How To Negotiate a Salary for a New Job
Negotiating a salary for a new job can be tricky. You and the interviewer may have sharply opposing goals: you’re eager to get the highest possible salary, while the company likely wants you to accept the lowest possible amount within the job’s salary range.
In the end, the hope is that both of you can agree on a salary that matches your worth. However, it may take some effort on your part to stand up for yourself.
Negotiating a new salary can feel like a minefield, but with research and planning, you can develop a strategy that will ensure you a fair salary.
10 Tips for Negotiating a Salary for a New Job
1. Research the company and position in advance.
If the company is private, you probably can’t access employee salaries directly. However, you can do some research on your own to find out an approximation of the salary you should expect.
The best way to research salaries is to ask real people. Talk to company insiders, if you know them personally. Ask fellow employees with the same or similar job titles, or seasoned managers in your industry. Remember that location matters too — nurses in New York and Georgia are on different pay scales, for example.
If an insider is not available to you, feel free to browse sites like Glassdoor, Payscale, and Salary.com to get a range. You can also use a variety of other free online tools to learn how much a job should (or could) pay.
2. Be vague about your rate until the job is almost yours.
Throughout the job application process, you might be asked to give your salary requirements. You don’t have to state your requirements right away. In fact, try to stay vague until the company really wants you. This tactic will put you in the best position to negotiate.
For example, if a prompt asks for your salary requirements in the cold online application, you can write “negotiable.” If an HR representative asks about your requirements before you’ve even interviewed with the hiring manager, you can say, “I’d rather learn more about the position first.” Don’t feel obligated to give the rate from your current job. It’s actually illegal in some states for companies to ask for your previous salary.
By delaying when you divulge your rate, you’ll also have more time to get a feel for the position, what it’s worth to you and what you believe the company is willing to pay.
3. Pick a baseline and aim high.
Yes, it might feel weird, but aim just a little higher than your comfort zone commands. People — particularly women — tend to undersell themselves and regret it later on.
First, figure out your baseline. This includes your basic cost of living plus a bit extra. Then, go higher.
You may feel sheepish because you don’t want to seem greedy or risk having the offer rescinded. But think of salary negotiation as a rare opportunity to boost your income in a serious way. You have no idea if or when you’ll get a raise at this position, and raises are typically limited to a small percentage. If you aim high and the company really wants you, the worst that can happen is that they try to dial you back.
Typically, by the time you’re in salary negotiations, the offer won’t leave the table unless you want it to. Remember that hiring managers really want to fill this position, and they don’t want to go back to the drawing board.
In the best-case scenario, that high salary is yours — maybe you’ll wish you’d asked for even more.
4. …But not so high that you seem insane.
Obviously, there is such a thing as too high. If you’re an entry-level candidate in the media industry, for example, you probably shouldn’t ask for $1 million, or even $100,000. $60,000 might even be pushing it, depending on the company.
Be ambitious and get slightly uncomfortable, but also stay grounded in reality. Companies don’t take well to delusional candidates. If you’re not sure, run your numbers by a knowledgeable and trusted person who works in your industry.
5. Evaluate what the position is worth to you.
You might be willing to accept a somewhat lower salary for a position that provides growth potential, helps you acquire cutting-edge skills, accommodates your lifestyle, or bridges you to a new industry.
On the other hand, if you have reservations about how well the job fits your situation, you might convey a pie-in-the-sky salary expectation, figuring that you have less to lose if you price yourself out of a job.
6. Provide a range.
Experts suggest that you give a salary range, rather than an actual number. If you are offered the low end of your range, you could use that as an opportunity to request other non-salary benefits or perks, such as reimbursement for classes, vacation days or a flexible schedule.
7. Act cool, even if you don’t feel cool.
Negotiating is kind of like playing chicken. Some companies offer a rate first, while others will wait for you to throw down. Sometimes companies take forever to get back to you. There’s a lot of guesswork, and unfortunately, nothing is guaranteed in negotiating. The process is largely out of your control, which can be very frustrating.
No matter how annoyed or nervous you feel about the process, play it cool when interacting with your potential employers. Save any emotional reactions for your friends over brunch, and keep the negotiations totally professional.
8. Crank up their offer.
Salary negotiations are not over once you receive a job offer. The first offer made by an employer is often not the highest possible salary that you can secure. Be ready to concisely articulate what is special about you as a candidate that justifies placing you at the higher end of the range for the job. Think of the offer as the opening gambit in a game. For detailed strategies, check out five things to evaluate when you receive an offer.
9. If appropriate, make a counteroffer.
If you’re looking for something wildly different than the original offer, you may want to make a counteroffer. That means drawing up a totally new offer, likely with new stipulations such as added vacation days or different scheduling.
If you’re lucky enough to have a second offer from another position, you can present it as leverage for a higher salary by starting a bidding war.
10. Be honest.
There are millions of ways to lie during the salary negotiation process, and no doubt about it, it can be tempting. People often inflate their previous salaries or pretend they have a very high offer from another job.
The problem is, you never know if a hiring manager knows somebody really well at your previous job, or at your fake other potential job. If you’re caught, it’s all over. It’s not worth it. Just be honest.