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How to negotiate salary (after a job offer)

How to negotiate salary (after a job offer)

Artwork by: Irina Troitskaya

  • Should I negotiate salary after an offer?
  • 12 Tips to negotiate salary after a job offer
  • 1. Understand your worth
  • 2. Be ready to negotiate benefits
  • 3. Create a compelling pitch
  • 4. Be confident
  • 5. Stand in your negotiators shoes
  • 6. Focus on likability 
  • 7. Pitch your salary first 
  • 8. Embrace the silence
  • 9. Be firm but flexible
  • 10. Leave a few issues on the table
  • 11. Get everything in writing
  • 12. Have a walk away point
  • Key takeaways

There is often more scope to negotiate salary after a job offer than many candidates realize. How you manage the process is critical to an optimal outcome. Here’s how you can negotiate salary after a job offer and get the compensation you deserve.

When you have a job offer in your hand after working so hard during your job search, it's easy to want to sign right away and get to work, even if the offer isn’t everything you’ve dreamed of. Resisting that temptation can pay off big in the long run.  Many people, however, don’t want to negotiate their first offer. They worry it’s too risky.

While it may seem a bit daunting to negotiate a salary after a job offer, it’s important to remember that you’re negotiating for your own worth. Regardless of what stage you’re at in your career, being prepared to negotiate salary (and an attractive benefits package) can make a huge difference to your life in the long-term. 

So, what are the best strategies to employ when negotiating a salary offer? In this article, we’ll explore:

  • Should I negotiate salary after a job offer?

  • 12 Tips to negotiating salary after a job offer

Statistical Insight

Apprehensive about negotiating a salary? You’re not alone. Studies by the Pew Research Center found that most U.S. workers didn’t negotiate higher pay on receiving a salary offer. Among workers that did negotiate, 66 percent secured their target or an increase on the initial offer, and 35 percent received the original offer.  

Should I negotiate salary after an offer?

If you’re wondering whether you should negotiate salary after a job offer, you may feel that the hiring manager holds all the cards at this point and you have no bargaining power. However, if you look through the lens from the employer's perspective, the employer is invested in you at this point and restarting the hiring process will be stressful, expensive, and time-consuming. 

Aside from the financial boost and potential to negotiate some great benefits and perks, you’ll also have the opportunity to make a strong impression on your potential employer by showcasing your stellar negotiation skills. Seeking to negotiate salary after a job offer is a normal part of the application process. What matters is how you go about it. 

12 Tips to negotiate salary after a job offer

If a salary negotiation is on the cards, there are several things that you can do in advance. Thoughtful preparation is central to negotiating your salary after a job offer. No need to learn by heart what you’re going to say, but establishing a plan of action beforehand will help you stay on track. Here’s our top tips to negotiating salary after a job offer:

1. Understand your worth

Researching the salary range for the position will give you a good indication of whether you're being offered a reasonable salary for your skills, experience, and qualifications. Factors such as geographical location and market demand for your chosen profession will also come into play. 

Research salary ranges online. Check out Career.io’s Salary Analyzer with current market data, feedback, and recommendations to ensure you know your worth at the negotiation table. Reach out to recruiters, career coaches and fellow professionals in your network so you can find out more about the salary range. Aim to contact a few people if you can, as this will give you a good benchmark.   

2. Be ready to negotiate benefits

When preparing to negotiate salary after a job offer, you should also think about what benefits and perks are potential trade-offs. Find out the exact details of the benefits package and then factor in any increases or additional perks you could potentially negotiate. Here’s some benefits or perks to think about:

  • Paid Time Off (PTO)

  • Performance-related or holiday bonus

  • Remote/hybrid working 

  • Extended insurance benefits

  • Child care assistance

  • Employee stock options 

  • Tuition reimbursement

Deciding on which benefits to target will depend on your lifestyle and priorities. If you have a young family for example, you may want to negotiate a hybrid working option for the flexibility to balance your personal and professional life. You could sell this to the employer by explaining how beneficial this was to your previous employer and how productive you were. 

Expert Tip

Understand the dynamics of the negotiation room. Negotiating with a boss who really wants to work with you is different from negotiating with a HR person whose job it is to optimize costs. If both are in the room, direct most of your energy to your potential boss, as they will be the person to take the decision on the budget sign-off. 

3. Create a compelling pitch

Salary negotiation is the ultimate sales pitch. Instead of products and services, you’re selling something far more dynamic (with ever-increasing value): you. Because of this, your pitch needs to communicate your unique competitive advantage and tell the employer why you deserve a higher salary offer. Here’s some key points to include in your pitch:

  • Create a one-page “brag sheet” of bullet points that lists your career highlights, achievements, skill sets, and qualifications. This will tell the potential employer what you have to offer, thereby justifying your salary negotiations.

  • Explore the pain points that the employer is looking for someone to fix, then highlight how you are the solution. This will demonstrate your strong understanding of the role as well as the added value you can bring to the company.

4. Be confident

Striding into the negotiation room with a confident mindset and demeanor will set a positive tone for your salary negotiations. Nonverbal communications are equally important (if not more) as your words at the start of this meeting. 

Renowned behavioral psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 rule illustrates this point well. Essentially, 7% of all communication is verbal, 38% is tone of voice, and 55% is body language. In the first few minutes of your negotiations make sure you smile, make eye contact, have a confident handshake, and project energy and enthusiasm.

