How to negotiate a higher salary

When you’re interviewing for a new role, or carefully evaluating your current role, it’s important to think carefully about the compensation package you’re being offered and whether or not it’s a fair representation of your market value, efforts, and workload. 

If it’s not, it may be time to have a one on one with your potential employer and ask them to reconsider.

“Years of experience, education, location, and skills all play a role in determining a fair wage for a candidate,” says Laura Mills, head of early career insights at Forage, an online learning platform. “It’s easier to negotiate salary before you join a company versus after, so be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to negotiate when you receive the job offer.” 

Your biggest salary increase happens when you sign your offer letter 

If you’re interviewing for a new role and you’ve reached the point in the process where you’re ready to discuss your salary, you should ask for the top of the compensation range being considered for the role, according to your qualifications and experience. 

If you’re hoping to secure the highest possible salary, experts say that the ideal time to ask for it is before you even sign your job offer. Waiting until after you’ve joined the team could actually translate to major losses if you aren’t being paid your market value or receiving regular raises to account for rising inflation. 

According to the Pew Research Center, from April 2021 to March 2022, half of workers who changed jobs experienced a real increase of 9.7% or more over their pay a year earlier. Meanwhile, the median worker who remained in the same job experienced a loss of 1.7%.

Negotiating your salary before starting a new role  

Once you’ve gone through the motions, completed the interview process and received a written offer letter, it’s perfectly okay to ask for some time to consider the salary you’re being offered. The good news: you should have some idea from the start of the interview process about the compensation range being considered for this role thanks to new pay transparency laws that require employers to disclose salary ranges on job postings. 

If you aren’t happy with your offer, you’ll have to come up with a compelling argument for why you believe you deserve a higher salary offer. 

  • Determine your market value: Your market value is the salary you should earn based on your years of experience, skillset, location, average salary for the role across your industry, and more. This could mean comparing salary bands for similar roles in different companies, referring to online data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to get average wage data by area and occupation, having candid conversations about compensation with coworkers or others in your industry, and more. 
  • Make your case: Confidently make your case to your future employer or the HR representative who is putting together your compensation package. Be clear about your desired compensation, why you feel your background aligns with that pay level and how your contributions could add value to the team. “Always remain polite and respectful, but hold your ground with the salary you think you deserve,” says Mills. “If you’re persistent with your ask, you’ll know you haven’t left any money “on the table” after your negotiation.” 
  • Don’t discount other facets of your compensation package: If your potential employer isn’t willing to increase your compensation, don’t be afraid to ask for other incentives like a sign-on bonus, the opportunity to work from home, a work from home stipend, company equity, and more. “You can negotiate nearly every aspect of your pay package: salary, paid time off, 401(k) match, work schedule, and bonuses. Start with negotiating the base salary as this figure will compound over time with subsequent raises. Evaluate the skills, experience, and education you bring to the table to ask for additional salary,” says Mills. 

Make sure to keep the lines of communication open with your boss 

While salary negotiations might be a lot simpler at the offer table, conversations about your salary shouldn’t end there. 

You should make it a goal to have ongoing conversations with your boss and HR team so that you can regularly review your compensation and ensure that it’s always a fair and accurate representation of your workload, growing skillset, and the contributions you make to your team. 

Ask your employer about the kinds of milestones or benchmarks you should be working toward to ensure a raise in the future and check in with them regularly to make sure you’re both on the same page and working toward the same goals. 

The takeaway 

Salary negotiation is a perfectly normal part of the job interviewing and hiring process, and, as such, there’s no need to shy away from asking your potential employer for a pay bump. Your compensation should reflect the value you add to your company. But making the case will take a strong argument, so be sure to do your research before you approach the negotiation table. 

“Come up with examples of your impact on cost and time savings and new business opportunities,” says Mills. “Quantifying your impact can help persuade those who have the power to bump your salary.”

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