How to Negotiate Your Salary: 10 Tips to Earn More 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Strong negotiations begin with deliberate preparation. Learn how to prepare for your salary negotiations and earn what you’re truly worth today. 

[Featured Image] A woman sits at a conference table with a man.

You just landed a job and are flying high on success. But, the salary isn’t quite what you wanted. Should you take it? Or should you ask for more?

Many people find the prospect of discussing money with their current or potential employer to be nerve-wracking. After a long job search and lengthy hiring process, the mere idea of negotiating a job offer over your personal salary requirements can feel like a risk not worth taking. 

However, negotiating your starting salary or advocating for a pay increase needn’t be a daunting task. In fact, it is often a necessary way for both new hires and current employees to meet their personal, professional, and financial goals. 

In this article, you will learn what you can do to prepare for salary negotiations and how to be effective during them. You worked hard to get where you are, so make sure you don’t sell yourself short by leaving money on the table. 

Preparing to negotiate your salary  

Before you jump into negotiating your salary, you need to do your homework and prepare for the conversation. Follow the tips below to help you get ready for the big day.  

1. Research your market value.

The first step to successfully negotiating your salary is to learn what the salary range is for your position and identify your target salary. The salary range is your “market value”, or the price people are willing to pay for the kind of work that you do. 

There are a number of factors impacting your salary range, including your geographic location, experience level, and market demand for qualified individuals. 

By knowing the market value for your position, you are better able to assess how you are paid compared to others doing the same job. Are you paid in the high range for this work? About average? Or, well below average?  The answer to this question will greatly impact both how much of an increase you can realistically target and the strategy that you will employ during your negotiation. 

There are many ways to find this market data. Some of the most common ways include: 

  • Research salaries online. Websites like Glassdoor, Salary, and Robert Half feature easy-to-use tools that allow users to search for the salary ranges for many jobs in different geographic locations. 

  • Ask a coworker, friend, or relative already employed in the position. One of your best resources is your already existing network of acquaintances. If you already know someone employed in the position, reach out to them and ask for the typical pay range. It is even more helpful if you can ask multiple people the same question.

  • Set up an informational interview with someone doing the job. If you don’t know anyone in the same position, then you might consider setting up an informational interview with an already established professional to discuss the pay range you can expect. 

Once you have identified the salary range for your position, you can now identify a reasonable target price. 

Pay Gaps: Know Your Rights and Keep Watch

A wealth of research has shown that women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and members of other underrepresented groups are often paid less than average for their work [1,2,3,4]. 

However, in the United States, the practices leading to these pay gaps are potentially illegal. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), for instance, notes that “[t]he laws enforced by EEOC prohibit employers from paying employees differently based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (40 or older), or genetic information” [5]. 

While it can be difficult to know – or even prove – that you are encountering pay discrimination, members of underrepresented groups should be on the lookout for such practices. Whoever you are, you deserve to be compensated appropriately for your work. 

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2.  Consider additional (and alternative) benefits.

During your negotiation, you can aim for more than just a higher salary – you can talk about benefits too. 

Depending on your goals, increased benefits, such as more vacation time or flexible hours, can be compelling additions or alternatives to a higher salary. As a result, it’s worthwhile spending time before you meet with your hiring manager to consider some of the work benefits that you might like to increase. 

Some of the benefits that you can target, include the following: 

  • More paid-time-off (PTO)

  • Improved insurance benefits

  • Stock options

  • The ability to work remotely

  • Signing bonus

  • Parental leave

  • Childcare assistance

  • Office space or position

  • Reimbursements for work-related education, travel, or products

Ultimately, the benefits that you decide to target will be based on your own life circumstances. While a parent with a toddler might request the opportunity to work from home, a single person who loves to travel might request more vacation time. 

Thinking about the benefits that matter to you can help you negotiate a salary and benefits package that meets your personal and professional needs.

3. Craft your pitch. 

Now that you have identified your target salary and benefits, you can begin to craft the pitch you will make to your current or soon-to-be employer. 

