When an employer extends a job offer, they’ll usually present you with a compensation and benefits package verbally or in writing with a proposed salary. If you don’t feel the pay aligns with your education, career level, skill set and experience, you may choose to negotiate for more money. You may also suggest another form of compensation, such as equity or stock options, or additional perks such as extra vacation days.
Knowing how to negotiate salary offers is a valuable skill that can help ensure you’re fairly compensated for the work you do. However, like any skill, it takes preparation and practice to do well. In this article, we cover how to negotiate the salary you want in ten steps with examples of how to initiate the discussion.
Why you should negotiate your salary
The idea of negotiating a job offer and discussing your pay may feel intimidating and uncomfortable to you, and you’re not alone. In a recent Indeed survey, more than half (58%) of respondents claim to never, or rarely ever, negotiate their pay.1 However, not discussing your salary and benefits can negatively affect your lifelong earning potential. For example, if the average U.S. annual salary increase is 3% and you accept a starting salary that is 10% below your expectations, it could take over two years just to regain those earnings.
It may ease your nerves to know that when it comes to salary negotiation, employers expect candidates to negotiate. One survey found that 70% of managers expect candidates to negotiate their salary and benefits. So while the idea of the conversation may feel stressful, know that negotiations happen often—and when done right, can set your lifetime earning potential on the right trajectory.
When to negotiate your salary
Typically, it’s best to negotiate your salary after you receive an offer rather than during earlier stages of the interview process. You have the most leverage after you’ve proven that you’re the best candidate for the job and you fully understand the employer’s expectations. Negotiating early on might also harm your chances of securing a job offer.
It's important to only counter the offer once or twice at the most. You should also avoid revisiting a compensation package that you've already agreed upon. Doing so shows you respect the employer's time and have boundaries around what you will and won't accept.
If your initial offer is presented on the phone, it’s okay to ask for some time to process the information. If necessary, let the employer know you appreciate their offer and are excited about the opportunity. Then, ask if you can take time to review it and get back to them within a set time frame—ideally no more than 48 hours. If you decide to negotiate, it’s best to do it over the phone so there’s less room for miscommunication. It’s also appropriate to email your negotiation requests if that feels more comfortable.
13 tips to prepare for salary negotiation
1. Start by evaluating what you have to offer
It’s important you know exactly how much value you can offer an employer before you begin the process of negotiating a salary. There are several factors that can influence your compensation, such as:
- Geographic location: Consider the cost of living in your geographic location. For example, you might require a higher salary in San Francisco than Minneapolis for the same set of responsibilities because it generally costs more to live there.
- Years of industry experience: If the job description requires 3-5 years of experience and you meet the higher requirement, it might warrant a higher salary.
- Years of leadership experience: Similar to industry experience, if the employer prefers or requires leadership skills and you meet or exceed their expectations, it may be justification for higher pay.
- Education level: Relevant bachelor’s, master’s, PhD or specialized degree programs can impact your compensation depending on the role or industry.
- Career level: In general, you might expect a higher pay range as you advance further in your career.
- Skills: Niche or technical skills that take time to master may attract higher salaries.
- Licenses and certifications: An employer may require or prefer that you have specific licenses or certifications. If you already have them, you might be in a good position to request greater compensation.
When you begin your salary negotiation, be sure to reiterate why you’ll be a valuable employee and consider using the above factors to justify your desired salary.
2. Research the market average
Having this data can help support a more successful negotiation and can be found by using Indeed Salaries. Knowing the market average can give you a good baseline for your salary request and can even be used as justification. This tool uses salaries listed from past and present job postings on Indeed as well as data submitted anonymously by other Indeed users. Here are some questions to consider as you begin your market research:
- What is the national average salary for the position?
- What is the average in your geographic location and in cities nearby?
How much do similar companies in your area pay employees in this position?
Visit Indeed's Salary Calculator to get a free, personalized pay range based on your location, industry and experience.
3. Prepare your talking points
As you’re developing negotiation notes, it might be helpful to answer the following question as a framework for your conversation: Why do you feel you deserve a higher salary than the one the employer is offering? Put together a few talking points before you contact the employer and be as specific as possible. Those details might include information like:
- Results you’ve achieved in previous roles such as goals you’ve met, revenue you’ve helped drive or awards you earned. If possible, use actual numbers.
- Years of industry experience, particularly if you have more experience than the employer stated as a minimum requirement.
- Skills or certifications, especially if they are in high demand within your industry.
- Average salaries being offered by other similar employers for similar roles
4. Schedule a time to discuss
Reach out to the recruiter or hiring manager to set up a time to speak over the phone. While it’s acceptable to negotiate over email, it’s highly encouraged for the conversation to happen over the phone. Speaking over the phone or in-person allows you to have a back-and-forth conversation, express gratitude and clearly communicate your requirements. Try to be respectful and clear as the recruiter or hiring manager will be the ones advocating for your salary to the decision-makers.
5. Rehearse with a trusted friend
Practicing your talking points can help you gain confidence and identify areas of improvement. The best way to practice would be in front of a trusted friend or colleague that can provide helpful feedback. Alternatively, you can try recording your conversation on a camera or speaking in front of a mirror.
This step is especially important because talking about money can sometimes feel uncomfortable, but the more you practice, the more comfortable you’ll feel when it comes time to have the conversation.
