Tips for Effective Salary Negotiation

Tips for Effective Salary Negotiation

May 13, 2015
Business Skills

By Karen Buch RDN, LDN

What words come to mind when you think about salary negotiation? Intimidating? Daunting? Stressful? Negotiating compensation can be tricky and no one wants to come off as pushy or arrogant during the process. Because the related impact to your career will be felt for years to come, you’ll want to take the right approach from the start.

Do Your Research
When entering the field of retail dietetics, think less about your historical income as a registered dietitian and more about the responsibilities that will be required of you in the new position. Seek to understand the salary and compensation structure of lateral positions within the hiring company and across the food and grocery industry. Next, factor in responsibilities, required skills, years of experience, size of the company and its geographic location and special skill sets, certifications or training that may give you an edge.

Understand the Position
When applying for the job, dig deep to understand the position’s title, setting, scope of responsibilities and reporting structure before accepting. Not all retail dietitian positions are created equal. Because the field is still evolving, you may even have some latitude to help shape the role and its level of responsibility during the negotiation process. Being willing to take on executive-level responsibilities will command a higher compensation package. Click to review examples of roles and responsibilities, titles and work settings.

Determine Your Value
The goal is to negotiate the right value in your base salary on the way into the organization, when leverage is highest. It can be difficult, although not impossible, to negotiate a salary correction later-on after hire. To gauge your worth, review published salary and benefits surveys and look to and to guide your perspective. Although data for retail dietitian job titles are not readily available on these websites, it is helpful to compare other professional positions that have some overlap in job responsibilities. 

Prepare Your Mind & Body 
Practice concisely describing why the company would be lucky to have you as an essential part of their retail team. Be able to confidently discuss the unique skills and experiences that you can bring to the company. Then, think through the alternatives and trade-offs that you would be willing to consider in your compensation package. You will feel less intimidated and more empowered when have established options that may lead to agreement. During the interviews, wear professional attire and ensure tone and body language convey that you are vibrant, personable, open-minded, knowledgeable and confident.

Prepare to Counter
When the job offer is made, it is ideal for the employer to disclose a salary number first. If asked for your salary requirements, counter with “Do you have a range in mind for the position?” Follow with “Can you help me understand the other benefits that would come with the position so I can consider the total package?” Then request time to think about it. A 2013 careerbuilder survey found roughly half of all jobseekers (49 percent) accept the first offer, while 45 percent of employers are willing—and expect—to negotiate.

Negotiate Added Benefits
Make a prioritized list of benefits and tease out which ones the hiring manager has the flexibility to change and which ones are firm. Discuss bonus structure, profit sharing, stock options, vacation time, vehicle stipend, cell phone, reimbursement for continuing education credits, licensing, professional travel & memberships and flexibility in work schedule. Ask about protocols for increasing vacation time and salary and how performance is evaluated. Save the topic of minimum severance for last. 

According to the 2013 Salary and Benefits Survey conducted by the Academy, the average dietitian has an annual income of $60,000. However, RDs working as executive-level professionals earn median compensation of $97,000. The RDBA’s 2014 Salary Survey of its retail dietitian members found a broad base salary range from $40,000 to more than $175,000. While this makes nutrition careers in the retail world attractive, it also highlights the importance of negotiating the salary you deserve from the beginning and continuing to manage your salary proactively throughout your career.


About the Author
Karen Buch, RDN, LDN, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who specializes in retail dietetics and food & nutrition communications. As one of the first supermarket dietitians, she is a recognized trailblazer and expert at translating nutrition science into practical solutions for consumers. Karen is owner and principal consultant at Nutrition Connections LLC, chair of the Food & Culinary Professionals Supermarket/Retail subgroup and contributing author to RDBA Weekly. You can connect with her on twitter @karenbuch and visit