How to negotiate salary: 6 tips for success

You did it. You aced your interview at a company you like, and you have a job offer. Congrats! But what if the salary you’re offered is less than what you expected? 

Read on to find out why salary negotiations are so important. Plus, learn tips you can use to negotiate a higher salary after a job offer.

Key takeaways

  • Salary negotiations are an important and expected part of the job interview process.
  • You don’t have to wait for an offer to start discussing salary.
  • Understand salary trends in your industry, and be prepared to demonstrate your value as an employee.
  • Know how to negotiate all parts of your compensation package, not just salary.

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Why salary negotiation is important

According to a survey conducted by human resources consulting firm Robert Half, 70% of managers expect job candidates to negotiate salary as part of the hiring process. But only about 55% of candidates actually negotiate for higher pay after a job offer. 

If the salary you’re offered is relatively close to what you were hoping to get, you might be hesitant to negotiate. Especially if that base salary is higher than what you earn at your current job. But bear in mind that any future raises you receive might be a percentage of this base amount. So a small difference upfront could add up to a considerable difference over time. 

Plus, future employers may take your salary at your current employer into consideration when making you a job offer. So salary history could matter if you want to get the best offer possible.

6 tips for negotiating salary

Starting salary negotiations can be uncomfortable, especially if you’ve never done it before. But remember that most recruiters expect you to negotiate after you receive the first offer. You’re unlikely to surprise or offend them by making a counteroffer.

Here are some salary negotiation tips to help set you up for success.

1. Know your worth

Before you present a counteroffer to your potential employer, it’s a good idea to do your homework. Hiring managers might be more receptive to your offer if you’ve shown that you’ve done research. 

Sites like Glassdoor can be especially helpful when it comes to understanding the typical salary range for someone in your industry with the same level of experience.

You might also want to bring examples from your previous job that prove to your potential employer that you’re worth the extra money. What special skills or certifications do you have that warrant a higher salary? What are some previous “wins” from your job history that demonstrate the value you’ll bring to your new role? The more specific you can be with these examples—and the more you can tie them back to your new employer’s bottom line—the more successful you might be.

2. Start salary negotiations early

You don’t have to wait until you’ve received an offer to start discussing your salary.

There’s nothing wrong with starting salary discussions during your first round of interviews. The exact salary offer you receive will be based on factors such as your experience and unique qualifications. But the hiring manager should be able to give you a broad range of what they expect to pay someone in this position.

Asking for this salary range early in the process can achieve two things. First, it can show the hiring manager that you’re serious about considering a potential offer. Second, it allows you to make a decision about whether to proceed with the hiring process. If the range is below your salary requirements, you can focus your efforts on finding other opportunities.

3. Ask for time to consider the offer

Asking for more money can be a nerve-wracking experience. So it can be helpful to have time to prepare yourself to make a confident and strong counteroffer.

When you follow up on the initial offer, make it clear you are excited about the opportunity. Showing enthusiasm is a great way to let potential employers know you’re serious about the job and are interested if the terms are agreeable. Asking for a few days to think about the offer is reasonable. 

You may also want to ask for your official offer in writing if your potential employer did not include it with the email. This lets you review the entire terms of your employment.

4. Keep your tone friendly and professional

It’s good to approach your negotiations with an air of confidence. But it’s also a good idea to avoid any language that could be taken as pushy or demanding. Your potential new employer will be paying close attention to the way you communicate. You don’t want to make them think you’ll be hard to work with.

When drafting your response to a job offer, you can be clear in communicating your salary expectations and still show you can be flexible. Consider using language similar to this:

“Thank you for sending this offer. I’m so excited for the chance to join this company, and I think I would be a perfect fit for the team. I’ve had time to review the offer in detail and, based on my experience and qualifications, I would be comfortable accepting a starting salary of $X.” 

Consider giving a few specific examples of your past work that demonstrate why you’re worth this salary increase. You could end your counteroffer by reiterating your excitement for the potential opportunity.

5. Consider the entire compensation package

It can be easy to get so focused on base salary that you overlook the rest of the compensation package. But a high base salary isn’t the only thing to consider. When considering offer packages, it’s a good idea to also look at realistic opportunities for promotion and career growth, employer-sponsored health insurance, the vacation or paid-time-off (PTO) policy, and other benefits.

Ultimately, the offer that’s best for you will depend on your personal circumstances and what your long-term goals are for your career. If long-term salary increases are your priority, it may make more sense to go with a company offering you a higher base pay from the start. But if a better work-life balance and stronger benefits are more important to you, it may make sense to accept a slightly lower base pay in exchange for the other work perks.

In addition to starting salary, your offer may include the following as part of your overall compensation:

  • Paid time off
  • Insurance benefits (including health, dental and vision)
  • Remote working (which can save money on commuting costs)
  • Commissions
  • Company stock options
  • Retirement benefits like a pension or 401(k) (with or without employer matching)
  • Bonuses
  • Other benefits like child care, wellness program incentives and tuition reimbursement

In some cases, you may be able to negotiate some of these other aspects of your compensation package instead of—or as well as—your base salary. For example, if your potential employer is not willing to increase your starting salary amount, you can ask about the potential for additional vacation time or a signing bonus to help make the offer more competitive.

6. Be prepared to make concessions

Salary negotiations are just that: negotiations. There’s no guarantee the hiring manager will be willing or able to give you everything you want. So it’s important to be prepared to make at least some concessions during job offer negotiations.

That said, you can come to the negotiating table with a clear understanding of what your nonnegotiables are for accepting the job. If the salary you’re offered is less than you think you deserve and the remainder of the benefits package isn’t adequate compensation, you may need to be willing to accept a lesser offer or continue your job search.

Negotiating salary in a nutshell

Salary negotiations are a normal and expected part of any new job search. By researching salary trends in your field, considering your entire compensation package, and approaching your negotiations in a professional and enthusiastic manner, you’ll be able to approach these negotiations with confidence and provide a strong counteroffer to your potential employer.

Lastly, if you’re looking for ways to be more competitive in the job market, you can look into learning new skills online.

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