9 Salary Negotiation Tips You Must Know

Dan Elias Bliss


Negotiating your starting salary doesn’t have to be a point of anxiety. Never be fooled into thinking the first offer is the best offer, or that negotiating isn’t the professional thing to do. In fact, over 70% of employers expect candidates to negotiate. 

Research shows not negotiating can cost you over a $1 million dollars over the course of your career. Use these nine salary negotiation tips to get everything you’re worth.

1. Research everything you can

Getting an exact salary range before receiving an offer can be difficult. Many factors go into determining salary that you may not be aware of as a candidate. However, there are ways you can get at least a general idea of what your salary requirements should be.

There are plenty of online salary calculators and surveys to help determine your worth. Use a few tools like PayScale and Dice to see what your peers with similar skills and experiences are making. Taking even a few moments to research can be the difference between accepting a lowball offer and negotiating the salary you deserve.

As a general rule of thumb, avoid asking others what they make. Even if someone is openly willing to share his or her salary, you can’t assume what you’re hearing is the truth. Different factors could have gone into hiring that person that may not apply to you.

2. Know your worth

Business Man Pointing

You’ve been through months of job hunting, the nerves of interviews, and finally received an offer. After all the hard work, your emotions may get the best of you, and you’ll be tempted to take the first offer.

That’s why you should know your worth before even walking into a job interview. Have a walk away point – the minimum salary you’re willing to take in order to accept the position. Even if the salary isn’t mentioned until you’re offered the position, it’s essential you have already set a realistic number for yourself.

With a firm number already in mind, you’ll save yourself time and negotiation will go much more smoothly. If the company isn’t willing to see the value you bring, you can always walk away and start looking for the next opportunity.

3. Be careful about salary history

It’s not uncommon at some point in the hiring process to be asked about your salary history. As a recent graduate or young professional, your first entry-level job can be a big jump from internships and part-time jobs you’ve had in the past. You may be tempted to avoid the question, but the smartest thing you can do is face it head-on.

Give the number you’re currently making and include any benefits or bonuses you may have. If your professional history is primarily unpaid internships, explain those roles were unpaid from the beginning.

Basing salary on your history is the last thing you want. Move the conversation back to the current position as quickly as possible. Steer the discussion from the past to the future; focus on the skills and value you can bring to the company.

4. Understand all bonuses

Two Business Women looking at a computer

A base salary is simply the lowest amount you can expect to make in a year, but most companies have bonuses built in based on key performance indicators (or KPIs). During the hiring process, you’ll want to gain an in-depth understanding of bonus eligibility and KPIs.

You may have some KPIs similar to other employees, but most will be specific to your role. Make sure your KPIs don’t only relate to your job but are also realistic. You don’t want KPIs set so high they’re impossible to achieve.

Also, understand when KPIs are paid out. Some companies may give them out at the end of the calendar year or set a timeline of 365 days after your start date. Not understanding your KPIs could mean you’re missing out on thousands of dollars a year.

5. Wait for their specific number

Not every job posting comes with a salary range. In most cases, you’ll apply to positions without knowing what offer the company has in mind. Some sites like Glassdoor.com can give you a good idea, but will never be perfect.

Not knowing will cause some anxiety, but don’t ask for a salary range at the first interview. You don’t want an employer thinking you’re only interested in the money. Instead, focus on convincing the employer you’re the perfect candidate and learn as much as you can about the role. The more you learn about the position, the higher your asking number could become.

In the rare occasion that the interviewer asks you early on what your asking price is, it’s absolutely fine to say you’re open to negotiation and want to learn more about the role first.

6. The art of counter offering

calculating a salaryEven if you receive the perfect first offer, always make sure to counteroffer. Most hiring managers are expecting candidates to do so, and there’s no harm in trying.

Worst case, the potential employer has already made their best offer. Best case, the offer gets even better. Either way, you still have an offer on the table.

Asking 10% to 20% above the base salary offer is typical. If you get the sense that the company has already made a high offer, aim for a 10% increase. If you get the feeling that they’re a bit more desperate to hire you, or you have other job offers, aim for a 20% increase.

When you come with a counteroffer don’t be afraid to show off a little. Remind them of your qualifications and skills. The point isn’t to brag about yourself, it's about showing what you bring to the table.

7. Salary is only part of total compensation

The number on your paycheck is only part of your overall compensation package and not the only thing you have to consider. Retirement matching, health insurance, and other benefits are all going to affect your bottom line. A high salary can become significantly lower depending on the benefits package.

Even if the company isn’t willing to offer more in the way of base salary, there is always more you can negotiate for. More vacation time, a flexible schedule, and other benefits are all part of negotiations. Negotiate for everything you can before accepting an offer; it’ll end up being harder to get more benefits after being hired.

8. Practice your negotiating skills

Co-Workers Negotiating a Contract

A successful job search is all about practice: practicing crafting the ideal resume, writing an eye-catching cover letter, and rehearsing every aspect of the interview process. However, there’s still one important aspect you need to practice -- salary negotiations.

Being well-researched and understanding your walk away number are just the first steps. You still need to know what you’re going to say during negotiation. Write down what you’re going to say and practice with a friend or family member. You need to be as confident and comfortable as possible.

A majority of your salary negotiation may happen through email. Compared to in-person, this may seem less nerve-racking, but you still have to practice. Draft a few different versions of your email where you thank the hiring manager, propose your counteroffer, and have reasons to support your argument.

Gather notes from family and friends about your drafts. When your email is polished with proper grammar and perfect spelling, send it to the hiring manager directly.

9. Consider all parts of the job offer

If you receive the offer that you're looking for and are certain about the job, feel free to accept, but don’t feel like you need to right away. Asking for a day or two to think more about the offer is perfectly okay. Some job seekers fear asking for more time means the company will withdraw the offer, but this rarely happens.

When you ask for a bit more time, reflect on everything, not just salary. Weigh all the possibilities including workload, your long-term plans, benefits, and anything else that came up during the hiring process. A bit of reflection can determine whether the job is right for you or if you need to ask for something more.

Now that you’ve gone through the nine steps of salary negotiation you can be confident knowing you’ve gotten the best offer possible. Accept the offer with enthusiasm and get excited to start your dream career.

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