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Written by Susan ShorSusan Shor

How to negotiate your salary

17 min read
How to negotiate your salary
Negotiating a salary may be on your to-do list. Here are our recommendations to make your request a little less painful.

"I don't come to work for the money."

That is what too many employees would like to convey to their managers in an attempt to show how passionate they are about their work. That is exactly what their bosses want them to say. At the end of the day, wage costs are one of the most expensive lines on the company's profit and loss statement. 

In reality, offering your all for your employer in return for financial sitability is one of the most basic social contracts. Your compensiation should rise in proportion to your impact, yet we are conditioned to think of the "work" contract in softer terms. You go to work for the culture and personal development, not the salary and bonuses.

When it comes to negotiating your salary, you are almost embarrassed to ask for a raise.

It is the same when you go for a new job. You jump through all the hoops of proving what a great asset you will be to the company and are so exhausted by the end of the process that you accept any number that they offer you. "Oh, you are going to give me a raise after all, thank you so much."

Stop being so meek and accepting. If you do an awesome job, you deserve to be paid what you are worth. 

In this guide on how to negotiate your salary, we will explore the following:

  • What is the right way to negotiate a salary?
  • How to negotiate your salary during an interview
  • Can potential employers ask for my current salary?
  • How to negotiate your salary for your current role
  • Can negotiating salary backfire?

Is it time for a raise but you don’t know how to ask? Did you just get a job offer and are nervous about asking for a higher starting salary? Many people are reluctant to discuss money, but if you don’t negotiate your salary, whether at your current position or in a new job, you are likely to leave money on the table. 

Asking for something from an employer is never a comfortable task, but following our salary negotiation tips may help to make your quest a little less painful. You definitely need to enter into that conversation with some solid justification for what you are requesting. Confidence comes with a belief that you are worth it.

What is the Right Way to Negotiate a Salary?

Whether you are sitting across the table from a potential boss, or chatting with someone that has known you for years, the only way to negotiate your salary is to start with an objective assessment of what you are worth.

Negotiating a salary should take a journey from what the company expects of you, what you peers might deliver in your shoes to what you actually bring to the party. You are an individual with a unique set of talents, so you deserve to be compensated accordingly. Of course, there are various corporate pay structures and rules, but they are there to be broken. If the employer is not willing to pay you what you are worth, you should consider joining a company that will.

In reality, the unspoken threat of you leaving is the only negotiating tactic that will be truly effective. You don't need to mention it explicitly - just let it hang in the air. There are a few other tactics that are also worth considering.

The following six tips for negotiating a salary would work both for a current and new role, although there are clearly differences between the two situations. We will explore both scenarios through the course of this article.

Expert tip

What are six tips for negotiating salary? 

  • Prepare well. Know your value, chat with recruiters, work out the potential counter arguments.
  • Know your number. Pick the top of the range and justify it with solid market research. Stick to it.
  • Think about what it means. To avoid giving in, think about what it would mean for your life.
  • Use context to build your case. Look at the wider picture of how you contribute and what you are worth.
  • Ask. Be bold. Get in first. Ask for more than you want. Don't fear an early "no." Then ask for time to think.
  • Negotiate. There is always a back and forth. Be objective with arguments. Don't make threats.

How to Negotiate Your Salary During an Interview

First and foremost, we suggest that you do your  research on the company. What are you worth? What are others in your industry with your level of education and your qualifications paid? You need to know your level of worth before you can reasonably negotiate a salary. If you're not quite sure what you think your value is, ask another industry member, colleague, or former boss. 

There is a lot of reliable crowd-sourced information around these days. You don't need to stick your finger in the air and magic up a figure. Find the most advantageous survey and build your case around it.

LinkedIn and other networking and career advice sites may also be valuable in your research. It is important to know the average salary in your field, but other factors also play into what an employer is willing to pay you. 

Make sure your resume and cover letter make the best case for you before you even begin negotiating. With an excellent resume, you may get the offer you desire without negotiation. The mere fact that you can share an updated resume with your current employer shows that you may be ready to press the button on a job search (without actually starting one).

How to write a cover letter - expert guide [2024]
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Here is exactly how you can write a cover letter that will stand out from the crowd, and help you land that interview.

One way to find out what your company is paying others is to look at job sites for your prospective employer’s current open positions. A salary range may be mentioned.

Unless you receive an extraordinary first offer, there’s room for negotiating. (Hint: Try not to tip your hand. Don’t discuss salary at your job interview and try to make sure the hiring manager gives you a number first.) Enter the salary negotiation with a firm bottom line in your head. Aim for somewhere between the mid- and high end of the salary range.

If you are working with a recruiter, you may already know the salary range as recruiters are unlikely to waste time with candidates whose salary expectations are far outside what the company is prepared to pay. Most recruiters will share a salary range for a role. You can safely assume that there will be a little wiggle room at the top of that range if your experience warrants it.

If you are negotiating for a new position, you probably have a salary offer in hand. As with any negotiation, leave yourself some wiggle room by naming a figure higher than your lowest acceptable rate, but stay within a reasonable range. You are likely to receive a counteroffer and if you start too low, you will be disappointed. On the other hand, be careful of pricing yourself out of a job by asking for much more than the top of the typical salary range. 

Most often, you should conduct the negotiation in person or by voice or video. It is acceptable to communicate via email if that is how you received your job offer. You should remember that it is easy to say no to a figure on a page. It is a lot harder when the hiring manager is negotiating salary in person with someone that could potentially do a fantastic job for them. Always start a salary negotiation with what you will bring to the role. Say why you deserve it.

