How to Negotiate Your Salary: 10 Tips to Earn More

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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 discussing money with their current or potential employer to be nerve-racking. 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 daunting. In fact, it is often necessary 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 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 your position’s salary range and identify your target salary. The salary range is your “market value,” or the price employers are willing to pay for the kind of work you do.

Several factors impact your salary range, including your geographic location, experience level, and market demand for qualified individuals.

By knowing your position’s market value, 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 significantly impact how much of an increase you can realistically target and the strategy 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 the Government of Canada’s JobBank Trend Analysis, Glassdoor, Salary, and Payscale 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 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 to 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, 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

Research has shown that women, racial minorities, LGBTQ, and other underrepresented groups have often faced workplace discrimination [1,2,3].

The practices leading to job discrimination can be illegal under the Canadian Human Rights Act. It states, "It is a discriminatory practice for an employer, employee organization or employer organization … that deprives or tends to deprive an individual or class of individuals of any employment opportunities on a prohibited ground of discrimination." [4].

Although it can be difficult to know when you’re not being fairly compensated due to discrimination, you should know your rights as an employee and understand the appropriate course of action to be properly compensated.


2. Consider additional (and alternative) benefits.

During your negotiation, you can aim for more than just a higher salary—you can also talk about employee benefits.

Depending on your goals, added 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 researching before you meet with your hiring manager to consider some of the employment benefits you might like to increase.

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

  • More paid time off (PTO)

  • Improved health insurance benefits

  • Stock options

  • Remote work days

  • Signing bonus

  • Parental leave

  • Childcare assistance

  • Office space or position

  • Reimbursement 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. 

Considering 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  prepare your pitch: 

  • Make a one-page brag sheet highlighting 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 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 personal situations, 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 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 how you will solve them, you can simultaneously demonstrate both the value you add and your understanding of the role. 

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4. Set a strategic date and time.

Once everything is 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, you should schedule a time to talk only after receiving and evaluating your compensation package.

Typically, potential employers will give you a deadline to get back to them about the position. During this short period, 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 reach out to them several days before the deadline to discuss your desired salary. 

In your message, be clear that you are interested in the position but 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 recognized by your employer. On the flip side, if your employer has recently laid-off many employees due to financial issues, you will likely be more successful if you wait for the company to stabilize.

Second, you should 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 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 ask your rehearsal partner for feedback on your delivery and identify ways to improve.

If you are practicing alone, you can gain feedback by simply reflecting on your 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 enter the negotiation process with a confident mindset and demeanour. By embodying a sense of confidence, you are conveying your value to 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, negotiation isn’t about creating conflict but 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 ensure 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 about their day to show that you care about their well-being. 

  • Smile when appropriate. 

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

  • Practice active listening. 

8. Start high and negotiate down.

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

At the same time, you also want to be the first to suggest a number. By doing so, you are essentially dictating the terms of the conversation. In 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 it receives about an event.

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

9. Be firm, but stay flexible.

During the negotiation, it’s critical 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 will encourage them to meet your target. At the same time, you should also be flexible to offer solutions that work for you both. 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. 


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 doesn’t reflect my experience and skill level. I’d like us to reach a 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 successfully achieved your target salary and benefits.

If you get what you want, 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.

Article sources


Canadian Women’s Foundation. "The Facts About the Gender Pay Gap," Accessed November 20, 2022. 

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