When negotiating salary and benefits for a potential job position, it’s critical to be prepared and to do your research.
Get to know your prospective employer, find out the key points you need to know about the job you’re applying to and how much it’s worth, and of course, make sure that the amount you’re trying to meet is also in line with your skills and experience.
To help you get a little more comfortable with negotiating, we asked experts to share some helpful tips that will help you get the best possible deal.
Global Principle Consultant | Author
Establish a walk-away number
Your walk-away number is the minimum amount of money you will accept for the job. As you establish your walk-away number, you need to consider:
Vacation and sick pay. Insurance and you share of the contribution. Bonuses. Car Allowance/Company Car. 401k or pensions. Other benefits. Relocation costs. The cost of your commute.
As you consider these other factors you may find that the figure offered is considered more than your current salary.
Do your homework
No amount of negotiation is going to get you 20% above their budget. You should never enter a negotiation without knowing the average salary for someone in that position and with your qualifications.
Related: 17 Best Negotiation Books
Secondarily, you should know what the competition is paying for similar positions. Armed with this information you can generally estimate the employer’s walk-away position. You should also be mindful of the cost of living multipliers if you are considering a position that is out of town.
A job in Los Angeles might have the same salary figure as a similar position in Shreveport, but the cost of living differences between those two areas might make the LA job offer worth half as much as the Shreveport opportunity.
Try not to be the first to mention money
If you are asked flat out how much money you want, deflect the question with the answer, “I would have to consider the overall compensation package”.
In general, employers have a range that the salary for a position falls, and it is very difficult for the hiring manager to go above that figure without significant justification and approvals. If the hiring manager tries to low ball you, or if you think there is still money on the table, respond with “I am not sure that figure accurately represents my value I will bring to the company.” You can also say, “My research indicates that someone of my skills, education, and experience should be making $x.“
Don’t inflate the figure, but don’t be afraid to assertively and without coming right out and saying it, remind the hiring manager that there are indeed other opportunities out there.
If you hit a deadlock offer to split the difference
One great negotiating technique is to offer to split the difference. Let’s say you want $75 K for the job and the company wants to pay $68 K. You could say, “I’m really excited at the offer and we aren’t that far apart, what? $7,500? what if we split the difference and call it $71,500?
You win because you got an extra $3500 and the company wins because they feel like they saved $3,500. In some cases, expert negotiators can get the other party to split the difference several times, but I have found that can blow the whole negotiations if you aren’t careful.
Suggest a signing bonus
A signing bonus is a boon to you (especially if you have to pay for insurance for the 90 days between jobs) and good for the company because it is a one-time payout and not a legacy cost (that is, an increase in your wage). Typically a signing bonus is easier for the company to get approved and processed.
Don’t get greedy
If you make a deal you will have to work with these people and you don’t want to start a new job working for people who resent you and think that you got the upper hand. You want them to feel like they got a bargain while secretly knowing that you walked away with a great deal.
Director, Market Recruitment
My top tips for negotiating a salary offer are:
- Restate your interest in working for the company – “Your company looks like a great place to work and I am very excited to be part of your team.”
- Explain the value you would bring – Restate your experience, your unique expertise, past accomplishments, and how you can help the company grow.
- Express your disappointment with the initial offer and state your expected salary range – “I feel that your salary offer is lower than the value I believe I can bring to your company. I was hoping it would be in the range of (quote your expected salary range) based on information from this industry source (provide information to back up your salary expectations).”
- Give the hiring manager an opportunity to make a better offer – “My salary expectations are flexible but I wondered if you could adjust your initial offer to (state your expected salary range) based on the value I will bring to your company.”
To successfully negotiate a salary offer, you need to have the right information, particularly about the prevailing salary ranges for your job position. Also based on your experience, qualification, and skills, you should have a base salary, below which you cannot take the job offer. These two things allow you to objectively evaluate your salary offer to avoid low-balling yourself.
Your counter offer should be at least 10% more than the initial offer. For example, if the initial salary offer is $70,000, negotiate for at least $77,000. In this case, the negotiation window is $70,000-$77,000 and ideally, you should be aiming for a base salary that falls somewhere in the middle.
