Paul Drury

Paul Drury

How to negotiate your salary after a job offer

Career development

How to negotiate salary after a job offers

Artwork by: Irina Troitskaya

  • Should I negotiate salary after an offer?
  • How to prepare for a salary negotiation
  • How to handle the salary question in an interview
  • Negotiating salary after a post-interview job offer 
  • 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.

Getting a job offer is one of those unique pleasures in life. Someone wants to pay you money to do a job for them! That can’t fail to make you feel good.

But what if the offer isn’t quite what you were hoping for? To negotiate salary after a job offer is part of the recruitment process. How do you approach the conversation tactfully and professionally? 

You don’t want to spoil the rapport that you have managed to build during the interview process, but you equally don’t want to start a role with concerns about your comp.

We consider how to strike a satisfying balance:

  • Should I negotiate salary after a job offer?

  • How to prepare for a salary negotiation

  • How to handle the salary question in an interview

  • Negotiating salary after a post-interview job offer

Hiring managers won’t expect an immediate answer. Shape the conversation and manage their expectations. They may be able to move more than you think.

Should I negotiate salary after an offer?

It is rare that a candidate accepts a job offer without further discussions.

While the salary might be acceptable (employers will try to get the initial number “right” if they want to hire a candidate), there are other aspects of the wider compensation package that may be up for debate.

Seeking to negotiate salary after a job offer is a normal part of the application process. What matters is how you go about it. Most of the time there will be some sort of back-and-forth.

When should you not negotiate salary?

Some employers will go out of their way to offer a market-leading compensation package because they really want to hire you. They will likely break a few internal remuneration structure rules in the process and will have little opportunity to go higher.

If you have done your research and feel that the salary offer is generous, being aggressive when you negotiate salary after a job offer makes you seem ungrateful. Of course, it is your right to value your worth as you see fit. If you are likely to accept, sometimes those “good vibes” are worth maintaining for your first few weeks in the role. 

What uplift on your current comp package would satisfy you? Work out a figure before you begin your job search and resist the temptation to get greedy if a bidding war begins.

Remember, there is more to a job than the salary.

What if I ask for too much salary?

If there is a significant mismatch between your desired salary and what the role can offer, you should not enter the application process as this will be a waste of time. If you have done your salary research, this should not be the case. 

If, for whatever reason, you decide to be aggressive with your salary demands, you should be open to the possibility of a flat “no” from the employer and no way back to the negotiating table. If they sense that you won’t be fully content with your salary, they will likely opt for another candidate who will be motivated by the cash on offer.

How to prepare for a salary negotiation

If a salary negotiation is on the cards, there are several things that an applicant 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 establish your goals and main ideas beforehand (speaking them out loud to yourself may also help, similar to how one may practice interview questions in front of a mirror).

Here are the three main aspects to consider:

  • Understanding your worth within the industry

  • Knowing how to argue that worth and impress the employer

  • Practicing (not memorizing) your delivery.

Understand your worth

There are many ways to research industry salary trends. Websites such as Zippia detail average salary and job growth – particularly useful when considering the sustainability of your career path. Government and academic institutions often publish statistics.

Recruiters and career coaches will also often publish detailed salary surveys for their newsletter subscribers. You may know some of these recruiters personally and it is always worth asking their advice. Decent recruiters are always open to advise their network.

Plan to impress the employer

To successfully negotiate salary after a job offer, the employer first needs to be convinced that you will do a fantastic job. Communicating why you are worth it will lay the groundwork for an ambitious salary negotiation. Be clear about why they should hire you.

If employers are unsure about certain aspects of your application, they will be less likely to accommodate any salary negotiation. If the job offer is somewhat tentative, any attempt to negotiate may put them off your candidature.

Practice your delivery

Any negotiation will progress more smoothly if you have practiced the various scenarios beforehand. If you know that there might be a chance of a discussion about salary after a job offer in an interview, maybe role play the various scenarios with a friend?

If you are composed and considered in your response, the employer will take what you say more seriously. You will be less nervous and more rational with your responses.

How to handle the salary question in an interview

While you may not receive a final offer with details of the full remuneration package during an interview discussion, many employers will want to begin the salary discussion while you are in the room rather than send over an offer without understanding your needs.

