How to Negotiate Your Salary in 6 Simple Steps

Salary negotiation is an uncomfortable thing. Even if you know you’re killing it at work, even if you’re a pretty confident person, even if your coworker just asked for and got a raise — asking for more money is hard.

You might worry the new company will rescind their offer. You might stress that your manager will think you’re cocky, or greedy.

Here’s the truth: they won’t. For how much nail-biting and gastrointestinal anguish it causes, salary negotiation is crazy common (although more people, especially women, should push themselves to do it). So the hiring manager or your boss won’t only not be shocked that you’re asking, they’re likely to take your request seriously.

Whether you’re negotiating the starting salary for a new job or keen on making the case for a higher salary in your current role, follow this step-by-step strategic approach to getting the pay you deserve.

Step 1: Internalize it.

Your biggest mistake in salary negotiation could be as simple as this: not internalizing the fact that you are a value-add to your current or future company. Before getting in the ring, psych yourself up in the locker room; take stock of your strengths and assets so you’re ready to remind the person you’re negotiating with why they need you. Make a list of what you’ve accomplished in the past year, and what specific skills and knowledge you bring to this organization. Not only will you feel more self-assured, you’ll be primed to support your case with concrete examples.

Step 2: Do your research.

Check out and to gauge your market value based on your years of experience, current title, highest level of education and geographic area. A successful negotiation starts with an understanding of all the facts: not only what you believe you should be earning, but what the job market suggests that you should. Based on what you discover, consider tweaking your expectations. Perhaps you need to be asking for more; maybe you should dial back on the dollars you’re looking for and seek to bolster your compensation package with more vacation days or better health insurance.

Step 3: Pick a number.

The more specific your ask, the higher the likelihood you’ll get (at least close to) what you want. Research shows that when employees request a precise compensation rate, they’re more likely to get a final salary offer close to that. In addition to a specific salary requirement, think about those supporting pieces of your total financial package that could help get you there should the company not have the budget to meet you at your specific number, be it a signing bonus, extra vacation or stock options. Get clear-cut with what you want so you have the best bet of coming to an agreement that’s pleasing to you and your employer.

Step 4: Put on your game face.

When it comes to salary negotiation, whether with your current company or a prospective employer, it’s critical not to apologize. You should not feel bad for advocating for yourself, especially if you’ve done the work in steps 1 through 3. You know what you’re worth, you’re prepared with market research and you have a specific ask. If you’re negotiating in person, make sure your body language conveys calmness and confidence. And if anything personal is driving your desire to earn more pay (you’re saving for your wedding, your partner just lost his or her job, you’re a new parent), leave it out of the negotiation. No matter how compassionate your manager or recruiter may be, salary negotiation is about your professional value. That’s it.

Step 5: Don’t be afraid to name a number first.

Much salary negotiation wisdom dictates that you should never put your number out there before the hiring manager does. But as long as you’ve done your research, it won’t hurt to do so. Thanks to what’s known as the “anchoring bias” in negotiation, the first number named drives the rest of the conversation. And it’s better for you to be in the driver’s seat. That said, if the other party kicks off the salary conversation with a starting offer, just be prepared to make your counteroffer according to what you know your market value is; not based on what they’ve offered.

Step 6: Treat the conversation as just that — a dialogue.

Approach the negotiating table (or phone call airwaves) with positivity and openness. Assuming you want this new job, or want to stay at your current company, never threaten to walk if your asks aren’t met. Really listen when the other person is speaking. And remember you both want the same things: a happy and motivated employee, and a successful company. If it’s at all possible to come to an agreement, you’ll be grateful you kept your cool.

The above step-by-step process should set you up for salary negotiation success, whether you’re looking for an increase to your current salary or haggling at the end of an interview process. And even if the negotiation doesn’t net out where you might have hoped, you’ll be primed for the next time you have to fight for what you’re worth.


Allison Stadd