If they offer $72,000, ask for $74,000. If they cannot go higher than $72,000, consider negotiating your most important non-salary benefits if the company allows this. You could say “I will accept $72,000 and 2 remote working days a week.“
If the initial offer is way below what you were expecting, you can either state outright that you cannot take anything less than (quote your base walk-away salary) or you can ask the hiring manager to revise that figure upwards (give a range instead of a specific number) for you to consider the offer.
Consultant & Owner, Viele Consulting Group | Business Coach
Salary negotiations often begin at the beginning of the recruiting process, not the end
Employers may ask for salary history or expectations during the application process or during an interview. In thirteen states, this is now illegal, and other states will likely continue the adoption of the law.
In the meantime, it may apply to your job search and state in which you live. You can prepare yourself by doing and considering the following.
- Research the value of the position to which you are applying. Utilize online resources like Glassdoor to ascertain what salaries are being paid in your area for the same position.
- When assessing your salary expectations, do not base the number on salary history. If you were underpaid in a previous position, doing so will perpetuate that cycle. This premise was the basis of the law getting passed prohibiting employers from asking.
- Make an honest assessment as to where you think you are regarding competency and expertise for the position. If you feel you are highly qualified and experienced, state the higher end of the compensation range you have researched. You can always add the caveat that, while that is your expectation, you will also be considering intangible variables and do not think either of you should make a determination solely on money.
- If you are using a recruiter, tell them your desired salary, as well as your absolute minimum. This helps them understand and manage the expectations of you, the client and the deal.
Typically, when employers ask about salary expectations, they are likely undecided about the worth of the position themselves. This is typical with smaller to mid-sized companies that do not have a lockstep compensation structure. Using soft skills while interviewing, such as connecting, showing confidence and your willingness to be accountable, will pay dividends.
Once the process comes to a job offer, both you and the employer will understand the framework that has already been laid down. There may be finer points to negotiate, but the offer should be within a negotiable distance from your expectation.
Related: How to Respond to a Job Offer
Owner, Tidy Casa
Don’t ask when– ask how
Never start a negotiation with “I want to be paid $xxx, xxx. xx.” This will almost never work.
When asking for a raise always frame it as an offer, not a demand. A great way to ask is “My goal is to get to $xxx, xxx. xx pay. What can we do to make that a reality?”
This gets the decision maker invested and opens a conversation to a plan to get there and move the discussion away from a yes or no answer. In a way, it’s asking for advice as opposed to making a demand.
As opposed to conversations that start “I want to make X” the next question is always “is this justified” as opposed to “what can we do to get a pay raise.“
This strategy shows management what the employee is looking for and helps get them in the mindset to help. Unless an employee is already on the chopping block, this almost always results in a quick payraise and a plan for future raises.
Framing the discussion this way shows a willingness to grow and take on additional responsibility. When management knows a team member’s goals, the next time there’s an opening for promotion their name will come up first.
Do the unexpected — ask for benefits, not money
When negotiations aren’t going well, a counter-intuitive strategy is to ask for something unexpected like additional benefits instead of a higher salary.
As an example, asking for an extra 2 weeks of vacation can turn the negotiation on its head. The decision maker isn’t used to hearing requests like these and will have to think about it. Most likely they’ll come back with a “compromise” pay raise instead of the new benefits.
When this happens, they’ll feel they did a great job negotiating since they convinced the employee to take the raise.
Given the low unemployment rate and candidate drought, negotiating an offer has never been in the new employee’s favor, like today.
Negotiations, of any kind, but especially compensation, should be treated with silk gloves and keep the interests of both parties in mind.
The goal of the negotiation is to make the employer feel good about the negotiation while keeping your best interests and compensation goals at heart.
A candidate should always consider which aspect of the financial offer means the most to them and rank it accordingly before deciding how/what to negotiate. For example;
Which aspect of the offer should you negotiate?
Is it the base salary, bonus, vacation, health benefits or commission/bonus structure?
Choosing the most important compensation goal when considering how/what to negotiate, is critical.
