You'll want to start this process BEFORE you get a job offer.
Do I tell them how much I want to make? How do I figure that out? Is this offer good? As I weigh all the pros and cons of this offer, is this really the job for me?
Your Mentor can help you work through this stage of the process. Learning what you're worth and developing a few key negotiation skills can help maximize your perceived value to an employer to build a better compensation and benefits package.
Maximize the hard work you have put into your career and job search by negotiating a great offer!
Before You Negotiate Salary
Understand your value before you start to look for a new job.
Employers invest in their “human resources” and the valuable work you do is a return on that investment. You need to be able to understand AND ARTICULATE how you provide value.
The value you represent could be quite different from your current salary:
- You may have been hired at a lower salary than you are worth
- Your job could have changed over time so that you now have many more responsibilities
- You may be interviewing for a job that is a step up from where you currently are
Take the time to think about all you have accomplished.
- What have you achieved in the past few years that you would talk about in an interview?
- What projects are you most proud of?
- Where have you exceeded expectations?
- How have you made an impact on your organization?
Review or create your list of your accomplishments (SOAR stories).
Also, start a journal/file to track your future accomplishments. Also start saving those emails you get telling you what a great job you’ve done!
Do your salary research to develop a reasonable range. Be sure to account for these factors as they all affect your salary:
- Job Title - Job titles are not standardized, so you’ll have to explore a few. Need ideas? Here is a great article about how to research different job titles.
- Job Location - Jobs in areas with a lower cost of living may pay less. Many sites allow you to adjust for this to more easily compare a job in one location to another.
- Industry - If you are in a social impact profession, such as nonprofit or education, you are likely painfully aware that they may pay less although nonprofits are making efforts to rectify this.
- Experience - Jobs will list the experience required. If you have more than what is required AND it is related experience then that adds to your value.
- Education - This one is tricky. You may have invested a lot of money in education and be paying off student loans, but that additional education is not always an asset. If you have education beyond what is required in the job posting AND you can demonstrate that it makes you a more effective employee, then it adds value.
- Skills - Any skills you have beyond what is required for the job, especially if you have in-demand skills that are in the Preferred Qualifications section of the job posting, make you a more valuable candidate.
There are many places to get hard data on salaries.
Use a few of them to develop a robust range. See this 2024 Salary Guide and check out these links as well:
Also, do the research to understand ALL the components of compensation. While salary is the main thing you can negotiate, your compensation package will include many other things, some of which are also negotiable.
Validate your range by asking people you know.
Here’s the salary range I came up with for the instructional designer job I’m applying to, does it sound on target to you?
During Your Salary Negotiation
Once you know the range you are targeting, you are better prepared for questions.
Make it a conversation
Salary negotiation is not a battle, and you aren’t asking them for a favor. It is an expected part of the hiring process and you are doing what is expected. By the time you get to the part, they REALLY want you, so you are negotiating from a position of strength!
Here are some questions you may be asked:
- What is your current salary?
This is an illegal question in many states, but you may still be asked. A polite response is: “My current employer would rather keep that confidential.”
- What salary are you looking for?
Many career coaches tell you to try to avoid answering this question too early, and you can try to deflect by saying something like “salary is not my primary deciding factor,” but there are risks in this approach. You may spend weeks interviewing for a job that will never fit your compensation needs.
To avoid this, use your knowledge to provide a range based on all your research:
“My understanding is that a typical salary range for this role is X to Y. Based on my background and what I can bring to [organization] I’d expect to be on the higher end of the range.”
If they immediately push back and tell you the budgeted range is much lower, you may politely bow out—or keep interviewing. If you are still interested, then you can tell them that compensation is not your only motivation and keep the conversation going.
“I understand that there are budgeting issues, and I’m sure we can find common ground.”
- "We'd like to offer you xxxx"
When the employer makes their first offer, be enthusiastic about the opportunity before you counter:
"I’m excited about this opportunity! Based on my experience and skills, I believe that something in the X to Y range is a more appropriate target."
Then, silence. This is very powerful. Silence makes people uncomfortable, but don’t let them off the hook.
They will usually say something like “I don’t know if it’s possible, we’ll have to get back to you.”
Respond with enthusiasm: “I really appreciate the consideration and I’m excited to hear back from you soon.”
Go beyond salary
While salary is the most important component of your total compensation, it is by far the only thing on the table.
If the employer states that they can’t do any better on salary, consider other things you can negotiate. Some things like remote work or more flexible hours are easier to negotiate with smaller organizations that don’t have set-in-stone policies, so use your judgment.
Get it in writing
A verbal negotiation will get you to a general agreement, but you need to get it in writing. Make sure that everything you discussed is specified and as you verbally agreed. Then, and only then, you may sign and return your offer.
Find additional content on our website
Use the categories or enter a search term to find more information on all these topics.
Also check out the Extras page for more helpful information.
- Salary Negotiation
- First 90 Days Workplan