How to Negotiate Salary: 37 Tips You Need to Know
At the beginning of a job hunt, you often want to get at least one offer in order to feel secure. This is especially true for people finishing a degree program, when everyone is interviewing and some are celebrating early victories. Ironically, getting an early offer can be problematic: Once a company has made an offer, it will expect an answer reasonably soon. If you want to consider multiple jobs, it’s useful to have all your offers arrive close together. So don’t be afraid to slow down the process with one potential employer or to speed it up with another, in order to have all your options laid out at one time. This, too, is a balancing act: If you pull back too much—or push too hard—a company may lose interest and hire someone else. But there are subtle ways to solve such problems. For example, if you want to delay an offer, you might ask for a later second- or third-round interview.
How To Negotiate Your Salary (13 Tips With Examples)
When an employer extends a job offer, they’ll usually present you with a compensation and benefits package verbally or in writing with a proposed salary. If you don’t feel the pay aligns with your education, career level, skill set and experience, you may choose to negotiate for more money. You may also suggest another form of compensation, such as equity or stock options, or additional perks such as extra vacation days.
Knowing how to negotiate salary offers is a valuable skill that can help ensure you’re fairly compensated for the work you do. However, like any skill, it takes preparation and practice to do well. In this article, we cover how to negotiate the salary you want in 13 steps with examples of how to initiate the discussion.
Salary Negotiation Tips 1-11 Getting Prepped
1. Know Your Value
If you’re going to get the pay you deserve, it’s crucial to know the going rate for your position in your specific industry and in your geographic area. As I Will Teach You to Be Rich’s Ramit Sethi points out, if you walk into a salary negotiation without a number, you’re at the mercy of an experienced hiring manager who can simply control the conversation.
2. Talk to Recruiters
Another way to do some research? Pick up those calls from recruiters. They know what people with your experience and expertise are worth, so use it to your advantage! The next time one reaches out to you, engage in a conversation about the position’s responsibilities and pay. You may not get a specific number, but even a range is helpful.
3. Organize Your Thoughts
4. Pick the Top of the Range
As you’re doing your research, you’ll likely come up with a range that represents your market value. It can be tempting to ask for something in the middle of the range, but instead you should ask for something toward the top.
5. Know the (Exact) Number
Turns out, when employees use a more precise number in their initial negotiation request, they are more likely to get a final offer closer to what they were hoping for. This is because the employer will assume you’ve done more extensive research into your market value to reach that specific number.
6. Be Willing to Walk Away
When considering your numbers, you should also come up with a “walk away point”—a final offer that’s so low that you have to turn it down. This could be based on financial need, market value, or simply what you need to feel good about the salary you’re bringing home.
7. Make Sure You’re Ready
Have you been at your job for a year? Have you taken on new responsibilities since you’ve been hired? Have you been exceeding expectations (rather than just meeting them)? The answer to all of these should be “yes.”
8. Plan the Right Timing
Turns out, timing is everything. Most people wait until performance review season to ask for a salary adjustment, but by that time, your boss has probably already decided what raises will be doled out to the team.
Instead? “Start talking to your boss about getting a raise three to four months in advance,” writer and former human resources professional Suzanne Lucas of EvilHRLady.org told LearnVest. “That’s when they decide the budget.”
9. Prepare a One-Sheet
Prepare a “brag sheet,” recommends Kathleen O’Malley of Babble. “It’s a one-page summary that shows exactly how awesome you are as an employee. List any accomplishments, awards, and customer or co-worker testimonials (“You saved me when you did XYZ!” emails definitely count as testimonials!) you’ve received since your last review. You want to demonstrate your value to your boss.”
10. Remember Practice Makes Perfect
11. Set the Meeting for Thursday
We tend to start off the week more hard-nosed and even disagreeable, but become more flexible and accommodating as the week wears on. “Thursdays and Fridays find us most open to negotiation and compromise because we want to finish our work before the week is out,” reports Psychology Today.
Salary Negotiation Tips 12-20 Starting the Conversation
12. Power Up
Before you go into the negotiation, try Amy Cuddy’s tip of doing a “power pose”—in other words, going into the bathroom and standing tall with your hands on your hips, your chin and chest raised proud, and your feet firm on the ground. Doing so raises testosterone, which influences confidence and reduces the stress hormone cortisol.
13. Drink Some Coffee
14. Walk in With Confidence
“The way you enter a room can dictate how the rest of an interaction will be,” says James Clear. “Ever see someone slump through a doorway with a scowl on their face? Not very inspiring. Keep your head high and smile when you enter. Starting things off with a positive vibe is very important, no matter how small it is.”
15. Start With Questions
You should start the negotiation conversation by asking diagnostic questions to understand more about the other party’s true needs, desires, fears, preferences, and priorities. Professor Leigh Thompson at the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University says that 93% of all negotiators fail to ask these “diagnostic questions” in circumstances where getting them answered would significantly improve the outcome of negotiations.
