Negotiating Salary

There are few aspects of the job hunt as potentially satisfying or upsetting as salary. Your pay determines your quality of life, and often, it is easier to negotiate a salary upon being hired than it is to negotiate a raise once you work for a company. Negotiation, however, is scary for many people, because they are afraid of losing the job offer or being rejected, but it doesn’t have to be scary. Before you try to talk about salary, you need to make sure that you understand fair pay for your job, that you are able to explain why you deserve better pay, and that you know how to talk about it. Here are some tips.


Factors in Salary

Before you dive into researching pay, you need to realize that there are several factors that contribute to salary:

  • Job description – This is everything you are required to do for the position. This is often similar for different companies.
  • Extra duties – This is anything that goes beyond the basic functions of the job, and may include night and weekend coverage, managerial responsibilities, or even special jobs like web design.
  • Location – The cost of living in the area you are going to will be a factor in your pay. A decent wage should be adjusted for living in a higher cost city or lower if you are living in a smaller, cheaper city.
  • Special qualifications and skills – Candidates with higher levels of education, special certification, or training in extra related and desirable skills can expect higher pay than those without.
  • Position level – The level the position sits at in the company’s structure should be taken into consideration. A job that is entry-level at one company may be higher up at another.
  • Company type, size, and budget – Keep in mind that larger companies can often afford higher salaries than smaller ones. Many larger companies also pay more because job duties will often, though not always, require more work for a large corporation than a small office. A non-profit organization will not be able to afford a salary like a corporation can offer.

Research Rates

Almost everything in the job hunt comes down to research and how well you understand your industry, the company, and the position, and salary is no different. You need to research what other professionals doing similar jobs at similar companies make. The best way to do this is to do a search on a site like or, which compiles salary data from its users for research purposes, or to talk to someone in your network via an informational interview. Keep in mind that not everyone will be comfortable discussing their salaries with you, but you may be able to phrase the question in a less offensive way, such as, “What can a new employee in this field expect to make?”.

You should look for data from multiple companies to get a good idea of the range of salaries in your profession. Keep the factors listed above in mind when you are thinking of a reasonable rate. If you live in a smaller city, wages may be much lower than some of the reported salaries from larger cities.

Before you go, review your budget and determine what you need to make to pay your bills, and make that a factor in your expected salary. While you may have an ideal salary in mind, you should not necessarily expect to get it. You will need to be flexible, but keep in mind what you are worth and what you need. Have three different salaries in mind when you go: What you want, what you have to have to live on, and what you are willing to settle for. While you obviously want your ideal, be prepared to accept a lower salary within your accepted range, and don’t forget to be realistic when you set these numbers. Don’t expect the salary an experience professional can earn if you are just starting your career.

How to Sell It

Before the interview, you may have to fill out salary information on the application. Generally, it is acceptable to put “negotiable” on the desired salary to show that you are open to talk about it.

Before talking to the employer about a job offer, you need to have solid reason why you deserve the salary you want. These can include degrees, certifications, experience, special skills, or even something the employer specifically needs that you have and you know will be hard to find in other employees. Employers will not want to give more than they have to, and they have to stick within budget constraints. You have to convince your employer that you are worth the expense. Come prepared to talk about these items and to explain why they will help you be a bigger asset to the company.

Once you are talking about a job offer, let the employer bring up salary first. This will show that you are interested in the job for more reasons than just money. Once she does, feel free to broach the topic, but do so carefully. Often, employers will ask you what you want to make. Don’t be afraid to give your ideal number, since the worst that can happen is that the employer says no and counters with a lower number. Try to negotiate this number up, by talking about all the skills you will bring to the job and how you see yourself bringing value to processes.

Often, employers will counter with a slightly higher number and say that this is their cap. If this number falls within your range, you can accept it. If it does not, you must be prepared to leave the offer. If you know what you are worth, there is no reason to accept an insultingly low offer that won’t meet your minimum salary requirements. If you aren’t willing to leave an offer, you don’t have the power to expect an increase.

General Tips

  • Many employers will give you a range of salaries and ask if you are willing to accept a salary in that range. If it fits your requirements, you should say yes and restate a range closer to their maximum.
  • Don’t expect any huge increases when negotiating salary. You may get employers to raise your pay by a few thousand dollars, but they probably won’t go over $10,000, and they almost never leave their expected pay range.
  • Some employers like to discuss pay and hiring options right after the interview, so be prepared to discuss it then.
  • Keep in mind that there is more to your pay than just salary. If your employer can’t meet your range, but offers you a better health plan, a signing bonus, a relocation package, or other benefits, it might be worth considering the offer.
  • It is acceptable to ask for time to consider an offer, but make sure you ask politely and get a deadline from the employer. Make sure to respond within the timeline whether or not you take the job.
  • Take time to review resources, like those following this article. They can help you feel more at ease about the prospect of salary negotiations.

Helpful Resources

Peggy Carouthers

Author: Peggy Carouthers

In a previous life Peggy worked as a human resources and hiring manager for a major national retail chain. Her expertise is in job hunting, hiring, and HR. These days Peggy works as a writer, crafting content for a range of publications.
Peggy Carouthers