An employer doesn’t want to negotiate every aspect of an offer, because it’s just not a good measure. After choosing what is most important in the offer, the candidate should always begin the discussion with the positive feelings/thoughts around working for the employer, show appreciation for the offer given, and THEN go into the negotiation.
After the negotiation statement, always wrap up the discussion with positive interests, visions of working for the employer and how he/she is excited to wrap things up and start working for them.
The minute the employer feels offended, threatened, or at “risk” based on a bad negotiation tactic, it creates an unnecessary defense mechanism and the candidate will lose.
Elene Cafasso, MCC
Executive Mentor and Coach | Owner, Enerpace, Inc.
These are the top 3 mistakes I see:
Not doing your homework in advance
There’s a ton of salary data available on the internet, which means there is no excuse for not knowing what the market is paying for similar positions and experience.
Pushing too much or too little
You will be working with these people, and don’t want to do anything to destroy the relationship before you even begin. This doesn’t mean accept the first offer! That can tarnish your professional brand by showing you don’t know your own value in the marketplace.
Yet you don’t need to squeeze every penny out of them either. Have an acceptable range and if you receive an offer in that range, it is fine to agree after one counteroffer.
Not negotiating benefits like vacation time, personal days, etc.
Assume everything you care about is at least worthy of discussion. If you can’t get everything you want right now, ask for a review in 3 to 6 months. So the best tip is to be informed. There are several websites where you can research salary information.
Professional associations and even the research librarian at the library can help. I also recommend utilizing the services of the career services office for your college or grad school. Once you have an average or at least a range, you can begin to negotiate.
Another great source of info is the alumni directory at your old alma mater! Search for other alums who currently are/have been employees of the firm. They can give you the inside scoop many times on how salary grade corresponds to the title, what the benefits package is like, etc.
To negotiate, start by deciding in advance what your desired number is, and what is the least you’ll accept. Be sure to factor in benefits, bonuses, stock options, etc.
If your offer is unsatisfactory, position your conversation by stating something like this:
“As you know, when we’ve discussed my salary requirements, I stated that I was looking for something competitive with what similar positions in other firms are paying. We really need to come up at least X% or $Y to discuss this professionally.”
Then remind them what you plan to contribute based on the responsibilities of the job description. For instance:
“I’ll be responsible for managing a $50M project/product while growing revenue X%. Surely we have some wiggle room on the base?”
Owner, Jeff Magnuson Consulting
Job seekers should never give out their current or past salary information
For any job that a job seeker is interested in, he or she must do research to understand what a realistic salary would before the role. Many companies do not list the salary range (even though it’s budgeted internally) so job seekers need to be proactive and utilize various websites to come up with a reasonable salary range based on the job’s title, responsibility, and geographic location.
With a salary range, job seekers can then easily (and confidently) answer the question during interviews (i.e. “I am seeking a base salary between $85-95K. Will that work?”).
A company will either say that number is within range or that it’s too high, in which case, the job seeker can move on to something else.
If a candidate is going to fill out an online application, he or she should input their desired salary (or range) and then later, when there is an opportunity to add comments to the form, simply state that all salary figures are the desired base salary for the open position.
Additionally, if a company establishes a final baseline salary but offers more vacation or additional perks, then each candidate will need to weigh whether those other items carry as much weight as a specific salary number. The answer will be different for everyone.
Finally, it’s important to note that job seekers should NEVER give out their current or past salary information as it’s both irrelevant and even illegal in several states for companies to ask for that information.
If current or past salary information is a deal breaker for companies, then job seekers should walk away from that company and not look back.
Owner, Matuson Consulting | Author
Lots of people are unaware that it’s okay to negotiate when receiving a salary offer. In fact, it’s expected. Here are some things to consider.
Don’t worry about having an offer rescinded because you asked for more money. That’s not going to happen unless you do this in a manner that makes the other person feel like you’ve put a gun to their head.
Simply state the salary you’d ideally like to be making. Be prepared to follow that statement by reiterating the value that you’ll be bringing to the organization.
Money isn’t everything. If you sense that you are at the top of the range and that there is nowhere to go in terms of salary, consider asking for additional paid time off or a particular benefit that’s important to you, such as the ability to work from home or work flexible hours.
