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Congrats, you’ve landed a job and can take a deep breath after months of sending off resumes and prepping for interviews. But after you’ve celebrated, you might soon have a new concern: how to negotiate your salary.
According to global staffing firm Robert Half, 61% of respondents didn’t negotiate for a higher salary during their most recent job offers. Payscale found that 28% of workers said they didn’t negotiate salary because they felt uncomfortable.
But failing to negotiate a raise when you start working can cost you a whopping $1 to $1.5 million in earnings over your lifetime, economist Linda Babcock told NPR. So as scary as negotiating salary can feel, missing out on a million dollars is even scarier.
How to negotiate salary: 11 pro tips
Fortunately, you can conquer your nerves about the salary negotiation process with research and preparation.
Ready to ask for — and get — the salary you deserve? Here are 11 expert tips on how to negotiate salary and get paid fairly at your next job.
1. Remember that salary negotiation is normal — and probably expected
You worked hard to land a job, and the last thing you want is to come off as ungrateful or unenthusiastic. But don’t worry — the vast majority of employers expect to negotiate salary in the beginning stages!
Salary negotiation is a completely normal part of the hiring process. While there could be a few exceptions, most hiring managers offer a salary knowing you’ll ask for a higher amount.
And you don’t have to worry about an employer withdrawing their offer because you asked about salary. According to NerdWallet, 90% of employers said they’d never withdrawn offers because a job seeker tried to negotiate.
So don’t worry about how negotiating salary will appear; if anything, not asking for a salary negotiation would probably be more unusual than asking for one.
2. You should respond right away, but you don’t have to accept right away
Let’s say you’ve been waiting by the phone to hear about your dream job, and you finally get that awesome call or email with the offer. While you might be tempted to accept right away, it’s smart to gather your thoughts first, especially if you want to negotiate salary.
But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the call or email. Instead, tell the employer you’re thrilled by the opportunity and need to think things over (or discuss it with your family) for a day or two.
That will buy you some time to consider their offer and figure out what salary would work for you.
3. Negotiate your salary over the phone, video chat, or in person
While you might request a meeting over email, you probably shouldn’t make negotiate your salary over email. Even though doing so is less scary, it takes the human element out of the conversation.
Salary negotiation is a back-and-forth, and you can’t really accomplish that dynamic over email. Plus, it’s easier for an employer to deny your request over email than it is over the phone or in-person.
So instead of making your ask in writing, say something like,
I’m thrilled by your offer and excited about this opportunity to join your team. There are a few parts of the offer I’d love to discuss further with you. Are you available to meet (or set up a phone call) on Tuesday at noon ET?
While you’re waiting for a response, you can start preparing how to negotiate salary.
4. Research comparable positions in your field and location
Knowledge is power, and one of the most powerful pieces of knowledge you can bring to your salary negotiation comes from market research. Use a site such as PayScale or Glassdoor to research salaries of comparable positions in your field.
You might also consider your area, as salaries tend to be higher in cities such as San Francisco or New York and lower in more rural areas. If possible, try to dig up data on similar positions within the company itself.
In addition to online research, you could reach out to recruiters through LinkedIn for their insight or other professionals in the same position. This extra step should help you narrow down a figure for what the job typically pays.
5. Talk about the skills and experiences you bring to the table
When you finally make your request, bringing market research into the discussion will ground your request in facts. But don’t forget to talk about your professional value, too.
Reflect on your experiences, skills, and achievements in past roles. When you negotiate salary, you can talk about what you bring to the table and why your contributions are worth a certain amount.
Although this part of the conversation can feel uncomfortable, it’s an effective way to ask for a salary increase. Remember that the hiring manager wants to hire you and thinks you’ll help drive their organization forward.
So don’t be afraid to toot your own horn a little. After all, if you don’t believe you’ll be a valuable asset to the company, you can’t expect the employer to either.