This is one of the most important parts of the process. Rather than entering your negotiation with just some ideas in mind, it’s wise to take time to think about the most compelling way to make your case to your employer. 

Here are some key points to keep in mind as you are creating your pitch: 

  • Make a one-page brag sheet that highlights your concrete achievements, skill sets, and qualifications. One of the best ways to convince your employer that you’re worth more is by focusing on what you have to offer. By listing out your key achievements and qualifications at either your current or a previous job, you can effectively highlight the value you bring to the company – and what you’re worth. 

  • Base your argument on your market value, rather than personal circumstances. It can be tempting to base your negotiations around your personal struggles, such as rent increases or childcare costs, but such circumstances are not usually convincing to employers. Instead, focus on how a higher pay better reflects your experience and market value.  

  • Highlight the pain points that you are uniquely positioned to solve for your employer. At the end of the day, your employer is simply looking for someone to fix their problems, so by outlining their pain points and the ways you will solve them, you can simultaneously demonstrate both the value you add and your understanding of the role. 

4. Set a strategic date and time.

Once you have everything laid out, you can schedule a time to talk with your hiring manager or employer. The most strategic time to schedule your negotiation will depend largely on whether you are being offered a new job or asking for a raise in your current role. 

New job offers

If you were just offered a job, then you should schedule a time to talk only after you have received and evaluated your compensation package. 

Typically, potential employers will give you a deadline to get back to them about the position. It is during this short period that you have the most leverage because the business has already expressed interest and invested resources in you. As a result, you should take some time to review the job offer and then reach out to them several days before the deadline to discuss your desired salary. 

In your message to them, be clear that you are interested in the position but that you would like to discuss your salary and benefits. This will give them time to prepare for the discussion and possibly put together another package that is more attractive to you. 

Current jobs

If you are negotiating a pay increase with a current employer, then you should aim to schedule salary negotiations when you are best positioned to attain your target pay. 

First, you should consider the state of both the company and your place in it. You are better positioned to make your case, for example, if you have recently achieved a concrete goal that has been recognized by your employer. On the flip side, if your employer has recently laid-off many employees due to financial issues, then you will likely be more successful if you wait for the company to stabilize. 

Secondly, you should make sure to schedule the conversation before salaries are set and decided for the year. Many experts advise that you schedule salary discussions at least three to four months before performance reviews because it is during that period when many employers typically consider pay increases. 

5. Rehearse your pitch. 

Before your meeting, you should make sure to schedule a time to rehearse your pitch. You can do this either by yourself or with a friend, partner, or family member. 

To help you become more comfortable, you should strive to make the rehearsal as real as possible and run through the negotiation several times. Between each practice run, you should also take time to ask your rehearsal partner for feedback on your delivery and identify ways to improve. 

If you are practicing alone, meanwhile, you can gain feedback by simply reflecting on your own performance and noting whether you hit all your talking points. In some cases, you might even find it helpful to record yourself to see how you came across during the practice negotiation and make adjustments from there. 

Whatever method you use, the reality is that by simply going through your talking points aloud you are making it easier for you to vocalize your pitch to your employer. 

Negotiating and beyond

You’ve done your homework, identified your target salary and benefits, crafted your pitch, scheduled a time to talk with your employer, and rehearsed your case. Now, it’s time for the negotiation.

As you are making your case, keep the following tips in mind.  

6. Be confident. 

You want to walk into the negotiation process with a confident mindset and demeanor. By embodying a sense of confidence you are conveying your value to both your employer and yourself, effectively creating a virtuous cycle that will help you make your case and be heard. 

Some common ways to express a physical sense of confidence during your negotiation include: 

  • Keeping an upright posture throughout the negotiation 

  • Maintaining eye contact

  • Speaking in a clear and deliberate manner 

  • Emphasizing key points with clear hand gestures 

  • Maintaining a sense of openness by keeping your arms uncrossed and your chest open 

7. Stay kind.

Throughout the negotiation, you should make sure to also maintain a sense of kindness to both your employer and yourself. Despite the different goals that you both might have,  the act of negotiation isn’t about creating conflict but instead about resolving it. 

