How to negotiate salary: top 5 tips from a hiring manager
Negotiating your salary for a new job is probably one of the most valuable life skills that you could obtain. And the earlier you obtain it during the course of your career, the better.
When you think about it in terms of the years that you will spend working and earning, thousands, if not millions of dollars could be on the line, depending on a single negotiation that you could attempt before you are hired.
Successful salary negotiation during an interview or after a job offer is not about somehow tricking or “hypnotizing” the other side into giving you what you want. It's not about outsmarting them either.
The reality is that it is a steady tactical process where both sides come to an agreement based on logic, facts, and, most importantly, shared goals. Always have this in mind when negotiating salary.
Here I will explain to you in detail all about how to negotiate salary at all stages of the hiring process based on my 10+ years of experience as a hiring manager for an international tech company, business owner, and passionate negotiation enthusiast.
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Why negotiating salary is important
As a professional, if you are able to negotiate how much you should be earning by putting forward legitimate arguments, then you will show the hiring reps that you are somebody who is very aware of the dynamics within a business or a corporate setting which is all the more reason to hire you.
At the same time, by not negotiating and not asking to be paid more altogether, you are self-sabotaging yourself.
Essentially, you are putting yourself in a position where you might end up feeling underappreciated for the work that you do, and this could affect you negatively down the line as you progress in your career.
Is salary negotiation expected?
Salary negotiation during the hiring process is expected by the vast majority of recruiters, hiring managers, and employers.
It is especially expected when it comes to job candidates who have relevant professional experience and skills because they have more leverage to negotiate.
Is negotiating salary a bad idea?
Generally, there is nothing wrong with asking for a higher salary if you are doing it correctly.
However, negotiating salary could be bad for you if you don't know how to approach the process. If you mess it up, you might alienate the hiring managers and ruin your chances of getting hired.
No worries, though. By the time you go over this guide, you will be “equipped” with the necessary mindset, facts, and confidence that will help you to negotiate salary in a way that will not only be appropriate but also impress any hiring manager or recruiter that you encounter from now on in your job-hunting endeavors.
Does negotiating salary work?
Negotiating salary works more often than not. Believe it or not but most employers would be happy to pay a higher salary to an employee if they are able to do their job well.
This is something that I have witnessed hundreds of times as a hiring manager. The really promising candidates who are capable professionals know how to fend for themselves.
So if you could ask for more money by giving a few legitimate reasons why you deserve to be paid more, why not do it? It’s actually well-known that it works.
Are all salaries negotiable?
Nearly 100% of salaries in the private sector are negotiable. This is because employers are free to decide how much they are willing to pay their employees according to their financial capabilities.
However, salaries for state jobs are usually non-negotiable because the U.S. Government Departments and Agencies operate with predetermined budgets.
Still, salary increases over time could occur. What they have is something called an “experience matrix”, which takes into account the worker’s professional competencies and experience to determine what their salary should be.
How to negotiate salary after a job offer
Job offers are usually presented to candidates a few days or a couple of weeks after a job interview.
Each job offer usually comes with a proposed salary. When you are contacted and given a job offer, you can begin the negotiation process.
Here is what you should do in order to increase your chances of winning your salary negotiation and getting hired.
1. Research the market
This is something that you should do as you prepare for your job interview. It is important to walk in there knowing what the average salary for the position is.
Also, this will make you look more prepared in the eyes of the hiring reps.
There are tons of websites where you could do that. Here are some good examples
Also, if you know somebody who works the same job or something similar, reach out to them and ask them what they are earning if you think that would be appropriate.
2. Overcome the mental barrier
Do you fear that you will be perceived as somebody who is selfish by asking to be paid more?
Do you think that the experienced hiring manager you are communicating with will be able to negate all your arguments for a higher salary, therefore trying is futile?
Do you think that you might lose the job offer?
The reality is that all these things could happen. However, it is actually in your best interest to move past self-doubt and escape this dark zone of self-sabotage through inaction.