16. Show What You Can Do
Remember that brag sheet? Now’s your chance to walk through your accomplishments with your manager. If possible, print a copy for your manager to look at while you summarize what you’ve achieved this year. You’ll want to specifically highlight times when you’ve gone above and beyond in your role, which will build the case that you deserve a raise. Then, be prepared with a few thoughts on what you’re excited to take on going forward—whether that’s freeing up some of your manager’s bandwidth by taking on an existing project, or proposing a new idea that you’re excited to own.
17. Focus on the Future, Not the Past
When negotiating the salary for a new job, it’s not uncommon for the company (or even a recruiter during the job search process!) to ask about your current salary. (Note that in many localities, doing so is now illegal.)
Instead, give your current number (including benefits, bonuses, and the like) and then quickly move the conversation along to explain the number you’re looking for, focusing on explaining your new skills or responsibilities, your market value, and how you’re looking to grow, explains Pynchon.
18. Think About the Other Person
When preparing for negotiating, get in the mindset of thinking about the situation from your opponent’s perspective, recommends career expert Steph Stern. Research by Columbia psychologist Adam Galinsky shows that when we consider the other person’s thoughts and interests, we are more likely to find solutions that work well for both of us.
19. Try Thinking About Someone Else
“So, in preparing to negotiate, think about how what you’re asking for will impact those around you: It’s not just for you, but also for your family and your future. It’s even for your employer! After all, if you are happier with your position and compensation, you’re more likely to work hard and be successful.”
20. Stay Positive, Not Pushy
Negotiation may be scary, but you should always keep the conversation on a positive note, recommends Forbes. “[Kick] off the conversation with something like, ‘I really enjoy working here and find my projects very challenging. In the last year, I’ve been feeling that the scope of my work has expanded quite a bit. I believe my roles and responsibilities, and my contributions have risen. I’d like to discuss with you the possibilities of reviewing my compensation.’”
Read more about negotiating job offers:
In some industries a weak labor market has also left candidates with fewer options and less leverage, and employers better positioned to dictate terms. Those who are unemployed, or whose current job seems shaky, have seen their bargaining power further reduced.
But job market complexity creates opportunities for people who can skillfully negotiate the terms and conditions of employment. After all, negotiation matters most when there is a broad range of possible outcomes.
As a professor who studies and teaches the subject, I frequently advise current and former students on navigating this terrain. For several years I have been offering a presentation on the topic to current students. (To see a video of this talk, go to www.NegotiateYourOffer.com.) Every situation is unique, but some strategies, tactics, and principles can help you address many of the issues people face in negotiating with employers. Here are 15 rules to guide you in these discussions.
This sounds basic, but it’s crucial: People are going to fight for you only if they like you. Anything you do in a negotiation that makes you less likable reduces the chances that the other side will work to get you a better offer. This is about more than being polite; it’s about managing some inevitable tensions in negotiation, such as asking for what you deserve without seeming greedy, pointing out deficiencies in the offer without seeming petty, and being persistent without being a nuisance. Negotiators can typically avoid these pitfalls by evaluating (for example, in practice interviews with friends) how others are likely to perceive their approach.
It’s not enough for them to like you. They also have to believe you’re worth the offer you want. Never let your proposal speak for itself—always tell the story that goes with it. Don’t just state your desire (a 15% higher salary, say, or permission to work from home one day a week); explain precisely why it’s justified (the reasons you deserve more money than others they may have hired, or that your children come home from school early on Fridays). If you have no justification for a demand, it may be unwise to make it. Again, keep in mind the inherent tension between being likable and explaining why you deserve more: Suggesting that you’re especially valuable can make you sound arrogant if you haven’t thought through how best to communicate the message.
People won’t want to expend political or social capital to get approval for a strong or improved offer if they suspect that at the end of the day, you’re still going to say, “No, thanks.” Who wants to be the stalking horse for another company? If you intend to negotiate for a better package, make it clear that you’re serious about working for this employer. Sometimes you get people to want you by explaining that everybody wants you. But the more strongly you play that hand, the more they may think that they’re not going to get you anyway, so why bother jumping through hoops? If you’re planning to mention all the options you have as leverage, you should balance that by saying why—or under what conditions—you would be happy to forgo those options and accept an offer.
Companies don’t negotiate; people do. And before you can influence the person sitting opposite you, you have to understand her. What are her interests and individual concerns? For example, negotiating with a prospective boss is very different from negotiating with an HR representative. You can perhaps afford to pepper the latter with questions regarding details of the offer, but you don’t want to annoy someone who may become your manager with seemingly petty demands. On the flip side, HR may be responsible for hiring 10 people and therefore reluctant to break precedent, whereas the boss, who will benefit more directly from your joining the company, may go to bat for you with a special request.
