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.
How to Negotiate Salary: Tips You Need to Know
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A survey by Salary.com revealed that only 37% of people always negotiate their salaries—while an astonishing 18% never do. Even worse, 44% of respondents claim to have never brought up the subject of a raise during their performance reviews.
Here’s a good example: A famous study done by Linda Babcock for her book Women Don’t Ask revealed that only about 7% of women attempted to negotiate their first salary, while 57% of men did. Of those people who negotiated, they were able to increase their salary by over 7%.
That may not sound like much, but as Stanford negotiation professor Margaret A. Neale puts it: If you get a $100,000 salary and your co-worker negotiates up to $107,000, assuming you’re treated identically from then on, with the same raises and promotions, you’d have to work eight years longer to be as wealthy as them at retirement.
Do your research
Students should go into a salary negotiation “prepared with a desired salary,” DiNiso said, based on the starting salary in your field. And, although “salaries will vary greatly, this number will give you a ballpark estimate of what you should be making and help you determine your salary goals.”
The team at Handshake, a job network for college students, suggests checking on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and searching for your specific job title to gauge a typical pay range, which will vary by location. (Jobs in New York City, for example, typically pay more than those in more suburban or rural areas just because the cost of living is higher.)
David Paykin, who has amassed over 1.7 million followers on TikTok and has huge followings on other social media, has helped many college students, recent graduates and young professionals in their job search. He suggests doing research across several sites including PayScale, SalaryList, Salary.com, Levels.fyi, Indeed, Glassdoor and other sites to really get a sense of the salary range.
Rules for Negotiating a Job Offer
In some industries, a weak labor market has 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 the complexity of the job market creates opportunities for people to negotiate the terms and conditions of employment. Negotiation matters most when there is a broad range of potential outcomes.
There are 15 rules for negotiating a job offer. One is “don’t underestimate the importance of likeability,” which means managing inevitable tensions in negotiation, being persistent without being a nuisance, and understanding how other people perceive your approach. Another rule is “make it clear they can get you.” Indicate that you’re serious about working for a potential employer, and don’t discourage them from trying to win you by suggesting you have too many better options. You should also “be prepared for tough questions,” like Are we your top choice? Don’t lie or try too hard to please, lest you lose your leverage. And “consider the whole deal,” including the job’s perks, location, opportunities for growth, and flexibility in work hours—not just the salary. These and other guidelines can help you attain the terms and conditions of employment you want.
You’re in a third-round interview for a job at a company you like, but a firm you admire even more just invited you in. Suddenly the first hiring manager cuts to the chase: “As you know, we’re considering many candidates. We like you, and we hope the feeling is mutual. If we make you a competitive offer, will you accept it?”
You’ve received an offer for a job you’ll enjoy, but the salary is lower than you think you deserve. You ask your potential boss whether she has any flexibility. “We typically don’t hire people with your background, and we have a different culture here,” she responds. “This job isn’t just about the money. Are you saying you won’t take it unless we increase the pay?”
You’ve been working happily at your company for three years, but a recruiter has been calling, insisting that you could earn much more elsewhere. You don’t want to quit, but you expect to be compensated fairly, so you’d like to ask for a raise. Unfortunately, budgets are tight, and your boss doesn’t react well when people try to leverage outside offers. What do you do?
Each of these situations is difficult in its own way—and emblematic of how complex job negotiations can be. At many companies, compensation increasingly comes in the form of stock, options, and bonuses linked to both personal and group performance. In MBA recruitment, more companies are using “exploding” offers or sliding-scale signing bonuses based on when a candidate accepts the job, complicating attempts to compare offers. With executive mobility on the rise, people vying for similar positions often have vastly different backgrounds, strengths, and salary histories, making it hard for employers to set benchmarks or create standard packages.
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.
Tips to prepare for salary negotiation
1. Start by evaluating what you have to offer
Geographic location: Consider the cost of living in your geographic location. For example, you might require a higher salary in San Francisco than in Minneapolis for the same set of responsibilities because it generally costs more to live there.
Licenses and certifications: An employer may require or prefer that you have specific licenses or certifications. If you already have them, you might be in a good position to request greater compensation.
When you begin your salary negotiation, be sure to reiterate why you’ll be a valuable employee and consider using the above factors to justify your desired salary.
