People who negotiate their salary increase their starting pay by an average of $5,000.
That’s an extra $5,000 just for implementing some tips from this article! You got this!
Even 70% of employers expect salary negotiation after an initial job offer. Still, less than half of job seekers negotiate at all. If you feel intimidated or uncomfortable about asking for more money, you aren’t alone.
Here is everything you need to know about negotiating a salary, including what to say and when, plus templates for both phone and e-mail negotiations.
Do’s and Don’ts: How to Negotiate Salary
Failing to negotiate your salary could leave you feeling undervalued or less satisfied with your job. But it can be nerve-wracking to negotiate a salary, especially after a lengthy job search.
- What if they say no?
- What if they try to lowball me?
- What if they take back their original offer?
These fears are perfectly normal, but the odds are in your favor—over 80% of young professionals who ask for higher pay succeed in their negotiation. The old saying goes, “closed mouths don’t get fed.” Speaking up and asking for higher pay could land you more money, benefits, and confidence in your negotiation abilities.
The key to successful salary negotiation is knowing how to present yourself professionally and confidently. Here are the do’s and don’ts:
|Do’s of Salary Negotiation||Don’ts of Salary Negotiation|
|Do research pay brackets for similar positions||Don’t show up unprepared|
|Do be confident||Don’t apologize|
|Do use positive wording||Don’t say “No.”|
|Do embrace silence||Don’t rush the conversation|
|Do ask for advice from others||Don’t lie about how much you earn|
|Do take notes||Don’t forget written documentation (this may come after the negotiation)|
|Do follow up||Don’t leave without saying thank you|
|Do focus on collaboration and win-win solutions||Don’t try to compete or make it you vs. them|
A huge and common mistake people make before salary negotiations is failing to prepare. They show up with strong opinions about what they deserve and no evidence to back them up. This is when negotiations can flop, and new hires often leave feeling defeated.
Wise negotiators understand that you shouldn’t rush into an agreement without proper research and planning about what you will say in different scenarios. Preparation makes you far more confident and calm during the negotiation process.
We’ll explain these do’s and don’ts in more depth below.
Should You Always Negotiate Salary?
It’s normal to ask for higher pay or more benefits before accepting a job offer. Most professionals agree that you should always negotiate salary when starting a new job. This is likely the easiest and most crucial time to talk about money. If you neglect to negotiate at the time of hiring, it could be slightly more difficult (but possible) to get a raise later.
You could compare this early process to dating someone before you get serious—you want to test the waters and see how your new employer will respond before you commit. Your willingness to advocate yourself in the interview process can also be perceived as greater professionalism and confidence in your contributions to the workplace.
However, there are a few instances where you should not negotiate your salary (or wait to do so):
- Don’t negotiate your salary until the company has made a firm offer.
- Don’t negotiate salary during the first interview.
- Don’t try to restart negotiations after accepting an offer.
Why Should You Negotiate Salary?
Money is the most apparent reason to negotiate your salary, but you should talk numbers during the hiring process for several other reasons. The workplace is competitive, and if an employer has already gone through the hiring process with you, it is in their best interest to seal the deal.
You should negotiate your salary because:
- You can earn more money: One Glassdoor study found that the average American could make about $7,500 more per year if they negotiated their salary at the time of hiring.
- They’re expecting it: Recruiters are prepared to talk about money and usually don’t feel offended by potential hires who try to negotiate. One study found that over 80% of employers expect job applicants to negotiate during interviews. They likely already have a salary range and are trying to get you to agree to the low end, but you can convince them you deserve the higher number.
- There is less risk than you think: You will unlikely lose a job offer just because you try to negotiate. In a survey of 1,000 companies, nearly 90% of employers say they have never rescinded a job offer because of negotiations during an interview.
- You could look better: People who advocate for themselves in a salary negotiation can be perceived more positively. You may seem like a go-getter who knows their value! By researching, clearly communicating your needs, and making a compromise, you demonstrate the exact skills the company is looking for. After all, negotiation skills are people skills, and modern companies want emotionally intelligent workers. Negotiation can show off your communication skills and willingness to collaborate.
When to Negotiate Salary: The Best Time to Negotiate
The hiring process is the perfect time to negotiate your salary, but it’s best practice to avoid salary discussions during an interview. Wait until you get an official job offer to start negotiating. This gives you leverage because you are sure they want to hire you. After getting the offer, you will have time to prepare for your negotiation before you meet with the recruiter and accept or decline the offer.
