How To Negotiate Your Salary

By Ryan Morris
Sep. 26, 2022

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You’ve applied for a job, gone through several rounds of interviews, and now you’ve found yourself at the point where you’ve been offered a job.

So why are you sweating?

Well, maybe because now it’s time to negotiate your salary. And salary negotiations are stressful as hell.

You and your prospective boss are going to have to sit in a room together for possibly a long, long time, and neither of you can leave until either a job offer is produced, or a possible job offer is rejected on its face.

We will go over what salary negotiations are and why they are important, how to negotiate your salary, and provide some tips to help you during this stressful process.

Key Takeaways:

  • Salary negotiations are discussions you have with your current or prospective employer that are aimed at getting you a higher salary than initially offered.

  • It’s important to do your research beforehand and know how much money people with your education typically get paid, and how much money people in similar positions at the company are making.

  • Let your employer be the one to bring up money but being the first to give a salary range and being specific with it can help you control what is being offered.

  • You should be open-minded when going into a salary negotiation, but be prepared to walk if they don’t want to meet your salary requests.

How To Negotiate Your Salary

What Are Salary Negotiations?

Salary negotiations are discussions you have with your current or prospective employer that are aimed at getting you a higher salary than initially offered. For the sake of this article, we’ll be focused on salary negotiations with a prospective employer who’s sent you a job offer.

If you feel that the compensation and benefits package that the company has offered isn’t high enough for someone of your skills, education, and experience, you can always choose to negotiate for a higher salary.

These negotiations don’t have to be entirely about base pay, either. You can also bring up more generous benefits, a flexible schedule, stock options, or other perks.

Why Negotiating Your Salary Is Important

While negotiating your salary with a prospective employer is never comfortable, it’s nevertheless important for your lifetime career earnings. For example, if you failed to negotiate a 10% increase in your starting salary, it would take three years of 3%+ salary increases to reach the level you could have started at.

If it makes you feel better, employers expect a bit of negotiation when they extend a job offer. They might even ask you for your salary requirements during the interview. At this stage, you may give a range with the number you’re hoping to achieve at or near the bottom of that scale.

When the company sends you a formal offer, you can try to bump that number up the higher range of the scale you already discussed in the interview.

Getting a higher salary is about more than earning more money. It’s about being recognized for the value you bring. It’s how a company shows that it respects your contributions, work-life balance, and career goals.

Why Are Salary Negotiations Stressful?

If you’re one of those people who feels immensely uncomfortable during salary negotiations (read: everyone), then rest assured that you have quite a few reasons to be distressed.

  • Talking about money is extremely stressful because, for the most part, all conversations about it are based on a series of factors that people who are new to an industry have no hope of knowing. In order to get a salary that is “fair” — whatever that means — you need to have two pieces of information above all:

    • First, how much money most people with your education typically get paid for the position you’re accepting.

    • And second, how much money people in similar positions are making at your company.

  • It’s possible to find out both of these things eventually if you keep a sharp eye out and go looking for this information specifically. But even then, it’s still tough to find. And for newbies to the industry, without the resources or the knowledge of where to turn to for resources, it can be nearly impossible.

  • Above all, people just don’t like talking about money. It makes them uncomfortable. On top of that, as a potential employee, your ability to say “no” to a job offer is one of the few moments of power you have over an organization.

  • Whether you’re aware enough during the process to notice this or not, you’re bound to intuit the power dynamic and the quickness with which it will shift again, and that’s going to put some pressure on your decision.

How To Negotiate Your Salary

Now that you know why negotiating your salary is important, we will go over how to prepare for a salary negotiation and what to do once salary negotiation starts.

How to Prepare for a Salary Negotiation

The first thing you want to do before going to the bargaining table is research; a lot of it, in fact.

As well as you can, you want to be an expert on both your specific job market as well as the specific company looking to hire you.

Remember, this is your one big moment of power over your potential employer — once you accept or reject a job offer, you’re either under their thumb or out of their hair. So when you’re negotiating, you want to make sure you make that decision with as much information as possible.

Keep the following things in mind when doing research for your position:

  • Do your homework. There are plenty of websites out there (including the one you’re on right now) with information about salary ranges for specific careers and job positions, and there are even some out there where employees of particular companies report their salaries.

  • Give a range. When you’re picking your number, take care to make it as specific as possible. Pick a number near the top of the range you’re looking at — you don’t want to seem out of touch with the industry by coming to the negotiation with an unreasonably high number, but at the same time, whatever number you have will almost certainly be negotiated down.

    So assume that you deserve to be within the highest pay range after the end of the negotiation, and choose your top number accordingly — and while you’re at it, don’t forget to choose a good “too low” number that, if offered, you’re prepared to walk away from.

