How to Negotiate Salary?


Salary negotiation is a nerve-racking process that repeats throughout your career. The cycle you will experience in your lifetime, is to interview for a new position, negotiate a job offer, leave your old position, start your new job, ask for a raise or two, seek out new opportunities, and begin interviewing and negotiating all over again.

During your career, you might negotiate salary dozens of times, but the salary negotiation process will always be the same. The only thing that should be changing is your salary level and your goal for the negotiation.

Below is a brief salary negotiation guide, no matter the stage of your career or if you are in negotiations already. I recommend you read it straight through and learn all the valuable strategies and tactics to get paid what you’re worth by negotiating your starting salary.

If you need more pointers and personalized training become a subscriber to my blog and we can connect on the phone or via video conference. 

How to negotiate your starting salary

“Are we negotiating?”,  “Always”

Salary negotiations start early in the interview process, recruiters, applications and hiring managers will try to get your current salary. For the most part, they are not trying to screw you out of money but they want to ensure your compensation requirements fit the budget for the role.  Most companies understand that you get what you pay for and those that don’t aren’t worth working for.

My Rule #1 of salary negotiation is this: Do not disclose your salary history or salary requirements. This can be uncomfortable, but it’s your first opportunity to negotiate a much higher salary.  It’s also a fair statement to say you are not comfortable discussing compensation till you have more details about the role and how it fits in the organization. 

As you move further in the interview process you can learn more about the benefits of the company, health care, 401K match, vision, dental, life insurance, fitness, commuter benefits, vacation time, sick leave, etc.  All these things can have a huge impact on your out-of-pocket expenses and salary expectations. As you move deeper into the interview process you must investigate how people are paid, base/bonus, only base, commissions if appropriate, stock grants, etc.  Once you have these data points you can compare them to where you are currently or where you were previously to evaluate your needs. You must have a number in mind prior to the offer, they are going to push hard for more info at this point and you should be prepared to start negotiations.

Ask them for the salary range for the role and expect them to decline to provide one.  At this point, this is a role you want and they are obviously interested in you but you must balance negotiating and alienating a new employer. Ask one final time by saying, “I believe your compensation will be fair and equitable for the role and my interest in the role is not just money driven.  All that being said I am looking for $XXXXX in a base with the opportunity for the bonus if possible”. The number you give should be 15-20% higher than your current base depending on how that benefits compare given the list above.

Once they make an offer, you’ll counteroffer by sending a carefully written email that includes a strong case to support your counteroffer. Typically, your counteroffer will be 10% more than their offer, and you’ll focus on your base salary at first. At this point, if they meet you halfway you have already increased your base salary by 20%-25%.

After you send your counter, you’ll prepare a script ahead of the “Closing Discussion”, which is typically a 5-10 minute conversation over the phone where the recruiter or hiring manager responds to your counteroffer and you hash out all the final details of your offer. Any new employer wants you to start as soon as possible usually but remember it’s a small world and burning a bridge at your current employer could have huge ramifications.

That’s a high-level overview of the salary negotiation process.