Key Caveat: The timing and touch points on salary discussion vary by position level and industry. A corporate-level position may include a multi-level interview process where you wait until the end to discuss salary. On the other hand, an entry-level position may only have 1-2 interviews, and you will need to discuss pay immediately. Use the tips below to ask people in your industry for specific advice about the best timing for negotiation.
12 Salary Negotiation Tips: Top Negotiation Strategies
Salary negotiation is a bit like a poker game—your potential employer wants to hire you but spends the least money they can get away with. Still, you want to bargain for the highest salary possible. Winning the game means finding common ground where you are both happy: the company gets a fantastic hire, and you get the wage you deserve! Here is how to do it:
1. Do your homework
The preparation work is the most important (and overlooked) step of salary negotiation. Do not accept a job offer without knowing how much people in your desired position usually get paid. This can help you leverage your skills while showing you are knowledgeable of industry standards.
Take into account:
- Your experience
- Your unique assets
- Your current salary
- The company’s competitors
- Other job offers you have
- The specific location you’re in
Job listing sites are the most accessible place to start researching. Some companies will disclose their salary range for specific job openings. Use these resources to know how much other companies pay for similar positions:
Pro Tip: If you can’t find any salary clues for your position, reach out to recruiters for the jobs you don’t want. This may sound counterintuitive, but it can give you insights into the expected salary for a role without risking premature salary talk with the company you want to work for. Call back the headhunters or recruiters who have contacted you and ask them about the expected salary or a salary range for that position.
You can say:
- “Hi John, you recently contacted me about the open X position at XYZ Company. I am curious about the expected salary range for this role?”
- “Hello, thanks for contacting me about the open position at XYZ Company. What salary range are you offering for the position?”
2. Consider the whole compensation package.
Money talks, but there is much more to a job than pay. Before entering a negotiation, you need to define what other benefits you prefer to get from a company. Ask yourself, “Is this non-negotiable?” or, “Would I be willing to compromise for a lower salary if I received this benefit?”
Potential perks include:
- Stock options
- Paid vacation days
- Extra vacation time
- Flexible hours and schedule
- A higher job title (for example, manager level rather than assistant manager)
- Affordable health insurance
- Paid maternity leave
- Free lunches
- Tuition reimbursement
- Gym membership reimbursement
- Professional development
- Signing bonus
- Opportunities for promotion
- Remote work reimbursement
When a company is unwilling to budge on its salary range, you can get a leg-up by advocating for non-monetary compensation as part of your benefits package.
3. Know how to communicate your value
The most daunting yet vital question of a job interview process is usually:
Why should we hire you?
How you answer this question can make or break your salary negotiation. If you want to ask for more money than what they offered, you need to enunciate exactly why you deserve a higher salary. Have specific phrases rehearsed and ready before a negotiation. For example:
- Know your strengths: “I excel at working independently and solving problems on my own while still knowing when I need to reach out for help. For example, when my office switched to 100% remote work, it recognized me for maintaining double the productivity of my colleagues.”
- Know what they’re looking for: “I understand that you are looking for people who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about digital marketing. I have been in the social media space for over 5 years and absolutely love using photos and videos to engage with customers. I helped my previous employer gain 50,000 followers on various channels and achieved a 5% conversion rate from Instagram alone.”
- Your key accomplishments: “In previous positions, I led my team in doubling the YOY revenue of my department, launching a successful new marketing campaign, and signing on over 100 new clients.”
- Specific examples of your expertise: “After finishing my degree in software engineering, I helped my university develop an entirely new program for course registration and student management. It recognized me for my critical contributions to project organization and execution.”
Whenever possible, try to show rather than tell. Interviewers love candidates who can give specific examples of their skillset. Instead of saying, “I have a positive mindset, and I’m a team player,” you can say, “When my last company was severely short-staffed and stressed, my boss regularly thanked me for showing up with a smile and motivating my colleagues with friendly reminders.”
Remember to sell yourself as more than just a cog in the machine. Show how you can add value to the company and help them achieve their goals (so they can help you achieve yours). This will justify why you deserve a higher starting salary.
4. Determine your salary range
Most companies already have a salary budget with a low value and a high point. You should go into a job offer conversation with a range of your own.