Senior Content Marketing Manager, ProjectManager
There are a few things for any job hunter to consider when it comes time to negotiate salary at a new opportunity:
- Never, ever be the first to mention a number during the interview process.
Any company going into the salary negotiation portion of the interview process knows exactly what they’d like to pay you, and what a reasonable range to expect to be within is given your skill set, experience and fit for the role. The hiring company wants you to be the first to mention a salary figure because this puts them in a position of high leverage early in the negotiations.
This is the reason why you should never, ever, be the first to mention a number. If asked early in the process, respond with something along the lines of “I would like compensation which mirrors the market expectations of someone of my skill set and experience.”
Try as hard as possible NOT to give a number unless there is absolutely no choice. Doing so eliminates any leverage you have in the negotiation process and makes the rest of the road much tougher from there.
- Be open or ready to consider non-cash perks which may offset a lower offer than you anticipated.
So, assuming you managed to not be the first to name a number, and the company has provided an offer to you that’s lower than you anticipated, be open to considering other factors and perks which could offset that lower number.
What’s valuable to you at this point in your life? Is it being able to work from home on occasion? Is it a 401K with a high matching percentage? Is it paid continuing education?
Whatever it may be, arm yourself with information along those lines so you can formulate a value for the perk, and be able to counter the lower offer with what you’d like added on as non-cash compensation to get what you’re looking for.
- Never show your poker face and always be willing to walk away.
So you received an offer that was what you were seeking. Great! The fun has just begun. Never show the company who has offered you how excited you are to receive an offer. This shows your hand and ends the negotiation process before it even begins.
Politely thank the company for the offer, and let them know you’d like some time to consider the offer and get back with them. This is standard practice, and companies expect negotiation so this will be provided.
During that time, formulate a counter-offer with which you’re comfortable and provide that to the company by the agreed-upon deadline. Then wait. And wait some more. Make sure the company is next to mention a number.
Conversely, if the offer the company provides you is well below your expectations – and the non-cash perks mentioned above don’t offset that – don’t be afraid to walk away.
Let the company know you’re declining and walk away. If they want you badly enough, you never know what will happen next!
Senior Manager, Frank Recruitment Group
Often, companies will ask ‘what are your salary expectations’ during the interview stage of a potential job offer.
This can be an awkward question to answer—particularly if you’re a recent graduate or young professional. Don’t be intimidated though. It can actually be an easy way into salary negotiations as the employer has started the conversation, and is a great way to assert yourself and show you know your worth.
If you’ve had a salaried role before, then this is the best place to start. Consider whether you feel you were paid enough and go from there. In terms of benchmarking within the role or industry you’re going to be working in, there are plenty of tools and resources online.
We have actually recently produced several salary surveys that help jobseekers—in IT specifically— discover what companies are paying for specific roles, and what benefits they offer. Good general websites to try are Payscale.com and Salary.com. These allow you to state a location too, which is handy if you’re moving to a more expensive city.
If you’re after a specific salary then by all means state it. Again, it’s completely okay to know your worth.
But if you’re going to select a range e.g. £65k–£70k, then just be aware that employers may start negotiations at the lowest end to ensure they get value for money.
HR Consultant, Ben Sherman
When negotiating a salary with a current or new employer, you need to be accurate when matching your skills, experience, and knowledge to your desired role.
The first thing you should do before negotiations even start is to gather information on the project at hand and the company in question. The more you know the more effective your negotiations will be, and the more likely you’ll be at achieving a favorable outcome.
If you know you have valuable skills, choosing the right time to start salary negotiations is key. Waiting until after the interview and you have a job offer is when to start negotiating and bargaining with your employer. Try and avoid throwing out numbers straight away, going too high or too low can bring negotiations to a close pretty quickly.
Saying you are open to suggestions, and that this might depend on your compensation package, means the ball remains in your court. Some employers can be fixed on the salary they want to offer a prospective candidate, but you can always negotiate your benefits package.
Although this won’t add any numbers to your salary, a good benefits package can save you money and give you all kinds of perks. Remember, you don’t have to take the offer.
