How to Negotiate Your Salary

Negotiation is hard. You are awesome for even trying! Many people don’t and they lose out of thousands of dollars over the long term. Don’t settle—you know how hard you’ll work. It would really suck to get in a job you’re working your ass off for, just to know Jim in the cubicle next to you with the same job title gets paid $10k more because he asked for it. Would you be happy about starting a new job under those circumstances? 

It’s financially smart in the long term. By not negotiating to start with your first job, you can lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in the long run. Don’t leave money on the table. They expect you’ll negotiate. It’s all part of the process.  

The Negotiation 

  • The email beginning the negotiation. The recruiter will send a follow-up email with an offer letter with your title and your salary and send you the benefits package. This is not final.
  • The start of the negotiation. Review the information the recruiter sent carefully and remember: Everything is negotiable. Go after the asks that are most important to you and then use backup items for negotiation if they don’t budge on your items of top importance.
  • Salary. Always negotiate your salary. A company expects it. Their first offer is just that—their first offer. Not their only offer. Assume it is their first and they can go higher. If you don’t ask, you won’t get anything more. Often this is just the beginning of the negotiation, and they will go back and forth in order to find a number that you’re all happy with. Always ask.
    • First think about the salary number that is your “Hell, yes” number—that number is the number that you would LOVE to have. It’s almost embarrassing saying out loud because it’s a crazy high number. Still achievable, but think of it as your “reach” goal.
    • Second, think about the salary number that would be happy to accept—a comfortable number that you’d be willing and even satisfied to accept.
    • Third, think about a number that is the lowest you’ll go—a penny lower and you’d walk away.
    • Be wary of bonuses. Some companies mention bonuses because it will bring you up to a higher salary. Ignore this logic. Bonuses are taxed at 50 percent and aren’t guaranteed. Don’t let them trick you into having your bonus make up the difference between what you want and what they can offer.
    • Next, do a ton of research to support your numbers. Build up a case for why. Do market research to find out the salary range for the position at the company and the averages in your city. Ask others the range for something similar so you can gauge where you are in the market. Try to get as many data points as possible to help build the case for why you deserve more.
    • Draft up a few sentences for why you deserve more related to the market value of the position, salary history, and other research you’ve done.
  • Title. Perhaps you were offered an “assistant” or “associate” position. If you have the experience to warrant a title bump, ask for it. 
  • Paid time off. Vacation policies differ from company to company.  This is an item that is up for negotiation and is part of the whole package.
  • Flexible work schedule. Perhaps you’d like to work from home a day a week or you’d like to the ability to work different work hours. This is where you can bring up a flexible time.
  • Education stipend. Some companies offer a certain amount per year you can use toward education expenses, classes, or professional development programs. 
  • Other Negotiables. Everything is negotiable. You can ask for an additional one-time signing bonus, allowances for transportation, or cell phone reimbursement, and a specific type of workspace that makes you more productive. Select what’s important to you and build up a case for why what your asking for ties back to the company’s best interest, your own history, and the value you’ll bring. 
  • Write down your thoughts.  It’s always better having this conversation in person and outlining your thoughts to help build rapport with the recruiter. If that’s not possible, then an email is the easiest way to get this done quickly, but you’ll still need to get on the phone so you can dive deeper with the recruiter.If you’re crafting an email, outline how you appreciate the offer and would like to discuss the following concerns you have before accepting. List each of the items of negotiation and the top-level ideas supporting the why. Ask for a follow-up call so you can discuss it.
  • Make sure what you are asking for is reasonable and is based on solid research and your experience. Practice talking through the points out loud. Walk your thoughts through with someone else so you are ready to hop on the phone.
  • Set up a call. Find time to talk through your concerns with the recruiter. On the call, express your appreciation for putting the offer together, but share you have some hesitations. Go over why for each one as you have outlined in your email.

Then just play the waiting game and see what they say. When they come back to you, be prepared with your notes and think about the lowest number you’d accept and if you are indeed prepared to accept. If you need more time to think about their solution, ask for it.

If they say no to your offer to a title or salary, it’s not over yet. Ask to be reviewed in three months from your start date and ensure it’s on the calendar when you start. That way you can prove to them how great you are, kick ass, and revisit the conversation in three months. If they can’t concede on salary, you have your other items you care about: Time off, flexible work hours, allocations for education, etc.