How to Negotiate a Salary Step-by-Step

The All-Inclusive Guide To Negotiating a Fair Salary
Negotiating your salary doesn't have to be scary. Follow these tips to feel confident as you ask for the salary you deserve.
Whether you’ve just been offered a job or you’re gunning for a raise, negotiating your salary can be tricky. Perhaps you hesitate because you don’t want to seem ungrateful—you’re happy to have a job in the first place. Or maybe you’re scared countering a salary offer will lead to the offer being retracted. Or, quite possibly, you just hate negotiating altogether. Whatever your reason, we’ve all been there.

But that’s no reason not to negotiate salary to get the income you deserve. Instead of backing down at the next negotiation opportunity, follow these steps to navigate the dreaded salary discussion.


Step One: Do Your Research On Salary Standards

First, let’s take a step back. Chances are, during your interview process, someone will ask you about your salary expectations. This moment can be super daunting! Don’t panic. Come prepared.

Before your first phone interview, do some research. Scour the web for company review websites (think and look at comparable titles within the company. Then look cross-market at the salaries of people similarly situated in the industry.

Keep in mind that location is often a major factor in salary. Big city roles can usually command higher salaries because the applicant pool and cost of living are generally much higher. Also note how unique the role is—is this a common position where many people do the same work? If so, there’s probably less salary wiggle room than, say, a specialized position. 

Next, evaluate how far you moved the needle at your current job. Make a bulleted list of the things you’ve accomplished and compare those to your original job description. Have you exceeded expectations? If your results are tied to actual company revenue, have those hard numbers handy as well. This is where you’ll humbly explain how talented you are and how your track record proves it. 

Not that experienced yet? Be sure you’re fairly assessing the work you’ve actually done instead of what you think you’re capable of doing someday. We know how tough a low salary can be, but keep in mind, you have the rest of your working life to hit your salary goal! Right now focus on hard work and learning.
Be sure you’re fairly assessing the work you’ve actually done instead of what you think you’re capable of doing someday. 

Step Two: State Your Number

“Where do you want to be salary-wise?” the interviewer says so casually, you’d think she was asking if you’d like cream with your coffee.

Stay cool. This is where men and women tend to differ. Men often give a distinct number based off of market research and self-evaluation. Women tend to give a wishy-washy version of what they’d settle for. If you’ve done your market research and you’ve taken the time to validate what you bring to the table, state your requirements in a concrete fashion, then explain why you feel this number is appropriate.

When the interviewer asks if this number is flexible, simply state you’d be able to reassess once you’ve seen the entire packaged offer. Keep in mind, your “package” could include anything from company equity, vacation days, and growth opportunities, to travel, bonuses, and even awesome office perks—free food anyone? 

The younger you are in your career, the more I’d encourage you to consider career growth opportunities over money. Early on, choosing the place that is going to teach you the most will give you the opportunity to learn valuable skills, making you worth more in the future.

Step Three: Counter After the Job Offer

Once you’ve received an initial offer you have some serious negotiating power. They want you and they’d rather get to a number you’re happy with than start the search all over.

Feel free to counter for more money if they’ve come in lower than your original salary requirement. If they have no flexibility in cash resources, appeal for more vacation days, a signing bonus, more equity, or even a greater annual bonus.

Stay within reason—keep your counter proportionate to the initial offer. Remember back to when the recruiter asked where you wanted to be salary-wise? Your counter offer should fall within the ballpark range of their offer, so no one wastes the other’s time. Chances are you’ll land somewhere in the middle.

According to Linda Babcock, author of Women Don’t Ask, only 7% of women negotiate their salary while a staggering 57% of men do. Those who did ask saw a 7% increase in compensation. So ask for more, ladies!

Once you reach an agreement, be sure to thoroughly review your offer letter, sign, and return it within 24 hours.

That’s it! You’ve successfully navigated through negotiating your compensation. Stand proud and let the real work begin!


Step One: Be Proactive and Transparent About the Money

Have an open and honest conversation with your manager, months before review time. Let her know your desire for greater compensation. Don’t wait until the day of your review—by then it’s too late.
Have an open and honest conversation with your manager, months before review time. Don’t wait until the day of your review—by then it’s too late.
Fairly assess your contributions. What have you done to garner a higher wage? Don’t be fooled into thinking you should get a raise before you perform at the next level. Quite the contrary—you’ll need to prove ahead of time that you are capable of more responsibility, before anyone ups your paycheck.

Be reasonable when negotiating salary by suggesting a number, then backing it up. In addition to recapping your latest and greatest projects, be sure to present research on what others in the industry are making and why you feel your work stacks up.

Once you’ve unearthed what a reasonable raise would look like, ask your boss what she’d like to see performance-wise to help you reach that mark. Let her know you’re willing to work for it.

A major don’t? Your salary is never a reflection of your need for more money. Rent, loans, and other bills are not the concern of your manager. Don’t assume you deserve a raise simply because you have bills to pay. Steer clear of making it personal.

Step Two: Work Hard First, Negotiate Salary Later

Check in regularly with your manager to see how you’re doing. Be proactive by offering suggestions as to how you can take your position to the next level. Keep track of your own progress. The easiest way to get promoted is to do excellent work at the level you wish to be promoted to. 

Don’t shy away. Take on more assignments and regularly ask your manager if there’s more you can be doing. Aim to make her life easier; resurrect important tasks that have fallen off her radar, and be proactive about getting her information she needs ahead of time.

Step Three: Network at Work

Learning to network with employees who are a level or two above you is an excellent way to recruit the support of higher-ups. If you’re perceived as having a peer network of more senior employees, you’ll be that much closer to being perceived as an employee at that level. Instead of blatantly stating you have friends in high places, simply refer to projects you’ve worked on where the stakeholders were more senior.

Follow these three steps and you’re on your way to receiving the raise you deserve come review time. The only thing left to do? Persevere! Big salaries and lofty titles are the makings of serious staying power.

Have you ever negotiated a salary successfully? What did you try that worked?