In order to do that, you need to change your perspective on what a salary negotiation actually is. So pay particular attention to the next section.
3. Salary negotiation is a collaboration – not a conflict
There is a stereotype associated with salary negotiation, and it goes a little something like this: one side has to win, and the other side has to lose.
Either the candidate has to agree to work for a salary that does not meet their financial goals, or the employer has to agree to somewhat overpay in order to obtain a capable employee.
If this is how you have looked at salary negotiation until now, then you need to completely separate yourself from this perception.
In a salary negotiation, it’s not you versus them. No. It's you AND them versus a situation.
You, as the candidate, and the hiring representatives need to work together in order to pinpoint a specific salary number that both parties are happy with in order to resolve the situation.
4. Approach the other side of the negotiation empathically
In order to fully understand the salary negotiation dynamic, you need to see things from the perspective of the hiring representatives.
The hiring process is lengthy and costly. The hiring staff screens hundreds, sometimes thousands, of job candidates. It takes weeks to pinpoint the promising candidates and conduct interviews with them.
And while this is happening, the company or the business could be suffering due to being understaffed.
In other words, the hiring representatives are doing their best to hire the right professional for the job as soon as possible.
And you might be surprised to find out that most employers would actually be quite happy to pay a higher salary to an employee who is highly competent and capable of bringing value to their company or business.
And this is what negotiating salary is all about – showing the other side that you are the professional they’ve been looking for. So how do you achieve that?
5. Be aware of your leverage
Every single job candidate who walks into a job interview or has been given a job offer has some leverage – even the ones who have no previous job experience.
If you’ve reached these stages of the hiring process, then the other side has already decided that you are a promising candidate.
They’ve seen something in you that makes them think “this might be the one” – you just need to figure out what that something is.
You are either somebody who is fresh out of school with no experience, a highly capable professional with years of experience, or somewhere in between.
So simply make a list of the solid facts that back up your demands for a higher salary. Here is a quick checklist.
- Technical skills
- Professional experience
- Relevant experience
- Industry knowledge
- Soft skills
- Favorable personality traits
- Eagerness to learn a new job
- Intrinsic motivation for the job
When should you negotiate salary?
Think about it. At the beginning of the process, the hiring representatives don’t know much about you. All they’ve seen is your resume which, sure, might be quite impressive. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense to even mention salary at the beginning of an interview.
Negotiating salary makes more sense for both sides after you have built rapport. You like them. They like you. And that’s when the odds of successfully negotiating a higher salary come in your favor.
Remember this: If at any time during а job interview, a hiring rep asks you what your expected salary is, this is your cue to convince them that you deserve a higher salary and give them all those good reasons that they won’t be able to ignore.
What to say when negotiating salary
This section might be useful if you have difficulty figuring out what to say when you negotiate your salary.
Here we will go over a brief example salary negotiation scenario between you as the candidate and a fictitious hiring manager so you’ll have a better understanding of how such an exchange might go.
The best part about negotiating salary face-to-face with the hiring rep is that you will be able to build momentum through your arguments and confidence.
Let's start with the most common question that usually marks the beginning of the salary discussion.
“What is your expected salary?”
Here is how you could respond.
“Well, based on my research, the average salary for this position in the city is $XXX,XXX a year. However, I believe that I will be able to bring extra value to the company through my professional experience and advanced technical skills. So I will be asking for 20% more than that.”
“How would you justify this number?”
Oh, do you see what happened here? It wouldn't make much sense for the hiring rep to confront you like this because you already provided a pretty solid argument about why you deserve to be paid more.
In other words, you are already one step ahead in the negotiation. An experienced hiring manager would notice this right away. Here’s how they might choose to confront you.
“How exactly would you bring extra value to the company?”
In this case, it would be best to prepare a specific answer based on your expertise. For example:
"Well, I already went over one of the company’s websites and I have a few suggestions that might improve its conversion rate. I am sure that eventually, I will come up with more as I analyze the website further."