They may like you. They may think you deserve everything you want. But they still may not give it to you. Why? Because they may have certain ironclad constraints, such as salary caps, that no amount of negotiation can loosen. Your job is to figure out where they’re flexible and where they’re not. If, for example, you’re talking to a large company that’s hiring 20 similar people at the same time, it probably can’t give you a higher salary than everyone else. But it may be flexible on start dates, vacation time, and signing bonuses. On the other hand, if you’re negotiating with a smaller company that has never hired someone in your role, there may be room to adjust the initial salary offer or job title but not other things. The better you understand the constraints, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to propose options that solve both sides’ problems.
Many job candidates have been hit with difficult questions they were hoping not to face: Do you have any other offers? If we make you an offer tomorrow, will you say yes? Are we your top choice? If you’re unprepared, you might say something inelegantly evasive or, worse, untrue. My advice is to never lie in a negotiation. It frequently comes back to harm you, but even if it doesn’t, it’s unethical. The other risk is that, faced with a tough question, you may try too hard to please and end up losing leverage. The point is this: You need to prepare for questions and issues that would put you on the defensive, make you feel uncomfortable, or expose your weaknesses. Your goal is to answer honestly without looking like an unattractive candidate—and without giving up too much bargaining power. If you have thought in advance about how to answer difficult questions, you probably won’t forfeit one of those objectives.
Salary Negotiation Tips
- Have a salary range rather than a single figure: When pressed for your salary requirements, you should always be sure to offer a range based on what others in the field are earning, rather than a single fixed number, says Karen Lawson, founder and president of Lawson Consulting Group, Inc., a Pa.-based Management and organizational development consulting firm. Having an acceptable salary range helps you to negotiate and find compromise more easily.
- Don’t Sell Yourself Short: One common mistake when talking about previous salary is forgetting to include benefits as part of your total compensation, says author Don Hurzeler. For example, if you are earning $100,000 a year with a 20% bonus plus health, dental and other incidental benefits, you should answer the question by saying, “$120,000 plus generous benefits.”
- Practice your pitch at least once before the actual negotiation: Find someone to listen to your proposal for a salary increase , so you can feel the cadence of your speaking points out loud in a conversational setting. Much of a successful negotiation boils down to feeling comfortable and practiced.
- Be gracious: If you’re at all worried about coming across as demanding or ungrateful, there’s a very simple solution to that: be gracious. No matter the outcome, be understanding, appreciative, and thankful for the opportunity.
- Be confident in your delivery: It’s extremely important to put on your game face when the moment comes for negotiation. Bring confidence to the delivery of your pitch and in the negotiations that follow.
- Avoid accepting the first offer: If you need time to evaluate an offer, say so. Schedule your next meeting 24-48 hours out and come back with your counteroffer .
- Understand your leverage: Your negotiating power will vary depending on your current employment situation. For example, if you are unemployed and applying for work, expect to earn approximately what your old salary was or slightly less, says author Don Hurzeler.
- “Can I negotiate this offer?” Make sure to start off by asking if the offer is negotiable in the first place.
- “Besides the base pay, what other benefits are negotiable?” This can include medical insurance, support for education and training, paid leave, vacation time , moving expenses, and 401(k) contributions, just to name a few.
- “How did you calculate this number?” By asking this question, you’ll be able to see if the number you’re being offered is a hard cap or a potential springboard for negation.
- “What’s the outlook for salary raises or promotions?” Whether or not your salary offer is negotiable, it’s important to know what the future potential is for a raise or promotion .
- “What metrics do you use to evaluate the success of employees?” This is an important follow-up question to ask in salary negotiations and, if you end up working for the company, this information will help the next time you’re back at the negotiating table .
- “Can I get the salary offer in writing?” Verbally settling on a negotiation in your favor is great, but it doesn’t mean anything until it’s on paper.
What to Do After a Salary Negotiation
If your salary increase also came with a new job title, that’s more of a promotion than a salary negotiation. But even if you still have the same job, your responsibilities still might increase if you were given a pay raise . Since you stepped up and showed your worth, you’ll have to prove you were right about deserving more pay.
If you didn’t get something in writing, make sure you get a letter or e-mail from your boss with the details of the new role outlining what they expect from you. Most importantly, make sure you know when your job changes — whether it’s immediately, or at the start of the next quarter.
As you go back to work post-negotiation , you might find your boss trusting you more or asking for your input on bigger decisions. Moreover, after they’ve seen the kind of confidence you have and how you view your work performance at the company, they will likely have greater respect for you.
Salary negotiations can be tough and nervewracking, but when you have a successful discussion, it sends at least two positive messages to your boss. The first is that you have plans to stick around at the company for a while , which is a good sign to any leader. The second is that you’re someone who is focused on the value of the work that they do and your boss will respect that directness and negotiation prowess.
If you have any more questions about how to negotiate your salary or calculating your salary , here are some related articles we’ve written on salary negotiations and gathering job market data to build your case for a higher salary.