Salary negotiation is a key part of career growth. Everyone knows the importance of negotiating, but not enough people follow through. A 2019 survey revealed 55 percent of U.S. workers negotiated their last salary, which is a great sign of progress as compared to 39 percent in 2018. However, there are still systemic problems, like the persistent gender wage gap that hurts women over the course of their careers. Thankfully, taking an active role in asserting your worth through negotiation can help mitigate these issues.
Negotiating salary doesn’t have to be an awkward or nerve-racking experience when you follow the right guidelines. It’s a natural and expected part of the hiring process. Just like there are best practices for creating a resume, there are guidelines you should follow during the salary negotiation process. We outlined 45 expert tips that we know will empower you whether you’re negotiating your first job’s salary or securing a raise from a well-earned promotion.
How to Negotiate Salary When You Land a Job
Tips for Negotiating as a New Graduate Starting Your Career
1) Don’t be the first one to give a number.
Be the second one to speak. Ask the hiring manager what the range is first. The first one that speaks unfortunately loses the advantage. You run the risk of shooting too high or too low, especially if it’s your first full-time job out of school and you’re new to the field.
2) Research salary specifics from reliable sources.
Researching your target salary on websites like Glassdoor and Payscale is crucial. However, it’s the specificity and quality of your research that could be the difference between landing a higher salary or losing a negotiation. Also, don’t be discouraged if your research reveals a much lower salary number than you expected. Remember, even entry-level candidates have some bargaining power.
3) Ask recruiters for salary insights.
If you’re working with multiple recruiters in your job search and interview processes, pick their brains for a more in-depth understanding of salary benchmarking in your industry. Chances are that the recruiters you’re working with have helped plenty of other new graduates navigate negotiations in your field. When you build meaningful relationships with recruiters, you can gain valuable insights to help you make more informed decisions.
4) Read up on your interviewer and the hiring process.
In addition to thoroughly researching the company, be sure you know the basics of their hiring process so you understand their expectations. Research your interviewer’s background so you can ask more intelligent, thoughtful questions. Every company has nuances to their hiring process. Show your attention to detail by demonstrating your understanding of their process to help you stand out from other recent grads competing for the position.
5) Practice your salary pitch aloud.
Rehearse your pitch in front of a trusted friend or family member, or even in front of the mirror. Saying your pitch out loud is an important part of perfecting it. When you’re new to salary negotiation at the beginning of your career, it’s natural to feel nervous. The best way to calm your nerves is to keep practicing until it’s succinct and flows naturally.
6) Emphasize the talents that make you stand out.
The job market for entry-level positions is competitive, and you need to communicate clearly to accentuate the skills and talents that make you unique. By highlighting your ingenuity with concrete examples, you’re making your worth evident right away.
7) Be aware of your body language.
Focus on how you’re communicating and pay attention to behavioral cues. Sit up straight, make eye contact, and be an active listener. Remind yourself that you earned the interview and don’t feel like you have to portray yourself as meek simply because you’re at the beginning of your career.
8) Be assertive when you speak.
When you’re excited by a job offer, it’s natural to become more accommodating during the negotiation process than you originally intended. One Accenture study found that 44% of recent grads accepted a lower salary than necessary or compromised on benefits. Don’t sell yourself short.
9) Don’t rush the negotiation conversation.
When you enter the negotiation with an urgent, intense energy, it usually works against you. Your interviewer should be the first one to segue to the topic of compensation. Take your time asking thoughtful questions, and speak slowly and clearly when answering theirs.
10) Consider the offer within the context of your long-term goals.
What if you’re unsuccessful at negotiating to achieve your desired starting salary, but you still really want the job? Keep an open mind. Research growth tracks within the company in advance, and express interest in those opportunities. It might be worth starting at a slightly lower salary if you’re confident you’ll be able to earn a higher paying position in a timely manner.
Tips for Negotiating as an Experienced Professional Starting at a New Company
11) Be aware of your tone and language.
If you’ve worked at a senior level and have a laundry list of achievements, it’s natural to exude confidence. However, when you’re starting at a new company, you don’t want to portray yourself as conceited and start off on the wrong foot. Be cognizant of your tone and language so you come across as warm and humble, rather than cold and demanding.
12) Don’t budge on your lowest number.
Every negotiation involves compromise, but be clear about the lowest number you’re willing to accept. With a greater amount of experience to back up your expertise, you have more leverage.