5. Stand in your negotiators shoes

If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed in the midst of negotiating a salary offer, remember: companies don’t negotiate; people do. You’re having a human conversation with a person, who will likely be your boss or your colleague in the future, so it's good to understand their point of view, priorities, and any concerns they may have. 

The person on the other side of the desk may want to give you what you want, but be held by constraints (such as salary or bonus caps). Asking questions is the best way to understand your negotiators perspective and, in turn, improve the overall outcome of your negotiations. Questions like, “What are your top priorities at the moment?” will give you a steer on how to justify your market value in negotiations.  

  • Be positive when opening negotiations. Thank the employer for their time, ask how they are, and express your strong interest in the position and company.
  • Prepare for some tough questions, such as “Do you have other offers?” or “Are we your top choice?” Be honest, but tactful, when preparing your answers.
  • Drag negotiations out. Employers may feel rejected if you prolong the process. Be upfront with your concerns and tell them what is important to you.
  • Ask for too much salary after a job offer. This can kill negotiations and may lead to someone else being offered the job. Instead, follow your salary research.

6. Focus on likability 

Being likable is an important factor when negotiating your salary. While it may seem obvious (and perhaps a little superficial) likability can often be overlooked when you are caught up in the swirl of negotiations. Put simply, employers are more willing to go to bat for someone who is a pleasure to be around, so the more likable you can be the better outcome for your negotiations. 

During negotiations, it can be easy for tensions to bubble, ultimatums to fly, and pettiness to creep in as you discuss the finer details of the salary package back and forth. Lead with likability and avoid getting frustrated as you work through the negotiation process. 

7. Pitch your salary first 

Abundant research has shown that whoever gets the first number on the table is usually the most effective in negotiations. This is due to the “anchoring” effect (a cognitive bias) that leads to people strongly favoring the first piece of information they receive when making a decision. 

By getting your number in first, you are dropping your “anchor” and taking control of the discussion, which will place you in a stronger position negotiation-wise. You can expect the employer to counter your initial offer, so it’s best to pitch higher than your target salary to give yourself some wiggle room. If you’ve researched a salary range, work from the top end of this range and add 10%. You can then work back down towards your target salary. 

  • “Based on my research and accomplishments, I believe a competitive salary for this role would be $X / or would fall between $X and $X.”

8. Embrace the silence

Silence can be an overlooked tool in negotiations. When there’s a natural pause or you’ve been asked a question, it’s tempting to jump in and fill the gaps by talking instantly. Being thoughtful and taking some time to formulate a response could give you a strategic advantage, over quickly providing a response and potentially saying something you wished you hadn’t. Further, embracing a pause after a salary offer, could mean the negotiator is compelled to increase the offer without you having to say a thing.

9. Be firm but flexible

While it’s important to be likable and build rapport with the person on the other side of the table, you don’t want to be too accommodating and fold early in the negotiation process. Being firm and flexible is the best strategy. 

For the negotiator to know that you are serious about what you are asking for, you should always have your goals at the forefront of your mind and remain firm on these during your conversation. Equally, as negotiations are a two-way street, you need to show your flexibility in coming to a solution that is agreeable to both parties. For  example, if they push back on your request with “I’m sorry, but at this time I don’t think we can match that salary amount,” you might counter: 

  • “I definitely understand where you’re coming from, but the current salary doesn’t reflect my experience and skill level. It would be great if we can arrive at a solution that works for us both.” 

10. Leave a few issues on the table

It might be that your request for a certain type of flexible working cannot initially be granted, but you might reach an informal agreement to revisit the question after six months. Many aspects of compensation negotiations are complicated by the fact that the employer really doesn’t know the candidate that well. Requesting the chance to revisit certain issues after a fixed period will show a willingness to get on with the job and deliver.

11. Get everything in writing

Until you’ve received the full details of the compensation package in a formal job offer (alongside the final job description and list of responsibilities), the negotiation is not over. 

The job offer should then be signed by both employer and candidate, which signals an end to any negotiation. Employers may still rescind job offers after this point for whatever reason and applicants may still take another role, but there is absolutely no scope for renegotiation after a signed contract of employment. 

12. Have a walk away point

If the employer is unwilling to negotiate an acceptable offer, then be prepared to politely decline and continue your job search elsewhere. While this may seem risky, it’s far better to know your worth and secure an opportunity that aligns with your value than accept the job offer, be unhappy, and potentially leave within three months. 

Here’s an example of how to politely decline a low salary offer via email:

Example email

Thank you for the time and effort you’ve invested in meeting with me to discuss the (Job Title) opening. After careful consideration, I’ve decided that the current offer doesn’t align with my career goals and expectations. 

While I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity, I must respectfully decline the offer. Thank you again for your time and I wish (Company Name) all the best in the future.

If you’re looking to assess the salary offer on the table, check out Career.io’s Salary Analyzer to know your value and how much your skills are worth in the current market.

Key takeaways

  1. Negotiating a salary after a job offer may be a daunting prospect, but it’s important to advocate for yourself and be recognized for the value you can offer an employer.

  2. Preparation is vital in salary negotiations. Identifying your market value and target salary, analyzing benefits, perfecting and practicing your pitch as well as timing your negotiations perfectly will pave the way to positive outcomes.

  3. Present your case confidently in the negotiation room. Don’t feel that negotiation is a battle, it’s more about having a discussion and reaching mutually beneficial outcomes.

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