Negotiate Your Salary After the Job Offer
Table of Contents
(With Worksheets, Links, Tips, Tricks, and Lists!)
By Career Coach Brian
Updated October 17, 2022 | Original Jan 20 16, 2020
When you have navigated the interview process successfully and made it to the offer stage you may want to celebrate but there is still a bit of work to be done. At this point you will benefit from negotiating the offer. If you don’t feel the compensation offered aligns with your skills, experience, education, or amazing personality you can negotiate for more money, benefits, fewer hours, more flexibility, increased vacation time, flexibility in working hours, etc.
Most People Don’t Like To Negotiate
In fact, 71% of employees are missing out on a simple way to earn more money. According to a report from recruiting software company Jobvite, “only 29 percent of job seekers negotiated their salary at their current or most recent job,” meaning 71 percent of employees could be missing out on a fatter paycheck. This can also be evident if you look at most any career coach website or career coaching platform – they will be full of tips and tricks, ideas and perspectives.
84 percent of those confident enough to ask for higher pay succeed in getting it, Jobvite reports.
But lots of people simply aren’t comfortable or lack the experience to ask for more. I wrote this article to help change that. I look at it this way, I will provide you with some specific and actionable suggestions you can follow and just by asking 84% of readers who follow this advice will be successful. As a career coach online I get a number of emails about this regularly and put this together to be a one stop shop for most people.
A first offer that is a “final offer” is rare and as you keep reading I’ll share some other things you can ask for that may be important to you and just as good as an increase on your base salary.
In the article below you will get some specific and actionable steps you can take to negotiate your salary. There are examples, worksheets available for subscribers, tips, FAQs, links, and videos. Even with all that you may find yourself in a situation where you need help from a career coach or want to practice some of these, feel free to reach out out to me and check out these articles for more ideas on that: Making a successful mid-career change, and I’m not moving up in my career. They may help.
Prepare for your salary negotiation. Take the time to prepare, do some research, and think about your salary negotiation options:
STAGE 1 – SALARY NEGOTIATION RESEARCH
Know your numbers
This may be the single most important tip so I put it right up top. Negotiating without knowledge becomes personal and emotional, negotiating once you have a number to work with makes it less personal and you more confident.
This is easier than it sounds:
Step 1. Look at your bank account, credit card statements, and bills to calculate your average monthly costs.
Step 2. Take your monthly expenses and double them.
Step 3. Add 20% to this number.
Write that down as your target salary.
How does that feel? Is it lower than you are making now, the same? Is it a bit higher but not what you think it should be? Well, the good news is it is your target and can be adjusted, the goal of the exercise is to base your target salary on your actual situation and negotiate to get as close to that number as possible.
Now, let’s calculate your minimum viable salary. This is the salary you would accept for the absolute best job you can find with a career trajectory that is good for you and where you are surrounded by great people. This is the job where you can see yourself staying for a long time or one that sets you up for future success. In cases like this it is often worth making a lateral move or taking a small hit to get in the door.
This is easier than it sounds:
Step 1. Look at your bank account, credit card statements, and bills to calculate your average monthly costs.
Step 2. Take your monthly expenses and double them.
Write that down as your minimum viable salary.
How does that feel? Is it lower than you are making now, the same? Can you live on it? This is the number you need to stick by because the perfect job that does not pay you enough to live is not the perfect job. Be thoughtful about this number now and you will feel less stress later when you are negotiating.
Evaluate what you bring to the job
At some point you will be asked what your salary expectations are, be thoughtful about where you are professionally and what you bring to the table to share what base your expectations on. Compare yourself objectively to the job ad or job description, if you did not get one you should request it before you sign any offer. If you cannot be objective this is going to be tough, enlist a family member or friend who can help or consider a career coach or other career advisor. Often the first career coaching call is free.
Your potential employer is evaluating you on the following criteria to help them create an offer they believe is fair:
- Years of job/industry experience: If the job description requires three to five years of experience and you meet the higher requirement, it might warrant a higher salary. If you have six years in another industry it may not be seen as equal.
- Education: Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD or specialized degree or certificate programs can all help bump up your salary if they are job criteria. You may be up for a job because of your experience where they are not putting much weight on that degree in basket weaving. On the other hand, a degree that matters in that job can help you make up for a lack of job experience.
- Skills: Niche or technical skills that take time to master may demand higher salaries in your market, do your research. (Keep reading for more on that.)
- Licenses and certifications: Required or preferred certifications or licenses may attract higher salaries. If you already have them, you might be in a good position to request greater compensation. If you no not have them and are still offered the job you may be able to negotiate the employer paying for you to get them. Win-win, and very common.