Expert tip

How much salary increase should I ask for with a new job? There is no rule in this case. It depends on the remuneration policies of your former employer. Also, don't forget the value of other benefits that may be included (or were included previously). You salary is a major part of your remuneration package, but it is not the only element. What is an extra week's holiday worth? Stock options? Bonus scheme? Request the package that suits your circumstances - but your worth to an employer will essentially still be judged on your base salary.

Can employers ask for my current salary?

Did you know that it is illegal in 18 states for employers to ask you about your current salary? In addition, 21 cities or other localities have also banned asking for salary histories. That's because pay equity is an important topic in the country right now, and your rights as a worker are being fought for. Your current salary may be a result of wage bias, so it is not relevant to your worth.

This is one of the questions that you can refuse to answer in the interview if the state law forbids it. You might think a little less of the employers if they ask it. They should be prepared to pay you what thjey think the job is worth.

If you take the time to educate yourself on what it is you really deserve, your employer will know you mean business. Never assume that your employer thinks you were underpaid in a former position. Hopefully, you weren't! Keep in mind that negotiations should never feel adversarial. You and your prospective employer essentially have the same goal. They want to hire you, and you want to be hired. The key is to respectfully convey the idea that your skills and attributes are worth something, and this can be done in a light-hearted and professional manner.

Expert tip

Should I include my salary requirements on my resume? No. Bad idea. You might think that you can weed out under-paying roles with this tactic, but the most important thing is to get into that interview room and show them that you are worth more that they were considering paying. This role might not be at the right level for you, but you never know what else they could offer you. Never talk about salary up front  - on a resume or otherwise.

When do I discuss the salary at interview?

Once you have your salary requirements in mind, wait to hear the offer from your employer. Digest the information, take the time to think, and then let them know based on your industry research and work history, what you think you should be getting. Patience is key. 

You should not bring up salary until an actual offer is sent your way; this is when the salary negotiations start. If the employer offers something fair, of course, you won't need to be doing any negotiating, but if their offer is below standard, you can use your new-found salary knowledge as leverage to support your quest for a higher salary. Basing your salary request on actual data from the job market will help your cause. Resist the desire to bring up personal financial goals, and simply explain why your work merits a certain salary.

Expert tip

Do employers expect you to negotiate salary? Salary negotiation is a normal part of the recruitment process. Ignore any comments about "other candidates being in the mix" and aim for what you would find acceptable. Employers will be well-versed in negotiating salary, so keep an eye out for their sneaky tactics.

Do not mention financial hardship whether due to COVID-19 or for any other reason. Your job is to convince human resources of your value to the company, not tug on their heartstrings. Begging or pleading in such a way will make them wonder what other emotional warfare is to come along the line. Be factual in your requests and rational in your thinking. If you are not ready to move for a low salary when it is offered, don't change your mind later. Time is on the employer's side in a salary negotiation. You can be sure that they will string it out to wear you down.

Remember that your compensation package includes perks as well as salary. You may accept less money if you want more vacation time, for example, or if your medical benefits are outstanding. Also, consider the compensation you may receive above your base salary. Do you get a signing bonus, stock options, or a commission package? How often can you expect a performance review and are the reviews tied to salary increases?

This is why it is essential to think before jumping to a decision. Is the offer too low? Take the whole benefits package into account. Then you can decline the job offer.

Expert tip

How do you negotiate salary after receiving a job offer? As mentioned above, it is perfectly acceptable to negotiate your salary and benefits after receiving a written job offer. They can change it! It is normal to reach an informal agreement on compensation arrangements before a formal offer, but some companies may do it the other way around. This should not stop you from negotiating. You can mention that your circumstances may have changed regarding other job offers - if you have not signed on the dotted line, all is still up for grabs.

How to accept a job offer + copyable examples
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How to accept a job offer + copyable examples

The words you use to accept a job offer will be the first as a new employee of the company that’s just decided to take you on. It’s worth reflecting on how you’ll answer this exciting piece of news. In this blog, we’ll walk you through exactly what you should and shouldn’t say.

How to Negotiate Your Salary for your Current Role

If you are asking for a salary increase in your current job, your situation is somewhat similar. 

Your job is to find out what others in your industry are making. Gather your recent performance appraisals and whatever other pertinent information you have regarding your achievements at work. The bottom line is that it is up to you to build a case for your worth. Once you have compiled these things, you can present them to your employer when you are doing salary negations and confidently ask for what you deserve. 

Do keep in mind, however, that some employers are limited by budget constraints and can only give raises at certain times of the year. Patience and understanding are key in situations such as those. When you ask for a meeting about your salary be prepared! Do not talk about coworkers’ salaries or state that you deserve it. You need to remind your employer the value you add to the company.

Remember, how you see yourself is truly how others see you as well. If you exude self-confidence and assertiveness, then it is likely your potential employer will see you in a more positive light. A light that commands due respect and a higher salary to match.

Expert tip

Can negotiating salary backfire? Yes, it can, but not terminally. You have to be sure of your facts and be realistic about the potential of success. In terms of a current job, you can lay the ground for the weeks and months leading up to the discussion in performance chats with your boss - sense how receptive they might be. If they refuse a raise, you will be unlikely to be fired, but it can damage relationships. The worst that can happen in an interview is that you don't get the job, but would you want it anyway?

Key Takeaways

Negotiating salary is quite simple. If you know what you are worth, and if salary is important to you in the context of everything else that the job provides, show the employer what difference you make.

  • Do your research and stick to logical arguments about your worth.
  • Understand the company's financial constraints, but push them hard.
  • Always put your value at the center of any salary discussion.
  • Be aware of other options if you need to walk away.

If they are unwilling to listen, you owe it to yourself to look elsewhere. If they won't be reasonable around the question of compensation there are likely to be a whole host of other situations where they will not be the best employer.

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