How to Negotiate Your Salary: 10 Tips to Earn More

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Strong negotiations begin with deliberate preparation. Learn how to prepare for 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 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 stressful. New hires and current employees often need 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 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 people will pay for your work.  

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 can better 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 Glassdoor, Indeed, 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. One of your best resources is your already existing network of acquaintances. If you already know someone in the position, 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. 

You can place a reasonable target price once you have identified your position's salary range. 

Pay Gaps: Know Your Rights and Keep Watch

Research has shown that women, people of colour, LGBTQ+ individuals, and members of other underrepresented groups are often paid less than average for their work [1]. 

The government of India has been working to establish better working conditions for its residents [2, 3, 4]. Under the country’s Equal Remuneration Act of 1976, employees have the right to complain about the employer’s contravention of any provision of the Employee Remuneration Act, file claims arising out of non-payment of wages at equal rates to men and women workers for the same work, and appeal against an order of the Authority in respect of a claim or complaint within thirty days of such order [4].

While it can be difficult to know—or even prove—that you are encountering pay discrimination, members of underrepresented groups should be looking 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 also talk about benefits. 

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 to spend time before you meet with your hiring manager to consider some of the work benefits 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

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

Ultimately, the benefits you target will be based on your 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.

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3. Craft your pitch. 

Now that you have identified your target salary and benefits, you can craft your pitch 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, it’s wise 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 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 your current or 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 struggles, such as rent increases or childcare costs, but such circumstances are only sometimes 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. 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. 

4. Set a strategic date and time.

You can schedule a meeting with your hiring manager or employer. The most strategic time to prepare your negotiation will depend on whether you are being offered a new job or asking for a raise in your current role. 

New job offers

If you just received the job offer, 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. You have the most leverage during this short period because the business has already expressed interest and invested resources in you. As a result, review the job offer and contact them several days before the deadline to discuss your desired salary. 

In your message, be clear that you are interested in the position but 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, you should schedule salary negotiations when you are best positioned to attain your target pay. 

First, consider the company’s state and your place in it. For example, you are better positioned to make your case if you have recently achieved a concrete goal recognised 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 stabilise. 

Secondly, schedule the conversation before salaries are set and decided for the year. Many experts advise planning salary discussions at least three to four months before performance reviews because many employers typically consider pay increases. 

5. Rehearse your pitch. 

Before your meeting, schedule a time to rehearse your pitch. You can do this alone or with a friend, partner, or family member. 

To help you become more comfortable, make the rehearsal as accurate 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 practice alone, you can gain feedback by reflecting on your performance and noting whether you hit all your talking points. Sometimes, it is 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 simply going through your talking points aloud makes it easier for you to vocalise 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 convey your value to your employer and yourself, effectively creating a virtuous cycle to 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 

  • Emphasising key points with precise hand gestures 

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

7. Stay kind.

Throughout the negotiation, you should also be kind to 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 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.

  • Reiterate your interest in the position and your desire to work with them.

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

  • Smile when appropriate.

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

  • Practice active listening. 

8. Start high and negotiate down.

Your employer should 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 higher than your target salary so that you can negotiate down to it. 

At the same time, you also want to be the one first to suggest a number. By doing so, you are dictating the terms of the conversation. In psychology, this is called the “anchoring effect,” which describes the mind’s tendency to place more importance on the first information it receives about an event [5]. 

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, you will need to 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 in crafting 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. 

Example

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

Employee: “I understand it can be difficult to develop 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.”

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

10. Focus on your future.

After your negotiation, you will determine whether you achieved your target salary and benefits. 

If you get what you want, congratulations! If you don’t, 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 better prepare 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 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, consider taking Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills offered by the University of Michigan. 

Article sources

1. Journal for Labour Market Research. “Gender and caste-based wage discrimination in India: some recent evidence, https://labourmarketresearch.springeropen.com/articles/10.1007/s12651-013-0152-z.” Accessed March 4, 2024.

2. Government of India. “e-Labour Punjab, https://pblabour.gov.in/.” Accessed March 4, 2024.

3. Paycheck. “Fair Treatment, https://paycheck.in/labour-law-india/fair-treatment.” Accessed March 4, 2024.

4. India Filing. “Wage discrimination laws in India, https://www.indiafilings.com/learn/employee-discrimination-laws-india/.” Accessed March 4, 2024.

5. Harvard Law School. “The anchoring effect and how it can impact your negotiation,  https://www.pon.harvard.edu/daily/negotiation-skills-daily/the-drawbacks-of-goals/. Accessed March 4, 2024.

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