6. Be confident
Delivering your negotiation with confidence is as important as the words you say. The more confidence you convey, the more confident the employer will be in their consideration of your feedback. Confidence, an appreciation of our own abilities and qualities, should not be confused with arrogance, an exaggerated sense of our importance. Lack of confidence can also result in over-explaining or apologizing for your ask, neither of which is helpful in a negotiation scenario. Instead, confidently and simply state your requested salary, including a brief summary of your reasoning.
Remember that you’re bringing an important set of skills and experience to the organization. The pay an employer offers should account for the value you provide. If you feel the employer’s original offer is below the value that aligns with your skills and experiences, be prepared with researched market salary research and personal value data that supports your ask and be confident in your decision to ask for more.
7. Lead with gratitude
Once you reach the job offer phase of the hiring process, you’ve probably invested a great deal of time and energy applying and interviewing for the position. The employer has also invested time in the process, so it’s crucial you recognize this and thank them for considering you for the opportunity. Be sure to share any specific reasons why you’re excited about the job, such as the culture or the product.
Even if you end up declining the offer, it’s important to do so in a friendly and professional manner. After all, you never know what opportunities they may have available for you in the future.
Related: How to Ace Your Final Interview
8. Ask for the top of your range
One fundamental rule of salary negotiation is to give the employer a slightly higher number than your goal. This way, if they negotiate down, you’ll still end up with a salary offer you feel comfortable accepting. If you provide a salary range, the employer will likely err on the lower end, so be sure the lowest number you provide is still an amount you feel is fair.
9. Share job-related expenses you’re incurring
Another reason you may ask for an increased salary is to cover any costs you’re accumulating by taking the job. For example, if you’re relocating to a new city for the job, you’ll have to pay moving expenses as well as any costs associated with selling or leasing your current home. If you’re taking a position further away from home, you’ll have to factor in commute expenses such as train fare or gas and wear and tear on your vehicle. It’s not unusual for candidates to ask employers to adjust the salary to account for expenses related to accepting the position.
10. Prepare for tough questions
Recruiters and hiring managers negotiate often, so they will likely be prepared to ask important, sometimes intimidating questions to figure out your motivations. It’s important not to get rattled by these questions and to remain honest. Some questions you can expect include:
- Are we your top choice?
- If we come up in salary will you accept the position immediately?
Do you have any other offers?
11. Be flexible
Even if the employer is unable to provide the salary amount you want, they may be able to offer other forms of compensation. For example, you may be able to negotiate more stock options, extra vacation days, a sign-on bonus or additional work-from-home days to combat a lengthy commute. Be ready to ask for alternatives in the situation where the employer immediately lets you know they cannot increase the salary offer. In some cases, they may be just as valuable (or more so) than a paycheck.
12. Ask questions
If the person you’re negotiating with seems surprised, reacts negatively or immediately rejects your counter, try to remain confident and calm. Meet their reaction with open-ended questions to find out more information and keep the conversation going.
Examples of questions include, “What is the budget of this position based on?”, ”What information do you need from me to make a decision?, ”Are there other negotiables available besides salary?
13. Don’t be afraid to walk away
In some cases, an employer may not be able to meet your minimum salary requirement or offer additional benefits that make it worth your while. Or the employer may counter-offer with a salary that’s higher than their first offer but not as high as your request. In this case, you’ll need to decide if the job is worth the lesser amount.
If it’s less stressful than your current position, closer to home or offers you more flexibility or more free time, you may be open to taking a lower salary. However, if not, you should consider walking away and seeking other opportunities elsewhere. You can find detailed information in How to Decline a Job Offer: Email Examples.
Salary negotiation email examples
Here is how you might approach the situation if you want to begin the negotiation process via email:
Thank you for sending over the job offer package for the Marketing Director position. I want to state again how honored I am to be considered for this exciting position and appreciate you sharing these details.
Before I can accept your offer, I want to address the proposed compensation. As I shared with your recruiting manager, I have more than ten years of experience in digital marketing and have worked in leadership positions for the past six years. In my last role, I increased the number of marketing-influenced leads by nearly 40% year over year and helped secure the company a 25% higher annual revenue. Given my experience and expertise, I am seeking a salary in the range of $125,000 to $130,000, which is slightly higher than your offer of $115,000.
I know I can bring a great deal of value to ABC Company and help you exceed your revenue expectations this year. Please let me know when we can discuss the salary further.
I look forward to hearing from you soon!
Related: Average Salary by Age
Salary negotiation conversation example
Here is how you might approach the situation if you are negotiating face-to-face or via phone:
"Thank you for sending over the job offer package for the Regional Sales Manager position. First and foremost, I want to reiterate how excited I am about the opportunity. I believe in your product and know I could help you drive even greater results.
Before I accept the offer, I do want to address the proposed salary.
As I shared during the interview process, I have more than 12 years’ experience in sales, including eight years of experience in medical equipment sales, and two more years of management experience than stated in the job description. In my last role, my team exceeded the monthly quota by 15% for two years in a row and landed three of the largest accounts in company history.
Given my background, I am seeking a salary in the range of $145,000 to $150,000. I am definitely open to discussing alternative compensation, such as opportunities for additional stock options or increased performance-based bonuses. I’d love to hear your thoughts."
Related: What Is a Competitive Salary?
Salary negotiation is a critical step in the hiring process. By taking the time to talk through why you feel you need more compensation, you can help employers better understand the value you provide. As with any new skill, the more you negotiate, the more you’ll improve and the easier it will become. By using the above tips to negotiate your salary, you can walk into the conversation confident, prepared and ready to secure the pay you deserve.