As a result, you should make sure to stay positive throughout the negotiation to convey that you aren’t there to make unreasonable demands but to make sure that both parties are happy. To embody a sense of kindness through the discussion, you can do the following: 

  • Open the conversation by thanking your employer for taking the time to talk with you.

  • Re-iterate your interest in the position and your desire to work with them.

  • Before jumping into business, ask them how their day has been going to show that you care about their well-being. 

  • Smile when appropriate. 

  • Maintaining a calm tone throughout the conversation, even if a disagreement arises. 

8. Start high and negotiate down.

You should expect that your employer will likely counter your initial pay increase with a counter salary offer. As a result, it’s wise to open the negotiations by pitching a salary that is higher than your target salary, so you can negotiate down to it. 

At the same time, you also want to be the one to first suggest a number. By doing so, you are essentially dictating the terms of the conversation. In the world of psychology this is called the “anchoring effect,” a term that describes the mind’s tendency to place more importance on the first piece of information that it receives about an event [6]. 

By putting out a slightly higher salary than you are targeting and doing so first, you are anchoring the discussion around that price point. 

9. Be firm, but stay flexible.

During the negotiation, it’s critical that you remain firm about your goals during the conversation, rather than folding right away. This will show the other party that you are serious about what you are asking and it will encourage them to meet your target. At the same time, you should also be flexible to craft solutions that work for both of you. Remember: you are trying to resolve a conflict, not exacerbate one. This means that you should be open about your willingness to make concessions in some areas. 

Example

Employer: “At the moment, I don’t think we can do that number.” 

Employee: “I understand that it can be difficult to come up with another package, but the current salary isn’t reflective of my experience and skill level. I’d like us to come to some resolution that works for both of us.” 

Employer: “Okay, I can see what we can do. It might not be as high as you asked, but we could possibly find something more.”

10. Focus on your future.

After your negotiation, you will find out whether you were successful in achieving your target salary and benefits. 

If you get what you wanted, then congratulations! If you don’t, then you will need to consider whether the job meets your personal, professional, and financial goals. In many cases, however, you will probably find that you got some of what you wanted but not all. 

Only you can decide if the offer is worth it for you.

Whatever the outcome, keep your attention on your future. There will be other negotiations in the future and by taking the first step here, you have better prepared yourself for the next time. 

Learn more about the art of negotiation 

Whether you want to be better equipped to obtain a higher salary or simply improve your relationship with your colleagues, negotiating is a skill that can help you throughout your life and career.

To help improve your negotiating abilities, you might consider taking Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills offered by the University of Michigan. 

Related articles 

Article sources

1. Pew Research Center. “Gender pay gap in U.S. held steady in 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/05/25/gender-pay-gap-facts/.” Accessed March 17, 2022. 

2. SHRM. “Black Workers Still Earn Less than Their White Counterparts, https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/compensation/pages/racial-wage-gaps-persistence-poses-challenge.aspx.” Accessed March 17, 2022. 

3. Human Rights Campaign. “The Wage Gap Among LGBTQ+ Workers in the United States, https://www.hrc.org/resources/the-wage-gap-among-lgbtq-workers-in-the-united-states.” Accessed March 17, 2022. 

4. HR Dive. “Why do pay gaps persist for US workers with disabilities?, https://www.hrdive.com/news/why-do-pay-gaps-persist-for-us-workers-with-disabilities/581533/.” Accessed March 17, 2022.

5. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “Pay Discrimination, https://www.eeoc.gov/youth/pay-discrimination.” Accessed March 17, 2022. 

6. St. Louis Fed. “The Anchoring Effect, https://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/page1-econ/2021/04/01/the-anchoring-effect.” Accessed March 29, 2022.

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