13) Consider perks beyond salary.
Especially when you’re negotiating a salary for a managerial or executive position, you want to be sure you negotiate on meaningful benefits that might be overlooked in the initial compensation package.
14) Don’t pull the trigger too fast.
Your bargaining power is at an all-time high immediately after an offer is made and right before you accept it. Don’t rush the negotiation conversation. Use your temporarily advantageous position to take your time considering your options.
15) Avoid generalizing your success.
Your previous career success gives you a leg up in the negotiation process. Even though your experience speaks for itself, the way you frame your accomplishments also matters. Use hard numbers whenever possible, which helps quantify your worth to your interviewer.
16) Prove you understand the company’s finances.
The more information you gather on the financial state of the company, the more intelligently you can justify your salary. If you’re hired, the company wants to be sure you know the value of what you bring to the table within the context of their big picture goals.
17) Tell a clear career story.
Illustrating the breadth and depth of your experience by telling a concise narrative is conducive to agreeing on a higher salary. Otherwise, telling a series of anecdotes sporadically from throughout your career might not illustrate your career evolution and successes as powerfully.
18) Leverage financial benefits like stock options.
Especially when you’re negotiating packages at an executive level, there could be stock options involved. Be sure you know the ins and outs of exercising your stock options and the accessibility of payout options before moving forward.
19) Avoid an aggressive approach to seal the deal.
If you’re coming on board as a new member of a leadership team, your reputation starts during the interview and salary negotiation process. You should still be assertive, but avoid a harsh approach that might backfire in the long run. Remember, the HR team you’re working with now is the same one you’ll work with if you’re hired.
20) Over-prepare your research on new trends.
You might think you know your industry well, but as someone who’s more established in their field, it's even more important to know the latest innovations and trends. You want to prove your extensive knowledge and your ability to keep your finger on the pulse.
How to Negotiate Salary When You Earn a Promotion
Tips for Communicating Your Experience
21) Outline results you’ve achieved using hard numbers.
Elaborate on the specific metrics and expectations that you consistently met and their overall positive impact on the company.
22) Describe the specific goals you reached.
Specify how the goals you reached benefited your employer and the revenue you helped to drive. Particularly focus on instances when you exceeded your target goal.
23) Share the skills and certifications that make you stand out.
What skills did you refine during your time at the company so far? Explain ways that you went above and beyond to develop as a professional. Be sure to point out ways you’ve stayed on top of the best practices and most in-demand, up-to-date skills.
24) List any awards or industry recognition you earned.
How have you improved your team internally and demonstrated leadership? Maybe you’ve gone out of your way to help coworkers or contribute to building culture within the company. How do you represent your agency as a whole in a positive light? Have you received recognition or spoken at industry events on behalf of your company?
25) Align your professional growth with the company’s growth.
Be sincere in describing how your personal, professional growth has gone hand-in-hand with the success of the company. Give credit where it’s due and express gratitude for any training you received or other perks that were instrumental for you. Express loyalty to your company and reference company values as appropriate.
Tips for Making a Counter Offer
26) Consider your employer’s position first.
Where is your employer able to be flexible and where is there no room to budge? Do your research to better understand your employer’s position to see what’s fair. They might want to give you more but can’t.
27) Correctly calculate your counter offer.
Ideally, you should always counter between 10 and 20 percent above the base salary in the job offer. You can afford to counter closer to 20 percent above the offer if you know the company is already heavily invested in hiring you.
28) Provide your counter offer in one piece.
Rather than going back and forth with negotiating your counter offer, make your hiring manager’s life easier by preparing your full counter offer all at once.
29) Steer clear of ultimatums.
Giving an ultimatum is not a strong negotiation tactic when you’re the prospective employee with a lot more to lose. Be reasonable in your counter offer, because a well-tempered approach is more effective.
30) Email your counter offer.
If possible, it’s preferable to send your counter offer in an email. This allows you to clearly make your case and affords your employer the chance to review it in writing and send it to whomever is necessary.
How to Create a Positive Negotiation Experience
Tips for Preventing a Negotiation from Backfiring
31) Wait until you have a solid offer before negotiating.
If you’re so focused on the importance of negotiating that you start the conversation too soon, employers will see it as a red flag. Even if you intended to be proactive, your actions won’t go over well.
32) Check your sources.
