I'm often surprised by the wide variance in the salaries people earn in similar positions and at similar companies. The higher you go up in the corporate ranks, the wider that variance seems to become. I think there is a misconception among job seekers that salary ranges for common positions are tighter than they really are.
I frequently see candidates for the same job e.g. Director of Product Management, with nearly identical qualifications and backgrounds, demanding salaries that are separated by 30% or more. To me, this underscores the importance of solid research and negotiation at the offer stage. Here are 3 quick points to help you get the best deal possible.
1. Don't let your personal value of money cost you
Too often, candidates settle for too little because they assign value to money as an individual instead of as a corporation. Yes, ten thousand dollars is a lot of extra money to you. But its not a lot of money to a company. Companies think much more in terms of value for money vs. absolute dollars. Remember that when you're afraid to ask for a little more.
2. Be the first one to ask about the budgeted salary range for the position
If they ask you first, you're already at a disadvantage because you have to give a number without any information. Just make sure when you ask, you do it tactfully. Ask the HR person or recruiter vs. the hiring manager whenever possible. If you are forced to go first, give a wide range. Say something like, I'm looking for a total compensation package between 50K and 70K depending on the mix of base, bonus and equity components. This approach gives you the best chance of getting the maximum amount the company is willing to pay.
3. Do your homework and adjust upwards
Its pretty easy to find salary ranges for most companies and most positions on the web. Glassdoor and others make it really easy. My recommendation is to research the salaries for positions similar to yours at various companies similar to the one you're going to work at. Then add 10% - 20%. This gives you the best chance of getting the best deal without pricing yourself out of contention. Even if you're a little high, hiring managers generally won't rule you out.
If you want to read more about salary negotiation, check out this comprehensive blog I wrote a while back.