At this point in the negotiation, the hiring rep would probably not enquire any further into why you deserve to be paid more.
But for the sake of this exercise, let’s continue with what they might say in case they are not willing to give you an offer with a higher salary.
For example, what if they attack you personally for being greedy or come up with some other excuse for why your expected salary is simply out of the question?
If the situation develops this way, then here’s how you could confront them. Ask this:
“Is the company experiencing financial problems?”
This will put the hiring reps on the spot and take them aback. How are they supposed to respond? If they answer “yes”, then this would make the company look bad.
And if they answer “no”, then how come they are not willing to pay you what you asked for?
How to negotiate salary offer over the phone
A week or two after a job interview, you might get a call from a hiring rep to present you with a job offer.
This would be an appropriate moment to negotiate your salary. You can start by saying something along the lines of "Would this be a good time to discuss the proposed salary?"
After that, you can proceed to explain that your expected salary is a little bit higher than what has been proposed, followed by your most substantial arguments in favor of a salary bump.
Negotiating salary over the phone (or over a conference call) still allows you to influence the hiring rep and win them over but there is one downside: they might have to end the call in order to consult with other decision-makers.
This might lead to some back-and-forth calling which is a bit unpleasant and breaks down your momentum.
What’s important here is to never let go. Every time they call you, bring back the conversation to the reasons why it would be fair to get an increase in salary.
If they are calling you multiple times, then this is a good sign. It means that they really want to hire you.
How to negotiate salary offer via email sample
As a hiring manager, I would never send a job offer with a proposed salary over an email. The reason for this is simple: I'd prefer to talk to a candidate and gauge their reaction as I give them the offer.
Still, some hiring reps are just way too busy. Their HR department might be understaffed.
So it is understandable why some resort to sending job offers through email. Here is how you could respond in case you would like to negotiate the salary.
Hello [hiring rep name],
I am thankful for this offer and the opportunity, I really appreciate it.
However, I was wondering if it would be okay to discuss the proposed salary. Please let me know.
This should be your only response for now. The purpose behind it is to gauge their reaction.
An experienced hiring rep would usually give a short and positive response without divulging any information about the employer’s ability to pay you.
“Of course, let me know what’s on your mind.”
As you can see, such a reply sends “the ball” right back at you.
While you didn’t obtain any information from it, there are a couple of things that you achieved: you got THEIR permission to negotiate salary, and you caught their attention.
So don’t let the vague reply discourage you. Simply take the time to craft a concise email that explains the reasons why you deserve to be paid more than what has been initially proposed. Here’s an example:
Thank you, [hiring rep name]
Based on my research, the average salary for this position in the city is $XX,XXX a year.
But I think that I will be highly valuable to the company because of my relevant professional experience and technical skills.
I am certain that I’ll quickly go through the orientation period and begin to bring extra value to the company through my input.
So because of this, I was wondering if you’d reconsider the proposed salary. What I am after is XX% more as this would align with my personal financial goals.
Let me know what you think and thank you.
What not to do when negotiating salary
You'd also find it helpful to understand that there are certain things that you shouldn’t do when negotiating salary because they might hurt your chances of getting a job offer.
1. Don’t talk about salary at the beginning
If you touch on the subject of salary in the initial phase, you might come off as selfish and self-serving. As I already explained, leave the salary talks for the later stages of the hiring process.
2. Don’t make assumptions about the employer’s ability to pay you
This is another red flag in the eyes of hiring reps. The company may look lucrative, but this is not something that you should display as a primary motivator to want to work for it.
3. Don’t give a salary range
Some inexperienced candidates make the mistake of giving a salary range instead of a specific number they are after.
Something like this will only reveal to the hiring reps that you are not certain about exactly what you are after.
4. Don’t reveal the actual minimum number you’d accept
If you are after a higher salary, then you should never reveal the minimum number that you’d settle for. Otherwise, the hiring reps could use this against you.
If, later on, you change your minimum number, this will reveal to the hiring reps that you are being uncertain or manipulative.