You might think you’re going into a negotiation confidently with research to back you up, but always confirm the accuracy of your sources. Do your due diligence. Don’t take salary estimates you find on the internet at face value without considering factors like location, number of employees, and your skill level based on your work experience.
33) Don’t undermine the value of other benefits.
Negotiating your salary is more complicated than just agreeing on a number. When you fixate too much on the cash compensation, you might miss out on calculating other valuable benefits that make a slightly lower salary well worth it.
34) Don’t try to convince a company to match the salary of another offer you’ve received.
Avoid trying to get one company to match another company’s offer because there are countless reasons why their offers may vary. This is almost never a logical or tactful strategy.
35) Don’t agree to certain conditions without considering the full offer.
It could backfire if you verbally agree to certain conditions, but then realize you no longer agree when you receive the formal written offer. Avoid complications of trying to negotiate something you’ve already verbally accepted by waiting until you can agree to the full offer in writing.
Tips for Learning from a Negotiation Gone Wrong
36) Make a plan to improve.
How can you assess your failure and make a plan to improve professionally? Use the experience to propel you to have a renewed focus on personal and professional development. The cliché rings true that we learn more from our losses than our wins. Get past the awkwardness of a botched negotiation and use the experience to thrive moving forward.
37) Keep a work journal.
If you don’t keep a work journal already, now is the time to start. By taking note of the daily struggles and triumphs of your work experience on a daily or weekly basis, you’ll be more likely to remember specific instances where you were an invaluable team member. These specific moments can be critical supporting facts in future negotiations.
38) Stay optimistic about your current position.
According to successful serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerhcuk, positivity leads to results. It’s a black and white game: you’re either positive or you’re not. You don’t have to be complacent, but you may need to accept your current salary and keep your chin up while you improve yourself for salary advancements down the line.
39) Find a mentor within your company.
Foster genuine relationships with employees at your company who you admire. If you can find a mentor at your company to turn to, it will improve your chances of success the next time you try for a promotion.
40) Collaborate and communicate often with your boss.
Your boss is ultimately the one advocating for your raise or not. It’s important you’re on the same page at all times. Don’t be sheepish about asking what you can do to exceed expectations. Without being pushy, work with your manager to come up with a way for you to earn your desired salary in the future.
Tips for Negotiating Your Salary as a Woman
41) Point out how a higher salary is beneficial for everyone involved.
When women are paid fairly, everyone wins. Reframe the negotiation. Shift the focus of the conversation from being about increasing your pay to improving the value you are able to provide with a pay raise. It’s no secret that the gender pay gap is still apparent both nationally and globally. This PayScale reported women still earned 79 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2019.
42) Take a balanced approach to negotiation.
Stand up for yourself while still showing your flexibility. The reality is that women are still not rewarded like men are for taking an authoritative approach to negotiating. Work collaboratively with your hiring manager to balance your demands with their limitations to reach a mutually beneficial solution.
43) Shut down imposter syndrome.
One of the common reasons for women’s decreased likelihood to negotiate is imposter syndrome. Remind yourself that your achievements are valid and you deserve to negotiate confidently. Meanwhile, female’s male colleagues are negotiating more than them, with just 12.5% of women negotiating their starting salary compared to 52% of men.
44) Raise your expectations.
Even if you’re hesitant about it, always ask for more than what you want. This allows you ample wiggle room so you’re never technically settling for less than you originally wanted. You’re likely to improve the overall outcome of your negotiation by setting high target expectations.
45) Don’t fall into the likeability trap.
Women who get stuck in the “likeability trap” don’t advocate as strongly for themselves as they should. It makes sense why many women are cautious about coming across as abrasive. In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, “When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.”
In the aftermath of the Great Recession, most employees just accepted whatever salary they could get. Thankfully, the economy and job market are in a better place, and more people are asserting their worth than ever before. After succeeding in your job hunt, it’s critical not to sabotage your career growth by forgoing your salary negotiation. It’s time to make sure you know how to advocate for yourself to earn the salary you deserve in the new decade ahead.
Robert Half | Harvard Law School | Fearless Salary Negotiation | Tech.co | PayScale | Forbes | UC Davis | Robert Half - Negotiation Survey | Harvard Business Review | CNBC - Sophia Amoruso | Harvard Law School - Interview | CNBC - Top CEOs | OfficeVibe | Bossed Up | World Economic Forum | JobVite | Robert Half - Salary Survey | Business News Daily | Statista | Psychology Today | Fairy God Boss