Depending on what position you’re in, you can always say ‘no’ if the offer doesn’t suit you. This can sometimes be a part of the negotiation process and if the company is serious about you they might make you better offers. However, turning an offer down doesn’t necessarily mean negotiations will continue in your favor.
Miki Feldman Simon
Candidates should feel confident negotiating a salary offer. I advise job seekers to see the salary negotiation as just another part of the recruiting process and to see it as an opportunity to demonstrate their negotiation skills.
By negotiating the offer, candidates are demonstrating an important skill they may need to use as part of their job, negotiating a deal, or workload and project deadlines.
Thus, there is no harm in always trying to negotiate, as long as it is done professionally and in a pleasant manner.
When negotiating, candidates should research their worth, identify the employer’s needs/challenges and highlight how they are the best fit for the role. Just throwing an unreasonable number out there will not have the same effect.
It also helps to pinpoint to parts of the offer where you may have specifically expected more to justify your request, for example, the bonus is lower than expected, they do not match 401K, the health insurance contribution is lower, etc.
I also like to remind candidates, that at the point that they have received an offer, the company is likely as keen as they are to ‘close the deal’ and bring them on board. They are likely to not break the deal over a request of another $5,000.
Founder, Engine Scout
Tip 1: Before you even begin negotiating a better salary offer, make sure you’re prepared to answer any questions your employer might ask.
The key to getting a higher salary is to demonstrate (with specific examples) your value as a top performer. For example, it could be times where you showed initiative on a project, being a team player or for extra points – give specific examples of how your actions lead to direct sales within the company.
Tip 2: If you’re not happy with the initial offer, don’t take it personally and remember there is ALWAYS room for negotiation, even if your prospective employer states otherwise.
Tip 3: Always ask for more than you think you deserve. For example, if you wanted an X amount of money, as a general rule of thumb add 20% on top of this figure.
Co-owner & COO, RIZKNOWS LLC
As a person that sits on the other side of the table in salary and job negotiations, I can tell you that the biggest thing my business partner and I look for when deciding whether or not to promote someone is their level of commitment.
In other words, is the particular employee fully committed to helping the business grow and succeed or do they just treat it like any other 9-5 job?
As such, in salary negotiations, the best thing an employee can do is come armed with proof of how committed they are to the company’s success.
This can be displayed in several forms, whether it’s examples of how they’ve gone above and beyond their normal scope of duties, proof of how much incremental revenue they’ve driven for the company or evidence of their dedicated work ethic.
Founder, Web Cosmo Forums
When looking to negotiate a salary with an employer, people should always consider the results of their own work.
So, try to objectively gauge how large (or small) your impact will be on the company and adjust accordingly. Of course, when you decide that a salary offer should be made, you need to prepare.
First of all, pick a moment to do so. Never try to attack your employer when they’re extra busy or obviously irritated. The topic should be breached when they’re giving you an extra assignment when asked to stay overtime and similar situations.
Confidence is key! Your body language and posture, as well as voice, should appear relaxed and in control. You shouldn’t in any way appear threatening or issue ultimatums.
Related: Why is Body Language Important?
Also, never mentions your colleague’s paychecks, you could get them in trouble. What if you’re rejected? Fortunately, employers can offer other benefits instead of a change in salary, such as more flexible work time or special bonuses for projects.
To sum it up, you should appear confident, but not overly so, and try to point out objective reasons why you should get that salary.
PHRHR Director, Career Igniter
Know Your Salary Worth. How many years you have been working will likely have the greatest impact on your salary worth in your career field.
Those who have more experience can usually command more money. It’s important to factor in all related experience, not just what you have gained in a formal job role.
Possessing skills and expertise beyond what is required for the job may help increase your salary worth.
Geographic location also has a large influence on the salary a new company is likely to offer you. In areas with a high cost of living (like New York City or San Francisco), candidates can generally expect all salaries to be higher than areas with low costs of living.
When a specific location is experiencing issues with a tight labor market (not enough talent for the available jobs), your salary worth may go up even further and you may be able to negotiate a higher starting salary.
