Career Resources

To Ask or Not to Ask

Jerri Ann Lamb

That is the question.

What is the salary?

There are several topics that I plan to share with you over the next few months. I was planning to do them in an obvious and often expected order such as First Impressions, Resume Building, Networking, Interviewing, Negotiating etc. But I could not wait any longer to share tips on Salary Negotiation.

As a Registered Dietitian and a Recruiter, I speak to amazingly talented Registered Dietitians from coast to coast with the ability to multi-task, be creative, be scientific, be organized, and more. As Dietitians, we can fill hours talking about amino acids, trans-fatty acids, HDL, and LDL; we can articulate words like Phenylketonuria without pausing between each syllable or taking a breath; we even discuss topics like stool, bowel movements, steatorrhoea, and urine output over lunch without gagging or batting an eye. But when it comes to negotiating our salary we often become uncomfortable and silent or say all the wrong things.

As a Recruiter, I prefer to discuss it upfront so that no one wastes his or her time, including both the applicant and the employer. There is nothing more deflating than losing a job offer over the salary after extensive time and money have been spent to get to that point. Salary is a deciding factor that should be made very early in the process. As the unbiased, non-threatening person in the mix I (the Recruiter) have the advantage of talking openly about the salary upfront. Unfortunately, it often is a subject that is danced around in the beginning by hiring managers and applicants with a grand, suspenseful announcement at the very end. It is a touchy and potentially misunderstood question when asked upfront by the applicant but it CAN be done professionally and tactfully.

Once you have established your interest in the opportunity it does not hurt to ask about the salary. Consider the following DOs and DO NOTs.

Do avoid being offensive or portraying all you care about is the money. You and I both know the reality is if you only cared about money you would not have chosen Dietetics as a profession. Talking about the salary upfront can easily be incorporated into considering all the factors of the opportunity for example location, responsibility, size of company or facility, team dynamics etc.

Do your research correctly. Although it is important to look at recent salary surveys and talk to other Registered Dietitians in the area with similar experience, the key here is comparing similar factors. The biggest mistake that is often made is looking at the information provided by a survey but not realizing you might be comparing apples to oranges in regards to experience, specialization, and geographic location.

Do talk about what you have done, or will do, for the company. Those with more experience can hope to earn more money. Remember to talk about the amount of experience you have if it will help you negotiate a higher salary. If you don’t have a lot of experience, be realistic about the salary for which you can ask.

Get ready to read about the biggest mistake that is often made when negotiating salaries.

Here it comes….

DO NOT TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU NEED AND WHY YOU NEED IT. When you are going through salary negotiations, don’t tell your boss (or future boss) that you need to make more money because your bills are high, your house/rent is expensive, your child is starting college or you have student loans to pay. I have heard a very successful recruiter often say, “Your inability to manage your money is not the boss’s fault“. Most likely the hiring manager you are speaking to also has high bills, an expensive house, kids in college, and more. This strategy does not work. If you do not remember anything else from this article, REMEMBER THIS. Do not talk about what you need and why you need it.

Do be reasonable. When going through a salary negotiation you may not get the exact amount of money you want. The trick is to figure out how much you are willing to compromise and what you will do if your boss doesn’t offer you a salary you find acceptable. You are worth a “Million Bucks” but they cannot pay you that.

Do not create a tug of war. The reality is most positions are budgeted and have very little wiggle room. If necessary, one counter offer is plenty.

Do not lose a great opportunity over $2000-5000. If it is a position that can enhance your experience and increase your responsibility and increase your salary down the road, do not lose it over a few thousand dollars. Do the math. When you break it down to what the difference would be each week it could be less than a Happy Meal at McDonalds”.

The answer to question we started with, in my opinion is…

Yes, ask the question.

Jerri Ann Lamb has been a Registered Dietitian for 15 years. Currently she is the only RD that has specialized in exclusively resourcing Registered Dietitians in Healthcare and Hospitality for more than 10 years. As founder and Operator of Dietitian Select Jerri Ann is passionate about resourcing Registered Dietitians. Visit Contact Jerri Ann at and 859-553-4187.

Linked In