Carrie Mason-Draffen Newsday columnist Carrie Mason Draffen

Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.

DEAR CARRIE: I need to know what today's employers are really looking for when they ask for a job applicant's "salary requirements." I recently answered an ad that instructed me to include that information, and I did.

Afterward, I received a telephone call from an interviewer that lasted an hour. I then had a grueling, two-hour interview at the company. I brought up my salary requirement, and the interviewer and another manager present said they were looking to pay $4 less an hour than what I was requesting. I politely said I would be willing to accept 50 cents an hour less but not $4.

A few days later, the company asked me to come in again. The interviewer wanted to pay my asking salary, but the other manager said he needed to think about it over the weekend.

That Monday the interviewer called again and said that even though he thought I was perfect for the job, the company couldn't pay my asking salary. I turned down the job. Knowing what my salary requirements are, why did those managers waste my time?

-- Salary Game

DEAR SALARY: I spoke with the president of the Five O'Clock Club, a Manhattan career-management and outplacement firm, and she felt the managers did indeed prolong the talks unnecessarily.

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"Yes, they wasted your time, and they wasted their own as well," said Kate Wendleton, the group's president. "They should not have called you in."

But the managers continued to court you probably because they bet on changing your mind.

"They read the bad economic news . . . and they think that everyone is desperate and that they can talk them down salarywise," Wendleton said. "They were hoping to underpay you, and they thought it was worth their while to give it a try."

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But here's a positive take-away from that frustrating experience.

"They obviously liked your resume and salivated at the thought that perhaps they could have someone like you on board," Wendleton said.

For successful salary negotiations in the future, Wendleton suggests that you consider the Five O'Clock Club's "Four-Step Salary Negotiation Method."

Step 1. Don't talk about salary early on. "You already know that it's an issue, so talk about the job instead," Wendleton said. "Remind them that they posted for a certain kind of work to be done, but you could do so much more." And she added, "Let them imagine you in the job and what you could do for them." Even if the job they posted is too low-level, don't ask about the salary. Instead, she said, upgrade the job by adding responsibilities until the job is worth your while -- and perhaps theirs.

Step 2. Outshine your competition to keep in the running. Ask the interviewers how many other people they're talking to and how you stack up against the other people. Follow up your interview with a note reminding the manager of what you will do if hired.

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Step 3. Get the offer. "Get to the point where they try to sell you on the company," she said. Even if the manager again makes you an unacceptable offer, talk about the job. "Say everything is great, and you can't wait to start -- but your only reservation is the compensation," she said. Then ask what can be done about it.

Step 4. Finally, talk about salary -- while still emphasizing how enthusiastic you are about the job. "Most job hunters hear the offer and then either accept or reject it," she said. "That is not a negotiation." For example, you could negotiate to come in at a certain base pay with a guaranteed raise after three months, she said. Or if they won't budge on salary, perhaps you could negotiate for work-related perks like college tuition.

For more on salary negotiations go to http://bit.ly/13ASdvu and http://bit.ly/13fF47s.