Also, don’t ask for a raise because it will “help you pay your student loans” or for another personal reason. Focus on how your work will benefit the company, not on why you want more money.
6. Figure out what salary would be a dealbreaker for you
If you’ve been searching for a job for a long time, you might be ready to take any offer you can get. But you also don’t want to lowball yourself or get stuck in a role where you don’t feel valued.
So think about what the lowest salary you’d accept would be. If an employer is offering even less than that and refuses to go higher, it might be worth walking away and looking for a company that truly values you.
7. Let the employer state their offer first
If possible, let your employer throw out a number first. If you say an amount that’s lower than what they were going to offer initially, then you accidentally negotiated against yourself!
And if you state a number that’s way higher than what the employer was thinking, your negotiation could be off to a rocky start.
By letting the employer speak first, you’ll know what they’re thinking and have insight into what’s a reasonable request.
8. Request a specific salary, rather than a wide range
Once you’ve done your research, thought about your value, and let the employer make a starting offer, it’s time to request a specific salary. There’s no point asking for a range, such as “somewhere between $60,000 and $65,000.” In this case, the employer might just go for the low end of the range.
Instead, use your research to come up with a specific figure. If the employer has offered $55,000, for instance, you might counter with the following:
- “Thanks so much for your offer. Based on my research of comparable positions and years of experience, I’d be more comfortable if we could agree to a salary of $60,000.”
- “Thank you for your offer. If we could push that number to $60,000 to make it competitive with the current market value for this role, I’d be happy to join the team!”
- “Thank you for your offer to join this awesome organization. Is your salary offer flexible at all? I so, based on my years of experience in this role, I’d like to discuss an alternative salary of $59,500.”
Along with making a clear request, you can add supporting details that you’ve gathered from your research and list of experiences and achievements.
9. Consider other perks as compensation
Let’s say you hit a dead end with increasing your salary; the company says they can’t go any higher. In that case, you might see if there’s any wiggle room in your overall compensation package.
Some other areas that could add value include,
- A signing bonus
- Stock options / equity in the company
- Paid time off
- A relocation stipend
- The option to work remotely a few days per week (if the job isn’t already remote)
If your salary offer isn’t going to the number you want, consider whether other perks and benefits could make up for it.
10. Remember you probably don’t need to reveal your previous salary
Some employers will ask for your previous salary and form their offer accordingly. But this practice is pretty outdated; in fact, some states have even made it illegal.
Since there’s such a big gender pay gap, basing salary off past paychecks just perpetuates the unequal pay between men and women.
So it’s important to know your rights, and don’t disclose your previous salary if you feel uncomfortable doing so. Not only could it depress your future earnings, but it also might be a violation of your rights.
11. Find ways to boost your confidence
Even though you know you probably should negotiate salary, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. A lot of people feel uncomfortable talking about money.
But doing your research will soothe your nerves and help you feel prepared and confident. It could also help to write down a few talking points, as well as brainstorm how to respond to counter offers.
Finally, it could help to reflect on your “money mindset” to uncover any limiting beliefs you have around finances and your value as an employee. By becoming aware of limiting beliefs that are holding you back, you can begin to challenge and overcome them.
Work toward an offer you both feel good about
Although negotiating salary can be nerve-wracking, it’s a totally normal and expected part of the hiring process. And don’t worry that asking to negotiate salary could come off as combative.
If you and the employer were on the same page from the start, you wouldn’t have a salary negotiation in the first place. But the end goal is to work toward a compensation package you can both feel good about.
As much as you want the job, you also want to feel like your contributions and skills are valued. And the employer (hopefully) isn’t trying to lowball you, but instead wants you to feel appreciated so they can retain you as a long-term employee.
In the end, negotiating salary is a win-win for both of you. You’ll end up with a compensation package you feel good about, and the company will start off with a happy employee who’s eager to start working.
Searching for more job search tips? Check out this guide on how to ace your interview for a remote job.