Salary negotiation and responding to a job offer can feel like a tricky thing to do.
You want the job, so you don’t want to risk offending the company.
But you also don’t want to leave money on the table, and you definitely don’t want to undermine your value.
You want to be paid market value for the work you do and being paid less than what you’re worth in your first job, compounds over the course of your lifetime, so you can end up earning hundreds of thousands of dollars less than someone who negotiated and was paid more from the start.
Salary negotiation doesn’t have to be hard – it’s a skill you can learn and, through practice, do in a friendly, respectful, effective way.
Here are my top 7 tips to respond to a job offer and negotiate your salary without turning off the employer:
1. First, avoid sharing your desired salary range until you have received an offer.
You want to hear the employer’s starting offer, which is their low range, AND you want to hear about the requirements and expectations of the job.
If asked about your desired salary while interviewing, answer with something like:
“I would like more information about the responsibilities and expectations of the job first, so I can then share a range based on those responsibilities and my market value.”
You could also say something like:
“At this time, I would like to focus on my skills to determine if I’m a good match for the company’s needs or not.”
If they’re just not going to be deterred, then give them a range determined by your research for the specific job title in your city and state.
2. Do research ahead of time to determine the salary range that is the market value for the specific job TITLE in your city and state.
You can easily research using online sites such as:
Then determine your desired salary range based on this research and decide what your walk away point is.
Look for a coming blog post with tons more tips for doing salary research, so you can feel more confident in negotiating.
3. When presented with an offer, realize you need to negotiate.
You can either negotiate then and there, or you can thank them and ask for time to think about it, if you haven’t already done your research.
>>> The organization’s initial salary offer is typically their starting point.
Most companies fully expect you to negotiate and are prepared to offer you a bit more.
You want to ask for 10-20% on top of their initial offer, even if the offer is what you determined was your desired high range.
4. When they make an offer, evaluate where it falls in your desired salary range.
- If it is higher, then add 10-20% to the offer.
- If it is lower, then ask yourself:
- How badly do I need the offer?
- How badly do they need me?
- What are my alternatives if I don’t accept this offer?
Your alternatives always include either staying at your current position or continuing to look for a job and possibly starting your own business or pursuing other job possibilities.
But even if you very badly need the offer, and don’t feel your alternatives are viable, you still want to negotiate.
>>> You will not burn any bridges if you negotiate your salary in a friendly, low-key, non-aggressive way.
In fact, they will respect you more for it.The company's initial salary offer is typically their starting point. Most companies fully expect you to negotiate. You will not burn any bridges if you negotiate in a friendly, non-aggressive way.Click To Tweet
5. Your negotiating style is key.
- Make it conversational, not confrontational
- Your language and tone are both important
- Use a more neutral, almost monotone voice
- Be respectful, humble, and low key
- Be friendly, smile, have warm eye contact, and use open body language with good posture
- Avoid frowning, shaking your head, pointing
- Try not to fidget
- Ask questions
- Have a win-win mindset
- Address the needs and goals of the company and acknowledge any constraints they may have shared (limited first-year budget, etc.)
6. Manage your emotions and get in the right mindset.
>>> Remember that you can control your emotions by managing your thoughts.
Focus on the value you can bring, whether that value comes in the form of experience or in who you are as a person. Think about qualities like you’re a hard worker. You work well with others. You always try to do your best and get up to speed quickly. You will be a trustworthy asset to this company.
Realize that going through a hiring process is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking for a company.
Once they’ve made you an offer, they want you to say yes. They like you. They think your skills and who you are as a person are a fit for what they need.
They are not going to be offended and rescind the offer just because you have negotiated in a friendly and respectful way.
In fact, you will most likely impress them, increase their respect for you, when you negotiate in a respectful and humble way.
Check out this blog post for more encouragement when you’re job hunting or anytime you’re uncertain about your future.
7. Prepare and practice your response(s).
You can say something like this, in a friendly, conversational, respectful tone:
“Thank you so much. I’m honored to get this offer. I love this company too and think I can bring a lot of value. However, I’m concerned the salary offer you’ve made is a bit low compared to what the market is paying for this position. I was thinking more in the range of y instead of x (what they offered).” Then PAUSE and wait for them to respond.
“Thank you for the offer. I’m excited to join your company and think I can bring tremendous value to your organization. I am a bit concerned about the salary offer though. It seems a little low compared to the average market value for this role for people with x number of years of experience (or training in x way, or x degree, etc.). I was thinking more in line with $____.” Then PAUSE and wait for them to respond.
They will respond in one of two ways:
“Ok, let me see what I can do.”
Or they might respond with something like:
“That may be so in general, but in this company we have a strict salary scale, and, for the purposes of being fair, this is the most we can offer you.”
You then say something like:
“I respect that. What is your policy on signing bonuses?”
They often will be willing to do a signing bonus for you, or you can negotiate for other things in addition to salary – things like:
- Healthcare, vision, dental insurance
- Working from home
- Educational stipend
- Paid-Time-Off and vacation days
- Retirement accounts and matching contributions
- Gym or other memberships
- Transportation stipend
- Stock in the company
Finally, remember that responding to job offers and salary negotiation are SKILLS to be learned.
>>> As when you’re developing all skills, you can feel a bit awkward at first, but with practice, you will get more comfortable – practice is the key!
Grab a trusted colleague or friend to practice with, or I’d love for you to make an appointment with me for coaching and to practice.
To your success –
Big shout out to Jane McKean and Paul Levy for their ideas and work on this subject.
Thank you for sharing these tips, especially about negotiating. I just applied for a civil engineering position, and I’m trying to be really prepared for the interview.
You’re so welcome. 🙏