How to Guides Professional Development

Your Comprehensive Guide to Negotiating Salary

negotiating-salary
Written by Kate Lopaze

No matter what your job, no matter what your industry, you have something in common with everyone else: you want to make more money as you move through your career. (Living the dream!) Similarly, the way to get there is pretty universal as well: learning how to negotiate your workplace value into cash money. Whether you’re already in a job and you’re seeking a raise, or you’ve just gotten a job offer and want to maximize your starting salary, there are tools to keep in your belt for negotiating your salary.

1. Negotiating Salary When You've Just Gotten a Job Offer 

a.  When Should You Start Negotiating? 
b.  What Tools Should You Have Ready to Go? 
c.  How Should You Approach the Negotiation? 
d.  When Do You Settle? Or, When Do You Walk Away? 
e.  What Mistakes Are Lurking? 

2. Negotiating Salary If You’re Looking for a Raise/Promotion 

a. When Should You Start Negotiating? 
b. What Tools Should You Have Ready to Go? 
c. How Should You Approach It? 
d. When Do You Settle? Or, When Do You Walk Away? 

How to Negotiate If You’ve Just Gotten a Job Offer

Congratulations! Score! You’ve outwitted, outlasted, and outplayed your competitors to get to the end. (Oh wait, that’s Survivor.) Now after you’ve had a glass of champagne (or the fizzy celebratory beverage of your choice), don’t get too complacent—you’ve still got one more stage: the salary negotiation. Business.com has a great overview of the process:

When Should You Start Negotiating?

You should wait until you have your job offer in hand. Mention money too early, and you run the risk of giving information that could limit your salary ceiling (like what you were earning previously, or what you’d be willing to accept now). It could also be a turn-off for the hiring company…you don’t want to seem too mercenary before you even have the job. During the interview phases, focus on your attributes and experience, and on getting hired.

Once you’ve received an offer, then it’s time to start negotiating your salary.

What Tools Should You Have Ready to Go?

 As you get ready for battle, here are three things to have at the top of your mind.

1. A target salary range

While you shouldn’t actually mention salary while you’re interviewing, you should definitely start thinking about the best-case scenario (job offer and salary negotiation stage) ahead of time. Part of that is doing your homework on what you’re worth, professionally.

There are tons of resources online that can help you drill down into your specific industry and job, and find at least a range that feels comfortable based on your experience level. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has baseline government data on salaries and career outlooks for various industries. Sites like Payscale.com, Salary.com, and GlassDoor.com can help you zoom in on your professional worth as well, aggregating data about real people’s salaries in various industries. You want your expectations to be realistic, so gather as much info as you can about the salaries attached to your new role (or similar jobs in the industry), for people at your experience level.

2. Your selling points (which are now justification points)

In addition to having a dollar range in mind, you should keep your resume and interview talking points handy as well. It may seem like those are old news after you aced your interview, but you should have a ready list of all of your accomplishments and experience to bolster any requests for a higher salary.

3. Intangibles

And don’t forget that while we call this “salary” negotiation, it’s about your entire compensation package at your new job. That includes yes, your baseline salary, but also vacation time, flexible work arrangements, paid leave, and other benefits. These may take a backseat to the official dollar amount, but they’re great to have as an additional bargaining chip—especially if the company proves unwilling or unable to meet your goal salary. You can try to get additional time off, or work-from-home arrangements to compensate for a slightly lower salary.

4. Your dealbreaker amount

Unfortunately, some negotiations won’t work out. As part of your salary range, you should also keep the lower limit in mind—the number where, if the salary falls below it and can’t budge upward, you can’t move forward with this new job.

How Should You Approach the Negotiation?

Some companies will include a salary offer with the official job offer. In this case, you would use that number as a starting point, or an “anchor.” If you get an offer without a dollar amount attached, you get to throw out a number as the anchor. Again (and I can’t emphasize this enough), be realistic. If you’re going for a mid-level management position and you walk in asking for a giant signing bonus and a Ferrari, you might be laughed right out of your job offer.

According to recruiter Nick Corcodilos, a goal to keep in mind for switching jobs is about a 20% increase in salary. That may or may not be realistic depending on your industry or your new company’s economic situation, but think of it as an ideal-world guideline.

Either way, once the initial dollar amounts is out there, don’t accept the first offer from your new company. You won’t lose your job offer just for negotiating—it’s a commonplace part of the hiring process these days. Send a counteroffer, and go from there.

To see how salary negotiations can play out, career author Ramit Sethi has a no-holds-barred approach in this video negotiation re-enactment:

When Do You Settle? Or, When Do You Walk Away?

As Kenny Rogers once told us, part of the game is knowing when to fold ‘em. Negotiation for a new job is a form of gambling—there’s no guarantee the company will meet your salary request. If their initial and subsequent offers fall below what you are able to accept, then it’s okay to turn down the job offer and walk away. If you really need or want this job, and the salary offer falls substantially short, try to use that “intangibles” chip and try to bolster things like vacation time or job title as a way to offset the salary before you accept the offer.

 Also, don’t let the process drag out indefinitely. The company is clearly interested in filling this role as soon as possible, and you want things to move along as well. Expect the process to advance over a short period of time…possibly a few days. Once you know things aren’t going to work, it’s better to put that out there and get the inevitable end out of the way.

