5 Tips to Negotiate a Higher Salary

Two men shaking hands and exchanging money

Salary negotiation | Source: iStock

You’ve gone through the entire interview process and now an offer has been made. You’ve heard so many do’s and don’ts about accepting an offer and now your heart is racing. What do you say? How much money should you request? How long should you take to respond? Make sure you have your money game together before speaking with the hiring team. Otherwise, you’ll be a tongue tied mess. The Cheat Sheet is here with some quick tips on how to handle salary negotiations like a boss.

1. Reject the first offer (sometimes)

It’s called a salary negotiation because you and the employer are deciding on a situation that generally meets both of your needs. It’s not a negotiation if you’re presented with an offer and you immediately accept. That’s called leaving money on the table. In some cases, accepting the first offer is just as bad as not contributing up to your employer’s 401(k) match (if your employer offers one).

However, not all career experts agree with this advice. Some say if the initial salary offered is fair and falls within the requested range, you should stop there and thank your lucky stars. Some employers will not appreciate an unnecessary game of hardball if the first offer is what you asked for. You may also get passed over for the job if you don’t have a good reason for requesting more money. “When I was a corporate manager, I rescinded offers when people tried to negotiate salary without sufficient justification,” Gwen Ward, a principal at Fish Out of Water, told career site Monster. “This revealed another view of their analytic skills that I apparently missed in the interview process. But in other cases, I met their counteroffers if their request was well-thought-out and leveraged their previous accomplishments to the department or company goals,” Ward said.

2. Don’t take too long to make a decision

It’s OK (and advisable) to take some time to review the offer. However, if you drag your feet for too long you could risk losing the offer. If you decide to reject the offer and go with another employer, you’ve held up the process unnecessarily and made a candidate who is interested in the job agonize longer than they should have. “Sometimes there won’t be a specified date. Whoever offers you the job will say something vague like ‘let me know soon,’ or an email will ask for a response at your ‘earliest convenience.’ This is a little tricky. You can justifiably take about a week if you want, but the employer might expect you to respond sooner (as in a situation where they think they’ve offered you a really good position). Generally, you can wait up to three work days without hurting any feelings if there’s not a hard deadline,” said operations management expert Matthew Klobucher.

3. Don’t beg

Man at work with head on conference room table

Man with head on table | Source: Thinkstock

Now is not the time to plead for a higher salary because you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck and your mortgage is overdue. Keep your problems to yourself; it’s not professional to unload your personal problems in a work environment. The employer will likely focus more on the fact that you are doing a poor job of managing your personal finances (whether that is true or not). “Your personal circumstances for needing a certain salary won’t get you far in negotiations. Employers pay a salary based on market value and don’t care if the fair market wage doesn’t cover your monthly expenses,” said Lindsay Olson, founding partner and public relations recruiter for Paradigm Staffing.

4. Do your research

Don’t throw out random numbers, hoping your magic number will stick. Take the time to do thorough research and see what the typical salary range is for employees in your geographic location with your skill set. “If you state a salary request, tell the employer the sources of information you used (i.e., the Virginia Tech Post-Graduation Report, National Association of Colleges and Employers Salary Survey, Salary.com). This backs up your request with hard data — not just your gut instinct or rumors. If you ask for a salary well above average, justify your request. State what in your background and experience qualifies you. Can you be just as productive as other employees earning that salary?” advises the Virginia Tech career services.

5. Don’t brag

Once you get the job, don’t brag about your salary to your new co-workers. This is not only rude but also a sure way to ruin your team’s morale. Your teammates will not like you very much, especially if you are making significantly more than they are. And if your boss sees you as a toxic employee who is a poor culture fit, your first performance review may end with you being handed a stack of cardboard boxes so that you can pack up your desk. Keep your lips sealed.

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