How to Negotiate Salary

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How to Negotiate Salary

Once you get a job offer from an employer with a compensation and benefits package, you might breathe a sigh of relief. But just because you’ve been offered a job doesn’t mean that’s the end of the story. You can usually negotiate for a better salary. 

Here’s how to negotiate salary and get that discussion to a favorable outcome. 

How to negotiate your salary in 14 steps

Here’s a step-by-step guide on carrying the conversation around salary negotiation.

1. Understand your value

Know what value you bring to the organization. Is it your expertise? Maybe you have a high-end skill set, or your education is highly sought after. Whatever it may be, clearly articulate your value and why you deserve a higher salary. Here are some things that can set you apart: 

  • Career level 
  • Skills
  • Years of leadership/industry experience 
  • Licenses 
  • Certifications

The Program on Negotiation at the Harvard Law School further recommends knowing your vulnerabilities during salary negotiation (e.g., a gap in work history) and how you can address or offset them.

2. Research the market rates for your position and industry

Use websites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Payscale, and LinkedIn to research what the market is paying for similar roles in your industry and location. It’s important to have this information before you go in for the negotiation to ensure your proposed salary is realistic and competitive. 

You don’t have to stick to a specific number. Instead, have a range in mind for flexibility. 

3. Learn BATNA

In salary negotiations, having a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA) establishes a fallback option for you. That way, you have a safety net to walk away from a negotiation if needed. It also provides the context to compare your alternatives more objectively. If you’re being offered a good deal, then you’ll be able to clearly see the logic in accepting it! 

4. Practice your conversation

Plan ahead, anticipate their questions, and have your talking points ready. You can even practice with a friend or family member to gain confidence and refine your answers. 

5. Schedule the meeting

Schedule a meeting with your employer at an appropriate time. Avoid approaching them when they are busy or stressed. It’s best to have the meeting in person so that your tone and body language can be accurately conveyed.

Also, schedule enough time for the discussion. Rushing through a salary negotiation may not be effective.

6. Avoid discussing salary too early in the interview process

Let the interview take its course and wait until they bring up the topic of salary. If you bring it up too early, it may give the impression that you are solely interested in money rather than the job itself.

Discuss other aspects of the job such as responsibilities, growth opportunities, remote work options, and company culture before bringing up salary. 

7. Ask questions

Ask open-ended questions to better understand the company’s compensation philosophy and how they determine salaries. For example, you can ask about the company’s process for evaluating employee performance and how that ties into salary increases

Don’t react negatively if the offered salary is lower than your expectations. Instead, ask questions like: 

  • What is this job’s compensation based on? 
  • Is there room for growth and salary increases in the future? 
  • Are there any other negotiables, such as life insurance or vacation time, besides salary?

8. Be open to negotiating the total compensation package

If it’s not possible to negotiate monetary compensation, consider negotiating other aspects of the job such as benefits, bonus structure, work-life balance, or professional development opportunities. 

For example, you could ask for a signing bonus, additional vacation time, or the opportunity to work remotely a few days a week. 

9. Anticipate tough questions from the interviewer

Recruiters can often ask intimidating questions related to compensation. Be prepared for them. They might ask you about other offers or if their company is your top choice. Answer honestly, but also emphasize your interest in the position. 

10. Listen actively to the employer’s concerns

The recruiter will tell you why the salary is what it is. Listen to their concerns and try to understand their perspective. Use their responses to come up with more effective counter arguments. For example, if they say the company is on a tight budget, you can suggest a salary review after a probation period. 

11. Stay professional throughout the negotiation

Staying professional throughout the negotiation process is a must. Do not let emotions take over, and remember to always be respectful and courteous. If the negotiation does not go as planned, do not burn bridges with the employer. Express your gratitude for their time and consideration. 

12. Address your concerns simultaneously

Instead of going over your concerns one by one, address them simultaneously. It shows the recruiter that you came prepared. Let’s say you want a higher salary and flexible working hours. You could discuss an increase while also negotiating for a flexible schedule. This way, you can find a middle ground that works for both parties. 

For example, if the employer cannot meet your salary expectations, they might be able to offer more flexible hours. 

13. Take your time

Do not feel pressured to make a decision on the spot. Take your time to review the offer and assess if it aligns with your career goals and the salary you had in mind. You can ask for a day or two to think things over if needed. 

14. Be prepared to walk away

Now, this might be the hardest part, but sometimes, the best decision is to walk away from a negotiation if the offer does not meet your expectations. Weigh your options carefully to determine if the proposed salary is worth it. Maybe the job site is closer to your home, or you’re getting a great benefits package. You could also take up side hustles to supplement your income. 

If you’re not seeing any silver lining, it’s better to politely decline and continue your job search. 

Get paid what you deserve

Now that you know how to negotiate salary, you can take these tips and apply them to your next job offer. Do your research beforehand, prepare your points, ask questions, and remain professional. More importantly, be confident in your worth, and don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. 


Should you negotiate salary immediately after the offer?

Wait for a written offer before beginning negotiations. If you’ve only received verbal approval, ask for a written offer before proceeding with negotiations.

How much is OK to negotiate salary?

You can negotiate up to 10-20% higher than the initial offer. If the salary is already in the upper range of your expectations but you think you can raise it a bit more, go for 5% to 7%.

What not to say in salary negotiation?

Avoid mentioning personal expenses or financial struggles as reasons for needing a higher salary as it may come off as unprofessional and could weaken your negotiation stance. Instead, focus on the value you bring to the company and the market rate for similar positions. 

Should I negotiate salary over email or phone?

It’s best to negotiate salary in person or over the phone if possible, as it allows for a more personal and immediate conversation. However, if circumstances do not allow for it, email should be the last resort. 

When shouldn’t you negotiate salary?

Negotiating the salary too early in the interview process can come off as presumptuous. Also, if the company has already stated that they have a strict salary structure or budget, it may not be worth negotiating. 

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