Begin by defining your low point: What is the lowest base salary you can accept to meet ends? If there are no other alternatives around the corner, this is the rate you would feel financially comfortable with. This number is mainly based on your cost of living and previous employment.
Define your midpoint: Based on your research in step #1, this is the salary people like you usually make. It is a realistic, data-backed number that makes sense for your skillset and years in the industry.
Set your high point: This is your dream salary. It would feel like you already got a raise and promotion before starting the job. While we all would love to ask for a million-dollar salary upfront, this still needs to be a realistic number based on your experience. It is often the higher number listed for similar positions. If you can justify why you would be such a valuable asset to this company, this number may even be “off the charts” from standard pay ranges for your industry.
Now, ditch the low point and set your salary range between mid and high points. Memorize these two numbers for every negotiation with prospective employers.
5. Don’t negotiate during screening interviews.
If you talk money too early on, you may not get the results you hope for. When on a recruiter screening call or in an initial phone interview, deflect any questions about salary. Avoid being too specific immediately, so there is more room for negotiation later.
If they press you for an answer to “What salary do you want for this position?”, you can respond with:
- “I’d prefer to have this discussion after an offer has been made. In any case, I trust that the benefits package will be appropriate for my experience and the industry. In the meantime, could you tell me more about the role?”
- “I’m confident that a company such as X would compensate their employees fairly based on their experience and added value.”
- “I don’t want to limit the possibilities because there is much more important to me, like culture, fit, benefits, and room for growth.”
Key Caveat: This strategy works best for larger companies and corporations. If you are interviewing with a small company or low-budget startup, it could be better to communicate your salary expectations right off the bat, so there is no confusion about your needs.
6. Deflect questions about your current salary…if it is not in the range you are hoping for
Sometimes, an interviewer will use a similar tactic to the recruiter above by asking, “What is your current salary?” They may be trying to figure out how low you are willing to go. But you don’t want to give them a low point this early in the interview process! You should also try to deflect this question with something like:
- “My current company keeps employee compensation confidential. Unfortunately, I cannot share it with you. However, if you share the salary range for this open position, I can confirm whether or not my current salary is within that range.”
- “I am not currently authorized to reveal my compensation while still employed at my current company, but I can confirm if it is within the salary range, you have set for this position.”
- “My current total compensation package amounts to about X dollars.”
Pro Tip: By including the value of your benefits in the number you share, this clever strategy makes your current salary sound higher than it is while still being truthful. For example, you can add paid vacation days, the value of your health insurance and the cost of your tuition reimbursement onto your salary number and call it your “total compensation package” value. Ideally, you should only go with this strategy if the number matches the low point of your range.
If they continue to pressure for a number, turn the question on them and ask, “What salary range do you have to offer?”
While it may be awkward to divert salary questions, it can play in your favor later in the hiring process. Sometimes there are as many as 2-3 rounds of interviews for a position. In the initial screening and interview(s), focusing on selling your value proposition and avoiding money conversations is important.
Next up, see if you notice some of these Hidden Signs You Got the Job After an Interview. They may mean it’s time to prepare for a negotiation. A few indicators that you might get a job offer after an interview include:
- Specific compliments on your skills and experience
- Engaging with you for longer than the initially scheduled time
- Discussing benefits and rewards for the position
- Giving you a specific date, you can expect to hear back from them
7. Start the salary negotiation process after you get an offer.
Once they have extended a job and salary offer, it is time to talk numbers via phone or email. After several interviews, the company is already quite invested in you. This is the point when you have the most bargaining power. You have already built a personal relationship with them, and they have spent a lot of time and money on the interview process. Hiring managers usually prepare for this discussion during the job offer.
The conversation may go one of two ways…
The phone negotiation:
Employer: “We are happy to extend you this offer for $ salary.”
You: “Thank you! I am excited about this offer, but it is slightly less than I had hoped. Is there any wiggle room?”
Employer: “Yes, we are willing to negotiate. What pay range are you looking for?”
If you’re already ready, this is the time to dig right into the negotiating strategies below.
The “let me get back to you”:
Employer: “Hello, we are excited to offer you X job for $ salary.”
You: “Thank you so much for the offer. I am honored that you have considered me. I will get back to you within X days.”
If you aren’t ready to negotiate yet, this response buys you some time to do more research and consider your next move. Ensure your response is quick, so they don’t offer the position to somebody else.
This is a scenario where you need to use the counteroffer resources below.
