Q: Shouldn’t I always negotiate for the highest salary?
A: That sounds good but is it really? The relationship between what you get paid and the employer’s expectations in trade-off or the corollary relationship between how much money you actually need and what you would just really like to make can be complex.
It also depends at what point you are in the hiring process. Early on, you may want to show some flexibility for a range or an understanding that the salary itself is just one piece of an overall compensation package. There’s a time to negotiate and a number of variables to consider.
The goal is to stay in the running for an offer without undercutting yourself. Once you get the offer, negotiate to sweeten it or, if there truly is no room for movement and you want the job, put other concepts forth, like a signing bonus or a budget for invoiced business expenses or, if it’s of interest, a day a week working remotely.
Be creative but don’t necessarily shoot for top dollar, at least not too soon. You don’t want to shoot in the dark or shoot yourself in the foot in the process.