- Managing/leadership experience: Leadership skills are almost always in high demand and if you have specific experiences to point out you may be able to negotiate a higher salary even if the job is not management. Specific manager training is a great thing to negotiate on the way in the door. Many employers have programs like this and while you may not qualify at the time of hire you may get a salary increase.
Evaluate the Company and the Industry
This is where you will need to put in the work. How much is up to you, as we saw above, in most cases you can simply ask for an increase and you may receive some increase in salary or bonus eligibility. On the other hand, being prepared provides a lot of confidence and can help put expectations into context. Sometimes we find out that our expectations may not be met with market data to support it. In other cases we may find out we can fairly ask for more and, by sharing this data with our future employer, learn more about their compensation philosophy.
Start by researching your prospective employer specifically. Sites like Glassdoor or Fishbowl can give a glimpse into what it’s like to work at most organizations, including salaries for various roles, benefits, and culture. This may be a goldmine of information for what people are making and how they feel about working there.
Then go deeper and dive into salary surveys, job listings with specific pay levels, you may even find custom compensation analyses. Check out job boards and employer career sites in search of openings that are similar to your position. Indeed is a great resource here. Not all postings will offer salaries and some will give a range. However, you should be able to gather enough data to gain a better sense of whether or not your salary falls in line with current opportunities. Put the power of free internet stuff to work to gauge your salary: Once you enter your job title, location, and offered salary, you’ll be able to see where you are.
Some examples of these salary tools include Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth, Salary Wizard, Payscale’s What Am I Worth, and LinkedIn Salary and Salary.com.
Salary surveys offer an overview of compensation for employees in similar roles. These are often more broad in nature but can give additional insight into whether your salary offer is competitive.
Try this: google “filetype:pdf salary survey [industry]” or “filetype:pdf salary survey [job description title]”. I use the filetype:pdf as I have found most free salary surveys are put out in this format. Your mileage may vary – be creative!
When in doubt, contact people who hold similar jobs and ask them “what they think the market is,” but don’t ask them what their salaries are.
STAGE 2 – SALARY NEGOTIATION PREPARATION
Prepare your talking points and be ready to share your situation.
Most people spend most of their time creating talking points around their expectations and creating a compelling argument to answer:
Why do you feel you deserve a higher salary than the one being offered? This is good and you should be able to speak to the following:
- Years of industry experience, particularly if you have more experience than the employer stated as a minimum requirement. Be specific about how this can help the employer meet their goals or targets.
- Market salary data and how you compare. Don’t be shy about sharing your research, it may help the person you are negotiating with internally.
- Results you’ve achieved in previous roles – this is a good way to anchor what you are asking for to the specific work to be done and feels more like problem solving than negotiating.
- Skills or certifications. If you have them you can talk about how they help in the job, if you want them you can talk about getting the employer to pay for them and/or getting a salary increase once you have gained them.
Consider going above and beyond when negotiating by sharing the answer to this question: Why is this specific point important to me?
In my experience in Talent Acquisition (and developing a career coaching program online) almost every concession given by an employer to a prospective employee has been grounded in a clear need or interest communicated by the person receiving the offer. Most employers I have worked with either as an external consultant or in-house talent acquisition leader have wanted to do the right thing for everyone. Not every job is right for every person and this is the time to find out if you can be happy in this role.
If you keep things conversational and communicate from a place of openness and empathy it helps refine some of the options that may benefit you. It allows you to be much more specific about what is important (e.g., the paid aspect of a vacation or the number of days allowed off). It also provides greater opportunity for creative agreements. Remember, it’s not always about taking the highest-paying job, it is about finding the right job for you. Negotiating does not have to be combative, it can be collaborative.
Rehearse and seek feedback from an experienced friend, coach, or your dog
Talking about salaries, benefits, asking for more is not easy for everyone and it can be helpful to say it out loud a few times to get comfortable. It is worth it, you are worth it, and this is important for you to do the right way. Beyond the salary impact it can have you may be able to negotiate something that makes this job a better fit for you and that may keep you in the role longer. Changing jobs can be stressful and keeping a good job for a while can help you in a number of ways.
Practicing your talking points can help you gain confidence. Find a friend you trust, a family member, your dog, a mirror, and practice your talking points out loud three times.
This is an area where you can reach out to a career coach online for help. There may be an hourly charge or it could be part of more comprehensive career coaching packages.
Get what you need, if not what you want
Salary is the most negotiated part of the compensation package and that is not always the best or easiest way to get what you need. In some cases employers may not be able to meet your expectations for base salary, justified or not, and that does not have to be the end of the conversation. Consider the other parts of the benefits package that can be negotiated: extra vacation days, a signing-on bonus, flexible hours, or additional work-from-home days may be able to get you where you need to go.