8. How to negotiate salary over the phone or in-person
Once the salary conversation door opens, the game begins! It helps to think about negotiation as a friendly poker game rather than a dreadful dentist visit.
- The interviewer comes to the conversation with a predetermined range they want to pay for the position.
- They want you to volunteer for or agree to the lower number.
- You want the higher number or go off the charts to meet your dream number.
- But neither of you knows what the others’ numbers are.
If you play your cards right, you can learn the company’s range first, then ask for what you want. The research and preparation from above help you have more leverage by actually backing up your statements or asks with real evidence.
Before entering a negotiation, author Don Greene of Fight Your Fear and Win recommends setting a clear intention. What do you want most from this negotiation? Answer this question in one sentence before proceeding, for example:
- I want to achieve my high-point salary goal.
- I want a 20% salary increase from the original job offer.
- I want a signing bonus of $5,000.
- I want a comprehensive benefits package with health insurance, 2 weeks of paid vacation, and maternal leave.
Next, brainstorm how you can phrase this goal to make it mutually beneficial for you and your prospective employer. Use these template scripts to respond to different negotiation scenarios:
- If the proposed salary was too low: “I’d like to discuss the salary in your offer. After researching the compensation for someone in a similar role with the same education and experience level, I expected a range around [your midpoint to high point]. Given my background and expertise, would you be willing to reconsider the salary offer?”
- If they ask about the salary range you are looking for: “My research shows that similar positions have a starting salary of $. Based on my excellent sales records, positive self-starting attitude, and reputation in the industry, I would be delighted with a salary around [your midpoint to high point].”
- If you want to negotiate benefits: “While I am satisfied with the base salary, my only concern is the commute time to your downtown office. To save time, I would love the opportunity to work remotely from my home office at least two days per week. This would not cost the company any extra expenses, and I am confident I can be equally productive from home while saving on transportation and time. Would this agreement work for you?”
- If they won’t budge on salary: “I understand that you have a set budget for this position. If you cannot meet my requested salary range, would you be willing to negotiate some additions to my benefits package? Given my five years of management experience and excellently reviewed leadership skills, I would appreciate an extra week of paid vacation and stock options as part of my compensation package. Is this at all possible?”
These strategically-worded scripts put you in the position to win because they sell your value while respectfully asking for the exact dollar amounts or benefits you desire.
Learn about How to Negotiate (With 12 Science-Backed Strategies to Win) in this video with Vanessa Van Edwards:
9. Speak with confidence
A confident delivery is a must whether you’re having a salary negotiation over the phone or in person. You want to sound assertive and assured that your value as an employee matches your requested salary. Once you know what you want to say, practice exactly how you want to say it.
To sound more confident during a negotiation, remember to:
- Speak louder and lower: Research shows that people who speak louder and lower tend to have a perception as more authoritative. This is especially important if you are a woman because speaking too softly can be passive. Don’t do anything radical to change your voice; practice speaking at the lower end of your range.
- Avoid upspeak: Upspeak, or High Rising Terminal, is a pronunciation quirk that makes the end of a sentence sound like a question. It can make you sound nervous, subordinate, or less confident. Instead, imagine your statements ending in a period. Don’t raise your inflection at the end. For example, don’t say, “My salary range is $60-70k?” Confidently declare, “My salary range is $60k to $70k.”
- Speak moderately fast: Speaking too slow can make you sound hesitant, but speaking too fast can make you sound rushed or nervous. Studies have found that people who talk moderately fast (about 195 words per minute) seem more intelligent, persuasive, and attractive. Measure your voice with a Metronome app for Android or iOS and try to land in the 150-200 word per minute range.
- Avoid uncertain phrases: “Um,” “maybe,” “like,” and, “I think” make people sound unsure of what they’re saying. If you find yourself hesitating or trying to use filler words, allow yourself to pause and take a deep breath before continuing.
Action Step: Use this guide on How to Speak With Confidence and Sound Better or watch the video below to find your maximum resonance point or the optimal rate where your voice sounds the most like a confident leader.
10. Use this counteroffer email template
Email is arguably the least effective way to negotiate a salary, but it can be very effective for making a counteroffer. Phone calls or face-to-face meetings allow you to leverage your charisma as part of your negotiation, but some circumstances may warrant negotiation through email. Use this counteroffer template as a guide:
Dear Mr. Hailey,
I am honored that you have offered me the Junior VP of Marketing at Company X. I am passionate about your company and firmly believe the workplace culture perfectly fits my personality and skill set.
