substantial travel and relocation expenses to move to the new position and therefore need additional funds (since the agency may not specifically pay for the relocation expenses).
  • Since you are relocating to a geographic area with a higher cost of living, you will need to start aty Step 10 ($49,632) because additional income will be necessary to support your family and needs.
  • You believe that you have specialized experience that will benefit the agency.
  • You have critical skills, education and abilities that will greatly enhance the agency’s mission and office services.
  • You have been offered a position by another organization at a starting salary of $49,000 (or whatever might be true).

GovCentral.com also points out that salary is just one negotiable component of the federal compensation package. Once you’ve agreed upon an acceptable salary or, even if you don’t succeed at negotiating a different pay step, GovCentral.com suggests asking for incentives that enhance your overall package. For example, consider one of these perks when negotiating your Federal compensation package:

  • Tuition Reimbursement for Student Loans: Some agencies pay up to $500 per month toward student loans.
  • Recruitment Bonus Incentives: Some agencies pay Recruitment Bonus Incentives for Critical Skills or Severe Shortage positions. Depending on its need, the agency could pay up to 25 percent of your annual salary.
  • Relocation Allowance: Unless the vacancy announcement specifically states that the agency will not pay for relocation, you can ask for a relocation allowance.

Be wary of pushing too hard, however. If an improved compensation package isn’t that important to you, perhaps this tactic isn’t worth the risk! Nevertheless, if you truly have needs that can be handled through negotiations with a prospective Fed employer, it doesn ‘t hurt to ask. From a hiring standpoint, if you decide to do this, remember: you were not the only candidate in that sea of applicants interviewed for the job; there are others to whom the Agency can turn with their job offer. Read the employer’s reactions to your requests closely; know what you’re willing to forego, and be sure you recognize when it’s time to compromise and when it’s time to fold.

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