A Modern Guide to Salary Negotiation

At first glance, receiving a job offer marks the end of a stressful process. But you often face another obstacle to getting a new job: negotiating salary.

Unfortunately, guidance from friends or information on the internet is not always helpful. “The trouble is that there is a lot of conflicting advice out there,” Harvard Business Review says. Bad advice abounds — from demanding a salary that’s too high to the notion that you should negotiate no matter what.

Approaching Salary Negotiations

The first question you need to ask is whether you need to negotiate at all. Some people suggest negotiating any offer, but you should never negotiate just to negotiate, according to Harvard Business Review. Not all hiring managers expect you to negotiate.

There are instances when you should consider accepting the original offer.

  • The offer is fair. If your research says that it is a fair offer, then you may not need to negotiate. Trying to negotiate a stronger offer can be risky.
  • The company doesn’t negotiate. Some companies simply don’t negotiate, such as those that hire external applicants at specific classifications and pay grades.
  • The offer is in your requested salary range. Don’t contradict what you’ve said. “If you give a wide range like ‘$40,000 to $55,000,’ don’t be surprised if you’re offered $40,000, because that’s what you told the employer you’d accept,” U.S. News & World Report contributor Alison Green says.

Be aware that salary negotiations aren’t an isolated step in the process of job searching and interviewing. Early on, the employer may ask you what you’re looking for in a salary. If you say a number or range, you should stand behind it when receiving an offer.

“Playing games” is a major mistake that people make during salary negotiations, according to Green. Misleading and outdated tactics can rub employers the wrong way.

“While job search experts used to advise absolutely refusing to name a salary figure first, even if pressed, that advice often doesn’t work today and can hurt your chances,” Green says. “If an employer is asking you directly what salary range you’re looking for and you categorically refuse to answer, the employer is likely to just move on the next candidate, someone who might be willing to have a more open conversation.”

Salary Negotiation Tips


Perhaps the most crucial part of the whole process is research. If you negotiate before accepting a job offer, your request needs to be backed up by specifics about the role, the company and the value you bring.

Websites like, PayScale, and Glassdoor can help you research salary figures and the company. Depending on the company and its location, you can look at its website and talk to people you know to get more information about salary expectations, whether the company negotiates and other helpful information, such as benefits. Some benefits like vacation time or flexible work arrangements—or items like a signing bonus—may be negotiable.

Mental Approach

Another important aspect of preparing for salary negotiations is your attitude. How will you present yourself and what you’d like to see in your starting salary?

An unenthusiastic and sharp counteroffer can impede negotiations and possibly how you’re perceived once you start the position. If the salary you ask for is too much, the company might reconsider whether to hire you at all. This doesn’t mean that you have to be passive or “a pushover.” Rather, consider the interpersonal dynamics of the process and conversation.

Express enthusiasm about the offer but make a strong case for a better salary. Actively listen to resistance but remain persistent and composed. Know when you need to walk away or accept the original offer. You need to be prepared for any outcome while remaining professional.

How to Negotiate Salary in Special Situations

Salary Negotiation for Startup Employees

Variance in compensation for startup employees is much greater than for those at a corporation. Tools like the Angelfish Startup Salary & Equity Data page can help you find a reasonable salary figure for a startup role.

Some startups offer equity or stock options as part of a compensation package. As a result, salary, benefits and equity can comprise three parts of your offer. If the startup is not public yet, there may not be a dollar amount associated with the equity. “But if and when the company does go public, the return could be lucrative,” Melissa Cooper says in Mashable.

Another difference with negotiating at a startup is that getting creative with benefits and perks is more acceptable, generally. You may be able to negotiate a flexible work schedule, a flexible spending account, vision insurance or tuition reimbursement, according to Cooper.

Salary Negotiation Over Email

Typically, salary negotiations happen over the phone. After receiving the offer, you might call the hiring manager or human resources contact to discuss your questions and ask about salary. That often leads to a conversation and opportunity to negotiate your compensation.

Some companies and people prefer email. For instance, you may receive an email after leaving the voicemail. In a case like this, you may have to proceed with negotiations in email form, although it’s not ideal. Email removes your ability to hear the other person’s tone and to see how he or she reacts to what you say.

With email, take the same approach as you would over the phone. Express enthusiasm and then quickly ask for the salary you are seeking. You have even less time to get to the point, so make it simple. Including a phone number is a good idea. If your counter isn’t accepted right away, emailing back and forth could become annoying (for the hiring manager) and stressful (for you).

Consider an email like this.

Hi [NAME],

Thank you so much for extending the offer. I’m really excited about working here and appreciate the $60,000 offer, but I was hoping to be at $65,000 based on my experience. Can you consider a salary of $65,000 for this position?

You can reach me at [PHONE] if that’s easier for you.

Thanks again,


Developing Business Leaders

Strong research and preparation are key to every negotiation. Rivier University’s online MBA programs prepare graduates to excel in the business world. Students learn in a fully online learning environment that accommodates their work and personal schedules.

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