However, before accepting this exciting new position, I would like to discuss the salary and benefits Company X has offered.
[Stop here if you want to make a scheduled phone call to discuss a negotiation.]
In my eight years of marketing experience, I have done X, Y, and Z accomplishments. I have also found that similar industry positions offer [salary range]. Because this is a Vice President position, I feel that a higher salary would better match my expertise. My ideal range is [your juicy counterpoint offer], plus [additional desired benefits]. I am confident I can achieve your company’s X, Y, and Z objectives.
Please let me know if this is a possibility. I look forward to joining your team.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Email allows directness, but you must be careful not to sound demanding or stubborn. Salary negotiations are not about sizing up a competition between you versus the hiring manager. Instead, think of it as a collaborative process where you can find common ground that makes both parties happy.
11. Do a mock negotiation play with a friend or family member
Practicing your negotiation with someone you trust is a simple way to prepare before the big day. Studies show mock negotiations improve confidence, negotiation tactics, and conflict management strategies.
Moreover, a study from Columbia Business School found that one of the critical challenges of negotiation is that people often don’t know how others perceive their assertiveness. Do you sound too intense or too nervous? It can be hard to tell without an external opinion.
Here is how to do a mock negotiation:
- Find a trusted friend or family member, preferably someone with similar experience in corporate America or your industry. Bonus points if they seem to have a similar personality to the person interviewing or hiring you.
- Give them a list of potential questions or counters you think the hiring manager might use.
- Go over several scenarios, such as the employer asking for your desired salary range, rejecting your higher salary request, or trying to lowball you.
- Practice different responses and possible challenges.
- Ask for their honest opinion about your responses. Do they think you were too pushy or too passive?
12. Ask for a raise before you leave your old job
If you plan to leave a job, this can be an excellent opportunity to negotiate a raise. It may sound strange, but asking for a raise before you plan to quit could play in your favor by increasing your base salary rate at a new job. Your new base rate will give you the confidence to ask for more in the future.
Or, if you don’t get any other job offers, a raise could make you more likely to stay at your current job.
Since you’re already planning to leave, what do you have to lose? As long as you’ve maintained a good relationship with your boss, asking for a raise should not harm your reputation (especially if you can back it up with superb examples of your hard work ethic).
Learn more about How to Ask Your Boss for a Raise at Work (with Examples!). The key points include:
- The best time for a raise is before budgeting, during your annual review, after you’ve completed a big project, or if you have a new job opportunity.
- Use the “slow burn method” to make a soft sell. Before directly planning a money conversation, slowly present the idea of a raise by asking about growth plans, showcasing your achievements, and demonstrating your investment in the company.
- Set your benchmark ahead of time. A 3-5% salary raise is usually standard. Be sure that you do your research before entering a raise negotiation.
Key Takeaways: Approach Salary Negotiations Like a Poker Game & Don’t Reveal Your Chips Too Early
Negotiating a higher salary doesn’t have to be a dreadful experience. Instead, it is an empowering opportunity to practice your superb people skills and advocate for yourself. For the most negotiation success, remember to:
- Avoid salary negotiations early on: The best time to start talking about money is after a job offer has been made. Salary negotiations during recruiter screenings or an initial interview could leave you selling yourself short or missing out on the job opportunity.
- Know your worth and don’t sell yourself short: What was your impact at your previous job? What are they missing without you? What unique qualities do you bring to the table that excite a company to hire you? Write and practice a scripted explanation of what makes you deserving of a higher salary, including detailed examples of your awesomeness.
- Do your homework: Research the salary range of people in similar positions with the same experience and education level. Equip yourself with a thorough knowledge of pay scales in your industry. Never show up to a negotiation unprepared.
- Set a low, mid, and high point salary range: Clear numbers are the name of the game! Know precisely what you need and want for your salary.
- Don’t forget about benefits: Get very clear on the non-monetary compensation you hope to receive, such as perks and job benefits. These may be helpful bargaining tactics if the employer refuses to budge on salary.
Whether you are trying to land your dream job or reach a higher pay bracket, you may encounter some roadblocks. Don’t get discouraged— this happens to all of us! The job market is incredibly competitive, and it takes some work to stand out. Learn to set yourself apart with this complete guide on How to Get a Job You Really Want: From Resume to Interview.