Be ready to ask flexible about alternatives when the employer immediately lets you know they cannot increase the salary.
Relocation is an expense you can negotiate
It’s not unusual for candidates to ask employers to adjust offers to account for expenses related to accepting a job offer. For example, if you are relocating from your current city and need to cover moving costs as well any other costs associated with selling or leasing homes then it would make sense that an increased salary be negotiated.
STAGE 3 – SALARY NEGOTIATION IN ACTION
Share your target salary
You have done your research, you know what you can ask, and you have a range that will work for you. Tell your story and share your target salary. They may come back with a counter-offer and you may accept it if it is at or above your lowest acceptable offer.
Don’t provide a range, just your target so you are sure the lowest number you provide is still an amount you feel is fair.
Try this on and practice it in the mirror:
Employer: “What ARE your salary expectations?”
You: “Based on the market, my experience, and how I stack up compared to the job description, I am targeting a salary of X”
Employer: “What is your current salary?”
You: “Let’s talk about the position you are interviewing me for, I am well paid in my current role based on my performance and my current employers expectations and that is a different role than this one.”
Your target salary is just a number, not a range, and it does not have anything to do with your current role. It has everything to do with your own motivation to change roles and your suitability for which you are interviewing. Own it. Be humble, but own it.
Be professional and polite
This is less a negotiation tactic and more of a reminder that everyone in the process is a professional and usually doing their best. Accepting or declining an offer can and should be done professionally and with gratitude for the offer itself. Also, it is a small world and you never know when they may reach out about another role or be able to help you find something in the industry. You, too, can now recommend people to the company and help them find a role.
Relax, you got this
When you have done your research well, filled out your super-duper career coaching company offer negotiation talking points worksheet, and been thoughtful about what you need to negotiate you have already done the hard work.
If you are not negotiating from a win-win perspective or not sure you want this job you may want to re-think accepting the offer at any salary. Negotiating a job offer is not a combative experience and does not have to be stressful if you keep in mind that you are a good fit for the company, you are a solution to a problem, and the negotiation is an extension of this.
You are already working with the people at your future company to solve this problem of a small gap between their first offer and the offer you need to make this happen.
Keep it simple, and state your requested salary, including a brief summary of your reasoning.
Don’t accept or decline right away, followup with a conversation
Once you have received the offer in writing, ask if you can follow up with a conversation to make sure you are clear on the offer and share your perspective. If you received the offer verbally ask for it in writing and then let the person you are dealing with know you would like to talk about the details.
Be grateful and humble, let them know you are excited to get an offer and that you really appreciate their time. You can express that over email and again in person. It is not a great idea to negotiate an offer via email. Small points can be resolved later over email and you should be having a conversation about the larger points.
Why? Because the person you are negotiating with is often your advocate internally and this is your chance to share your situation and work together on a solution.
Help them help you
Take a positive approach to bridging any gaps between their initial offer and what you need to accept the job by bringing them into your frame. Share why you are asking for what you are asking for, how it affects your ability to work and be productive, and ask them if they can think of any other solutions. It is refreshing to be asked to help solve a problem during a salary negotiation rather than going back and forth with offers and counter offers. For example, You: “I am having a hard time coming up with a way to cover the cost of day care on Fridays with the offer you provided me. I am excited about the job and don’t have coverage on Friday’s – I know I can make an impact and I am stuck. Do you have any thoughts? Maybe I am not seeing something.” Them: “Well our budget is tight and I cannot budge on the salary. Would you be open to working from home on Friday afternoons? If you leave at lunch you will be home when your son gets back from school and as long as you are on the weekly wrap up call to deliver your section we can live with that.” You: “Where do I sign?”
There are no silver bullets and this is one of many ways to get to win-win, keep talking and sharing and you may get there. If not, you know that it is a great opportunity but not for you right now and they will know you were negotiating from a place of honesty and collaboration.
Sometimes you walk away, politely
When you have negotiated in good faith, shared your needs, and are unable to get to your minimum acceptable salary and benefits it can be time to walk away. This can be tough when they have increased their initial offer and still have not been able to meet your needs.
If nothing in the negotiation process has changed the benefit of taking the role it is time to politely decline the role. You may want to try the One Killer Close as a way of trying one last time. “If the offer was X I could sign right now and start on Monday, as it is I am going to have to politely decline. I really appreciate the offer and hope we work together someday soon.
One killer close you can use only once
If you have only one point to negotiate and you want the job you can make it easy for everyone with this one, killer, closing technique. It can sometimes be as simple as saying this: “I would sign this offer today if _________________ .”
I would sign this offer today if I could work from home once a week.