Salary is a sensitive subject, so preparing to negotiate salary after a job offer is a delicate task. Stress levels will be high during any interview. When the subject turns to salary, make a conscious effort to choose logic over emotion. Here are a few thoughts around how to handle a salary discussion when you are sitting opposite your potential future boss. 

Should I accept the first salary offer?

Every employer will expect some element of salary negotiation. 

In some senses, an unwillingness to negotiate on their part may show that they are not that keen to hire you. If you are satisfied with the top-line salary offer, it may be worth testing the water on some of the minor details to test their resolve if you have doubts.

It is important to understand the potential constraints of the package. Issues like annual leave policies and bonus structures may be set in stone in larger companies but setting a fixed date for a salary review with some performance measures may be a compromise if the salary figure isn’t quite where it needs to be. Other considerations such as support with additional training or subsidized education could also be on the table.

It is worth bearing in mind that smaller companies (particularly start-ups) will likely have more wiggle room to negotiate a bespoke offer.

Things to consider with a verbal salary offer in an interview

When you come to negotiate salary after a job offer during an interview, offers will be verbal and up for discussion. In most countries this will not be a binding offer until you sign an employment contract, so be careful in how you approach the chat. Employers can always change their minds if you do not manage the situation appropriately.

As you ponder how to negotiate the verbal offer, consider the following.

How much do you want the job? If you have got to the stage of detailed salary negotiations, you should be pretty sure that you want the job. If the remuneration box is the last box to be ticked, negotiate away. If you have other doubts, consider waiting for the right role. Stalling for time and asking to go away and “think about it” is a common tactic.

What is the potential for professional growth? If you are on a growth trajectory in your career, the opportunity to develop your skills is as valuable as your monthly take-home pay. An employer with a track record of investing in their people is worth joining.

Factor in all elements of the job offer. Not all your compensation benefits will have a financial equivalent that is easy to quantify. While the top-line salary and bonus structure might not be what you anticipated, other elements such as remote working possibilities, parental leave arrangements and support with education will play a part.

Make it clear that you are considering it. Letting the employer know that you have an active interest in the job will grease the wheels of the negotiation. Mention that you have other opportunities (but don’t lie here) but say that you would consider accepting the role if the offer is right. Employers need to hear this. Don’t play hard to get. It won’t end well.

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

Negotiating salary after a post-interview job offer 

While you will have touched upon the subject in an interview, most firm job offers will only arrive after the interview. There is often an internal process that will have to be followed when you negotiate salary after a job offer. Expect to receive a final offer some time after the interview takes place. If there are other candidates in the mix, this may well be weeks later. Be patient!

Here are three considerations for negotiating a post-interview job offer.

Balance the timing of your offers

Ideally you will be interviewing with multiple companies with a view to having a choice of offers when the various interview processes conclude. It is sometimes a good idea to share your timescales with an employer, but only do this when you have a firm offer on the table.

The danger of an early offer is real. You may feel the pressure to accept a job that is not ideal for you, not knowing how other opportunities may pan out. You will always have to draw some sort of line in the sand. Do your best to get the timing right.

Don’t let the negotiation drag on

Business negotiations can take months but haggling over the fine details of a job offer over countless emails and in fraught conversations can easily backfire. Bosses want to feel like you want to work with them and can feel a sting of rejection if you prolong the salary negotiation for too long. 

Be up front with all your concerns when you negotiate salary after a job offer. Tell them what is important to you and let them come back to you with their best offer.

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. Once you have proved yourself in the role this will be easier.

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.

Get everything in writing

Until you have 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. 

Key takeaways 

Preparing to negotiate salary after a job offer is a complex dance with no hard and fast rules. Much depends on the feelings of the boss and employee. If everything aligns, even the most unlikely of requests can sometimes be granted.

Here is a summary of how to negotiate a salary that you deserve:

  • Understand your worth, plan to impress, and practice your pitch

  • Manage the initial discussions in an interview with an engaged attitude

  • Understand the negotiation dynamics and factor in all the elements

  • Try to time the salary negotiations for the different roles in the mix

  • Don’t let the salary negotiations drag on and get everything in writing.

Paul Drury

Paul Drury

With a decade’s experience of writing about job search and recruitment topics, Paul understands the power of words to influence mindsets and alter destinies. His previous recruitment career taught him that the seeds of a successful job search are sown long before you come to writing your resume. Dad of two great teenage kids and husband to a long-suffering writing widow.

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