5. Don’t be vague and indecisive
When you negotiate salary, use facts and specific examples to build your case on why you deserve to be paid more.
Vague statements that are not backed up with substantial facts will not work in your favor – they will be seen as fluff by the hiring reps.
At the same time, being indecisive is another red flag. There should be no room for uncertainty in the things you speak about and the reasons you put forward for why you deserve to be paid more.
6. Don’t be afraid of confrontation
Hiring reps often confront candidates during salary talks. This is done in order to test the candidate’s ability to stay calm and argumentative under pressure.
So don’t panic if your salary negotiation doesn’t go as smoothly as planned. Simply take the time to think about what the hiring reps are saying and respond calmly with solid arguments backed up by facts.
7. Don’t talk about your personal financial needs
Your personal finances are your own responsibility. You shouldn’t use them as arguments for why you should be paid more.
It is okay to tell the hiring reps that you have certain financial goals, but you shouldn’t share any more information.
Remember, they won’t be able to use your personal financial needs as an excuse to justify hiring you at a higher salary in front of other company decision-makers.
You should provide them with reasons that are related to your professional background and ability to bring extra value to the company.
8. Don’t be rude and disrespectful
This is a no-brainer, but no matter what happens, do your best to remain cool and polite. Never, under any circumstances, allow yourself to be rude or disrespectful toward a hiring rep.
Remember, they might be playing mind tricks with you, trying to confront you in all sorts of ways in order to see how you’d react.
9. Don’t lie about your professional background
Don’t lie about your professional experience, and don’t exaggerate your knowledge and technical abilities.
Sooner or later, your lies will be exposed, be it by your direct manager or other coworkers.
In most cases, you'd be fired in a very unpleasant way if you were caught in a lie like this.
Who do you negotiate salary with – HR or the hiring manager?
Company size is usually a good predictor of who comes up with job offers and the proposed salaries attached to them.
For example, small companies (let’s say within 10 employees) may not require a full-time HR specialist because the employee turnover rate could easily be handled by a manager who is (among other things) also responsible for hiring.
However, as companies begin to expand and the number of employees increases, the turnover rate could become something that needs to be managed full-time.
So it makes sense to have full-time HR staff who manage the hiring of employees.
In both cases, your point of contact will be a representative who is aware of the company’s financial capabilities and how much they will be able to pay you.
When negotiating salary, how much is too much?
So how much more can you ask for without being frowned upon?
I’d say that when asking for 10 to 20% more, you’re in the safe zone. At 25%, you are really pushing it, so you better have some pretty good reasons why you deserve to be paid that much more.
Can you negotiate salary after accepting an offer?
And losing your credibility in the eyes of the hiring reps often means losing the job offer altogether.
By re-opening the negotiation phase, the whole hiring process is taken a step back. So you risk alienating the hiring reps by "twisting their arm" into giving you what you want.
You need to be aware that by accepting a job offer, the hiring side would most likely cease communication with other candidates.
By asking for more money later on, the hiring reps might deduce that it was all part of your scheme.
Can negotiating salary backfire?
There is another scenario that you might not have thought of. What would happen if you get a higher salary but eventually fail to meet the employer’s expectations?
Remember that a higher salary usually means more responsibilities and higher expectations.
Frequently asked questions about salary negotiations
Is salary negotiation after a job offer?
Salary negotiation could take place before or after a job offer. It would be best to follow the lead of the hiring representatives and let them be the ones who touch on the subject first.
For example, they might ask you what your expected salary is at some point during the interview.
This would be a good time to give them your specific number and elaborate on how you determined it. This situation could develop into a negotiation.
Can you negotiate an entry-level salary?
You can confidently negotiate a salary for an entry-level job. Your lack of formal professional experience doesn't mean that you don't have the leverage to negotiate.
You could simply focus on other aspects of your professional profile, such as your technical skills and knowledge, your certification, education, and any other relevant transferable experience.
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