What Mistakes Are Lurking?

Here are some of the top mistakes people make in negotiating a new job salary:

  • Accepting the first offer. Just don’t do it! You don’t know how high you could have gone if you don’t even try.
  • Aiming too high. Be realistic in your salary expectations.
  • Being too aggressive. A respectful tone is key to the process—after all, these will likely be your colleagues soon. Confidence and information are great tools—swagger is not.

  • Accepting without knowing salary. If, in your excitement, you accept the job offer without knowing what your salary is (and having a chance to respond or negotiate), you put yourself at a major disadvantage.

How to Negotiate If You’re Looking for a Raise/Promotion

If you’re already comfortable in your job and are seeking a merit-based raise, the process is a little different. No one is going to come to you and say, “You know what? You’ve been awesome this year. Take this extra cash.” The initiative is all on you. It’s easy for both employers and employees to get complacent. Once they have you in place, what’s their incentive to keep throwing money at you? Many companies have an automatic yearly raise in place, often at the cost-of-living level. But even if you can already expect a bump in your salary this year, there’s no reason you can’t try to negotiate and maximize that. And if your company doesn’t have an automatic raise mechanism in place, all the more reason to make a case that you deserve more.

RELATED: How to Negotiate Your Salary in an Interview

When Should You Start Negotiating?

Your annual review is a pretty common time to kick off this process. Your manager is already thinking about your performance for the year, and may have promotions on the brain. However, you don’t necessarily need to wait for an official window for talking about salary. If you’ve come to the conclusion that you would like to ask for more money, all you really need to do is schedule time with your boss to sit down and discuss. Make sure you have set a time when both of you can concentrate—don’t do it on the fly (like as you’re both getting coffee in the morning).

What Tools Should You Have Ready to Go?

Even though you’ve likely been at your job for a while, don’t rely on your boss’s institutional memory of what you’ve done. Be prepared to come up with your “I deserve a raise today” package from scratch. This is especially true if your current boss isn’t the one who hired you. Don’t make him or her dig through your HR file to get your resume from six years ago. Here’s what you should be prepared to bring to your meeting:

  • Updated resume. An up-to-date resume isn’t a betrayal of your employer, or a sign you’re looking to jump ship. It’s a smart tool to have: a current record of what you’ve accomplished in the time since you’ve been hired.
  • A target salary range. Similar to a new hire, you should know what you’re worth, professionally. Use sites like the S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale.com, Salary.com, and GlassDoor.com to figure out where you should be aiming. This can be good for two reasons: a) If you’re making less than other people in similar roles, that’s a great talking point to have; and b) it prevents you from asking for the Moon when you should be asking for, say, a modest moon rock.
  • Non-salary considerations. Would your life be easier if you could work from home one day a week? Can you get three extra vacation days? These are things to consider, especially if your company isn’t able or willing to meet your “suggested” new salary.

  • A plan B. If your company can’t or won’t compensate you to a level you deserve based on your achievements and experience, then what’s your next move? Do you sigh, keep the status quo, and try again next year? Or do you decide that this is no longer a company you want to work for? Before you talk with your boss, have a sense of what you will do, pending different outcomes.
How Should You Approach It?

Long before you approach your boss about a raise, make sure you’re performing at the top of your game. Take on extra responsibilities, and make sure everything’s documented. Seek out leadership opportunities within your company. And always, always have specific examples in mind. You’ll need to justify the extra money, so having concrete talking points as to how you’ve gone above and beyond will make it easier for your boss to either approve, or pass it along to the next level for consideration.

25% of people that asked for a raise got more money than they were expecting
The politics can be tricky with an in-house request for a raise. After all, you’re not facing a faceless HR person or someone you met once for an interview. You’re approaching someone you’ve worked with, possibly for a long time. According to research by Undercover Recruiter, people are anxious in general about asking for a raise—as many as 39% of people are hesitant to dive into the process, with a scant 26% of women and 40% of men feeling confident enough to go for it:


Once you’ve gathered your data points and gathered the courage to approach your manager about a raise, make sure you keep a balanced, professional tone throughout. Even if you and your boss are best buds, remember that this is a relationship-neutral zone: he or she can’t reward you just for being a hilarious friend, or a co-conspirator in office shenanigans. Remember that you’re negotiating something as a professional, so act like the consummate professional who deserves more compensation.

When Do You Settle? Or, When Do You Walk Away?

Unlike a new job offer salary negotiation, you don’t have the same luxury of walking away from the process. If your boss says no, you still have to show up at work the next day. This is where your Plan B comes in handy. If you’d already decided that you’re going to move on if the company doesn’t give you a raise, don’t quit in a snit. Calmly end the conversation with your boss, and quietly make plans to look for your next job opportunity. Remember, it’s easier to look for a job while you have a job, so don’t give up in anger and endanger your security in the meantime.

So what do you think? Are you ready to approach your next salary discussion like the keen-eyed shark you can be?

RELATED: 11 Tips for Getting the Salary You Want

Want More Content Like This?

Get TheJobNetwork's Latest Career Advice &
Job Seeking Tips straight to your inbox

60 Shares
Share6
Tweet2
Share26
Reddit25
Pin1
[Free eBook Download]
[Free eBook Download]