I would sign this offer today if it was 5% higher.
I would sign this offer today if the bonus was guaranteed in year one.
In many cases the offer is close enough and there is only a small point than can be easily agreed to. When the request to negotiate is closed ended, as in,” I’ll sign today…”, your future employer feels more confident in agreeing because you have just assured them you won’t be coming back to the table.
Use this carefully because no one will appreciate it if you come back to the table with more demands once your “single” request has been met.
Avoid these common mistakes
It is easy to get excited about a new job or fatigued from the job search and interview process. The fact is that the later you are in the interview process the more negotiating power you have. Here are five salary negotiation mistakes to avoid:
- Not negotiating: Some people don’t like to negotiate. Yet most employers create offers with the expectation it will be negotiated.
- Revealing their minimum: Remain as noncommittal as possible when asked about your salary requirements early in the interview process and stick to your target salary as the number you share.
- Negotiating without preparation: DO your research and create a few talking points for your minimum salary expectations.
- Asking too early about salary: The longer you wait, the more advantage you have over the salary negotiation process.
- Accepting or rejecting a salary offer immediately: Take 24-48 hours to think it over and talk with other decision-makers in your life. The ball is in your court.
Take some time and put some work into the salary negotiation stage of job seeking and you will be rewarded.
When you must use email, be brief and clear
I recommend that you negotiate over video or by telephone. This is more personal and less intimidating for most people than an in-person negotiation. Email, however, can be used when you must and works well enough when you are making a simple, clear request or using the One Killer Close method.
If you choose to use email it is important to keep it simple, as brief as you can and clear.
Here are a couple email examples you can use to get started:
Example 1: For a below-market offer
Dear Ms. Whatsherbucket,
I received the offer! I’m so excited for the chance to work with you and the teams at Widgets-R-Us.
With my years of experience in widget construction and experience turning around low performing teams, I am certain that I will achieve great results for Widgets Inc.
Before I sign the offer I would like to discuss the base salary. According to my research, the average salary for comparable positions in this area is /difference/ higher than the base on my offer. I would like to discuss the possibility of moving the offer closer to my target salary of /amount./
I am thrilled to have been offered this position, I know I can move the needle in widget construction. I would appreciate it if we could talk soon.
Example 2: For a below-expectation offer due to your experience
Dear Mr. Whosyerfellow,
I was so excited to get your email with the offer. Thank you so much for the opportunity to work with you at Widgets-R-Us.
Before I can sign and return your offer, I need to discuss the base salary. With my /specific qualifications from the job description/ and demonstrated success in /area of job/, I am sure I’ll bring value to Widgets-R-Us. Because of my /experience/ in /area/, I am targeting an offer much closer to my target salary of /dollars/.
I am excited about the offer, and would appreciate the chance to work with you on how to get the value of the offer closer to my target salary.
I have some ideas how we can get there, such as [benefit] or [benefit] if possible. I am confident there is a way to get there without going outside your budget.
Frequently asked questions about salary negotiation for a new job…
- How can I find out what the salary range is for the position I’m applying for?
The best way to find out is to do your research. Check out websites like Glassdoor and Payscale to see what others in your field with your experience level are making. You can also talk to people you know who work in similar positions. Once you have a good idea of the range, you can start thinking about what salary you would be comfortable with.
- Should I disclose my current salary?
This is a tricky question, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. In general, you don’t want to give away any information that could be used against you, so it’s usually best not to mention your current salary unless the employer asks directly. If they do, it can be helpful to steer the conversation back to the position at hand and the salary you are targeting to do the work they need.
However, if you’re comfortable doing so, disclosing your current salary could help show the employer that you’re worth more than they might have initially thought. If it does not tell the story you want, don’t share it.
- How do I broach the topic of salary?
The best time to discuss salary is after the employer has made an offer but before you’ve accepted the job. At that point, you can simply state your desired salary and explain why you feel you deserve that rate of pay. It’s important to be confident but not arrogant, and to back up your request with specific examples of your skills and experience.
- What if the employer doesn’t want to budge on salary?
If the employer isn’t willing to meet your desired salary, there are a few other things you can negotiate instead. For instance, you could ask for additional vacation days, flexible hours, or telecommuting options. Alternatively, you could ask for a signing bonus or a raise after completing a probationary period. If all else fails, sometimes it’s just best to walk away from the negotiating table and look for another job altogether.
Negotiating your salary can be daunting, but it’s important to remember that you have nothing to lose by asking for what you want—and everything to gain. Do your research ahead of time so you know what range is reasonable for your experience level and field, and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself during negotiations. With a little preparation and practice, you’ll be able to confidently ask for the salary you deserve.