2. Research the market average
. Knowing the market average can give you a good baseline for your salary request and can even be used as justification. This tool uses salaries listed from past and present job postings on Indeed as well as data submitted anonymously by other Indeed users. Here are some questions to consider as you begin your market research:
3. Prepare your talking points
As you’re developing negotiation notes, it might be helpful to answer the following question as a framework for your conversation: Why do you feel you deserve a higher salary than the one the employer is offering? Put together a few talking points before you contact the employer and be as specific as possible. Those details might include information like:
4. Schedule a time to discuss
Reach out to the recruiter or hiring manager to set up a time to speak over the phone. While it’s acceptable to negotiate over email, it’s highly encouraged for the conversation to happen over the phone. Speaking over the phone or in-person allows you to have a back-and-forth conversation, express gratitude and clearly communicate your requirements. Try to be respectful and clear as the recruiter or hiring manager will be the ones advocating for your salary to the decision-makers.
5. Rehearse with a trusted friend
and identify areas of improvement. The best way to practice would be in front of a trusted friend or colleague that can provide helpful feedback. Alternatively, you can try recording your conversation on a camera or speaking in front of a mirror.
6. Be confident
Delivering your negotiation with confidence is as important as the words you say. The more confidence you convey, the more confident the employer will be in their consideration of your feedback. Confidence, an appreciation of our own abilities and qualities, should not be confused with arrogance, an exaggerated sense of our importance. Lack of confidence can also result in over-explaining or apologizing for your ask, neither of which is helpful in a negotiation scenario. Instead, confidently and simply state your requested salary, including a brief summary of your reasoning.
Remember that you’re bringing an important set of skills and experience to the organization. The pay an employer offers should account for the value you provide. If you feel the employer’s original offer is below the value that aligns with your skills and experiences, be prepared with researched market salary research and personal value data that supports your ask and be confident in your decision to ask for more.
7. Lead with gratitude
Once you reach the job offer phase of the hiring process, you’ve probably invested a great deal of time and energy applying and interviewing for the position. The employer has also invested time in the process, so it’s crucial you recognize this and thank them for considering you for the opportunity. Be sure to share any specific reasons why you’re excited about the job, such as the culture or the product.
8. Ask for the top of your range
One fundamental rule of salary negotiation is to give the employer a slightly higher number than your goal. This way, if they negotiate down, you’ll still end up with a salary offer you feel comfortable accepting. If you provide a salary range, the employer will likely err on the lower end, so be sure the lowest number you provide is still an amount you feel is fair.
9. Share job-related expenses you’re incurring
Another reason you may ask for an increased salary is to cover any costs you’re accumulating by taking the job. For example, if you’re relocating to a new city for the job, you’ll have to pay moving expenses as well as any costs associated with selling or leasing your current home. If you’re taking a position further away from home, you’ll have to factor in commute expenses such as train fare or gas and wear and tear on your vehicle. It’s not unusual for candidates to ask employers to adjust the salary to account for expenses related to accepting the position.
10. Prepare for tough questions
Recruiters and hiring managers negotiate often, so they will likely be prepared to ask important, sometimes intimidating questions to figure out your motivations. It’s important not to get rattled by these questions and to remain honest. Some questions you can expect include:
Salary negotiation email examples
Thank you for sending over the job offer package for the Marketing Director position. I want to state again how honored I am to be considered for this exciting position and appreciate you sharing these details.
Before I can accept your offer, I want to address the proposed compensation. As I shared with your recruiting manager, I have more than ten years of experience in digital marketing and have worked in leadership positions for the past six years. In my last role, I increased the number of marketing-influenced leads by nearly 40% year over year and helped secure the company a 25% higher annual revenue. Given my experience and expertise, I am seeking a salary in the range of $125,000 to $130,000, which is slightly higher than your offer of $115,000.
Salary negotiation conversation example
“Thank you for sending over the job offer package for the Regional Sales Manager position. First and foremost, I want to reiterate how excited I am about the opportunity. I believe in your product and know I could help you drive even greater results.
As I shared during the interview process, I have more than 12 years’ experience in sales, including eight years of experience in medical equipment sales, and two more years of management experience than stated in the job description. In my last role, my team exceeded the monthly quota by 15% for two years in a row and landed three of the largest accounts in company history.
Given my background, I am seeking a salary in the range of $145,000 to $150,000. I am definitely open to discussing alternative compensation, such as opportunities for additional stock options or increased performance-based bonuses. I’d love to hear your thoughts.”
Salary negotiation is a critical step in the hiring process. By taking the time to talk through why you feel you need more compensation, you can help employers better understand the value you provide. As with any new skill, the more you negotiate, the more you’ll improve and the easier it will become. By using the above tips to negotiate your salary, you can walk into the conversation confident, prepared and ready to secure the pay you deserve.