Candidates who possess significantly more education than is required may be able to command a larger salary in the market. Education costs money and employers often acknowledge that.
While they aren’t looking for candidates with too much education (you don’t need a Ph.D. to sort mail), they are usually willing to pay a higher salary to those with applicable advanced education. Don’t shortchange your educational investment.
Managing Partner, Shapiro Negotiations Institute
Here a few tips for employees:
- If you are changing jobs and/or companies, don’t let the employer anchor you with what you are currently making that has nothing to do with it. You do this by doing a few things, differentiating your past/current role from the new one; focusing more on the market rates of the new role both in and out of that company; and then also leveraging the other factors in the negotiation (bonus, vacation, health insurance, remote work capability, etc.).
- You can be positive and upbeat but still, be tough. Do this by being confident about what you say but saying it in a polite and respectful manner.
- Prepare even script and roleplay for the salary negotiation. Most people prepare extensively for interviews but then very little for the negotiation piece.
How will you try to get them to make the first offer?
What will you say if pushed to provide a salary expectation?
How will you react to an offer that you deem to be too low? And what about too high?
Jot down a few points and saw it out loud or roleplay with someone. You will be much more precise and confident when it comes time to the real negotiation.
Marilyn V. Santiesteban
Assistant Director of Career Services, The Bush School at Texas A&M
Everyone fears to negotiate because they think it’s adversarial. It’s NOT!
You and the employer are both on the same team and share a goal – getting you in that job. I advise using a partner frame of mind paired with inclusionary language that sounds like :
“Can we put our heads together and see if we can bump up the salary a little?”
“The salary seems a little low. Let’s see if we can raise it.”
“The rest of the offer looks great! Can we talk a little more about work from home options?”
This technique provides a more comfortable, conversational – maybe even friendly – discussion and models behavior the employer wants.
Sales Professional | Career Coach | Author, The Art of SalesFu
My clients are sales people so the actual salary is typically the least important item to negotiate. Instead, we talk about the entire compensation package which typically includes commission and bonus.
Naturally, I equate the on interview and negotiations to a sales transaction. Nobody likes to get “sold” something, but all want to buy. The employer wants to make a hire, there is obviously a need, they just have to feel good about the decision.
I typically instruct my clients to ask for 10-20% more than their last commission structure, which is fair since they have recently improved their skill level.
The key to getting this approved is to show that this is a win-win scenario and to tie in the higher compensation with higher levels of performance.
This works for non-sales positions as well. If you are being hired for manufacturing, technology, project management or mid-level management position let your employer know that you welcome quarterly feedback and you expect to be in the top 25% of your colleagues, otherwise you aren’t worth the extra pay.
This means that you will indeed attempt to work harder and smarter and the extra effort will be rewarded. All too often we work harder hoping to be recognized down the road, instead asked to be recognized upfront and put a dollar amount to the value you bring.
Author | Equity Expert, Slicing Pie
Ask for an additional 5%-10% after accepting the offer
There is no better time to ask for more money than when everyone is in a good mood. A simple email should do the trick:
“Hi [hiring manager], I’m really excited to join [company] next week and I’m looking forward to [stuff]. With regard to my base salary, do you think it would be possible to add an additional $5,000? I think this small increase would make the move more comfortable for me and my family. If not, I understand. I’ll see you on Monday! Sincerely, [Joe Schmoe]”
For better or worse, I have had a lot of jobs. This trick has worked every time I have used it, once they came back with twice what I had asked for!
Shemifhar Freytes, MSE
Engagement Strategist, Commercial Acoustics
The best way to negotiate a salary offer is to start by knowing the value of your skills, background, and connections. This approach applies whether you are switching career paths or moving up the ladder.
Quantify and evaluate your skills.
How valuable are ALL your skills in the current market?
How much can they benefit the position and the company? Think beyond the scope of the position.
Is the company growing quickly?
Could/will they benefit from your “out of scope” skills?
If so make your case and substantiate it with industry data. Highlight your experience, your background, your connections and the potential benefit to the company if applicable.
If you have a diverse background make the case that your experience allows you to see things from a different angle. Show the value of that experience as it relates to the position and the company.