  • Be specific. It’s important that you appear to the hiring manager as though you’ve done a lot of research and come to the negotiation prepared — the more prepared you seem, the less likely they are to try to pull one over on you by offering you a lower number.

    One thing that can help here is to make your number as specific as possible — say $32,855 rather than $33,000 even. The more specific it is, the more it looks like you arrived at that number after careful consideration.

What to Do Once the Salary Negotiation Starts

Once the conversation itself starts, you want to make sure you aren’t caught off guard.

If you’ve got information that you need on hand in order to negotiate, make sure you have it with you at any meeting or other event involving the hiring manager that you believe might turn into the negotiation.

And before you walk into the negotiation, make sure you put back your shoulders, raise your head, and stand confidently. It will do wonders for your self-esteem, and you’ll need all the confidence you can get for what’s about to come.

Keep the following things in mind when going through your contract negotiation:

  • Start by going over your past work experience. But don’t dwell on it — as much as possible, you want to focus on your potential position, not on the jobs you’ve worked in the past.

    On a similar note, you want to make sure that you ask as many questions as you can in order to figure out the other negotiator’s state of mind. Doing so can help give you a little insight into what kind of answer they’d be willing to accept from you, and will help you in the rest of the negotiation.

  • Let them bring up the money. But make sure you’re the first person to mention a specific number.

    The first number mentioned frames the rest of any salary negotiation — every other number that gets brought up after this is, by definition, either higher or lower than the first number, and so it’s important for you to control this aspect of the conversation if you can.

  • Don’t be afraid to hear someone tell you “no.” Both of you want things that the other person doesn’t — the point of negotiation is to find the best possible middle-ground for you. So if you hear no, remember your research, keep in mind your walk-away number, and keep on negotiating.

Salary Negotiation Tips

Here are some tips for successfully negotiating a higher starting salary:

  1. Start with your worth. Resources like Payscale and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) can help you determine a fair salary for someone in your region, with your level of experience and education, should earn for any given role in any industry. This is a great starting point for determining a realistic number to give in salary negotiations.

  2. Prepare a pitch. You’ve got to sell yourself, quite literally, when you’re negotiating your salary. The hiring manager will want to know why you deserve more than they’ve offered.

    To that end, put together a brag sheet of all your most impressive achievements. Anything that translates directly into a monetary benefit for the company is especially impactful.

    You can also talk up extra skills and qualifications that you possess that may not have been required for the job. If you can sell how these additional skills will benefit you in the role (and the company, ultimately), you’ll be one step closer to achieving a higher starting salary.

  3. Practice. As with any anxiety-inducing event, like an interview, rehearsal can go a long way in calming your nerves. Give your pitch to a trusted friend or family member and ask for feedback on your tone and the efficacy of your arguments.

  4. Be grateful. This is just good manners — the company has invested a lot of resources into finding a person for the role, and you should be appreciative that they’ve chosen you. Never forget to acknowledge your appreciation for the initial job offer, and maintain your enthusiasm for the role and the company.

  5. Be confident. Confidence is about trusting yourself — and if you want the company to trust you, you’d better trust yourself. Take stock and hold onto the value of your skills and qualifications. Don’t become arrogant, but be firm in your appraisal of your worth. The salary data you researched earlier will go a long way for this tip.

  6. Prepare for questions. Just because you’ve got your pitch prepared, doesn’t mean you’re finished getting ready for negotiations. There will be follow-up questions about your other prospects; don’t become rattled. Have answers to questions you anticipate.

  7. Don’t forget about benefits. You might actually be happy with the base salary an employer is offering, but find the lack of vacation days or rigid schedule unappealing. These are things you can also bring up in negotiations, and the employer might be more willing to give you what you want in these areas.

  8. Be open-minded. Be ready to hear the employer’s perspective and actively listen to any objections or concerns. They might present you with an offer you hadn’t considered.

  9. Be ready to walk. If landing a higher salary was the only way you’d take the job, be ready to walk away. Also, if you think you can do better on the job market, be prepared to say “no” to their final offer. No matter what, maintain professionalism and gratitude throughout the process.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to get caught up in yourself during this process, but remember while you’re negotiating that there’s another person on the other end of the conversation.

We’re not mentioning them to say that you should be nice to them (although that’s probably not a bad idea). It’s important to bring up the other person because understanding their motivations may help you get what you want in the easiest way possible.

Think about it — they’ve got their own agenda in this negotiation, and the only way that either of you is getting what you want out of it is if the other does too, at least to some extent.

So think about what this person really needs from you. You could even try asking them if you think they’ll tell you the truth.

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Ryan Morris

Ryan Morris was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog who tried to make the job process a little more entertaining for all those involved. He obtained his BA and Masters from Appalachian State University.

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