An Offer is Just a Starting Point: Tips for Negotiating a Higher Salary

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For many job-seekers, the excitement that comes with receiving a job offer is tempered by the anxiety-inducing salary negotiations that go along with it. In today’s economic climate, so many of us have heard, “You’re just lucky to have a job!” so much, we’re nervous about pushing our luck when it comes to money. The negotiation process can be particularly nerve-wracking for people just beginning their careers, but even the more experienced among us get weak in the knees just thinking about haggling over compensation with their future boss.

The thing is, most employers expect you to respond to their initial offer with a counter-offer. Think about it. Who would you rather have work for you—someone who meekly accepts every proposition, no matter what, or someone who has the knowledge and confidence to negotiate the best possible outcome? Besides, if a company wants you to work for them badly enough to make you an offer, they’re not going to yank it off the table just because you asked them to reconsider terms. So take a deep breath, arm yourself with knowledge, and let’s make a deal.

Be informed. Get educated about the salary you can expect for your level of experience and education in your field in your region. There are lots of online salary calculators out there ( is one that comes up a lot) to help you with your research. You can also ask trusted contacts within your field for a reasonable range, which may give you a more accurate picture, especially if you’re asking people within your search area. Know what you’re willing to accept going in, and have a number in your head you absolutely won’t go below. Be realistic, but don’t low-ball yourself. It’s a delicate balance, and the reality is that the end result will probably fall somewhere between the number you ask for and your floor.

Get them to make the first move. You’re better off if they throw out the first number, because that gives you a sense of where their heads are, but this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. If they ask you for a range and you sidestep the question, you run the risk of seeming A) shady or B) uninformed. You can either ask them what they have in mind, or refer to the above and tell them your range.

Take a breather. When they make the offer, express how happy and excited you are about the position, then tell them you’d like consider the official offer and call back. Once you see something from HR, you can call and negotiate. Here’s where you want to make your polite, professional case for the salary you want, based on your research and the value you can bring to the company. Once you’ve done so, stop talking. The ball is in their court.

We know it’s scary, but you have nothing to lose and lots to gain. Go get ‘em, tiger.