How to Negotiate Salary

Many people forget to negotiate their salary and instead accept whatever salary the job offers without argument or complaint.

It feels impolite to negotiate or argue when you are being offered something very important like a job. But negotiating salary doesn't have to be uncomfortable and hostile. In fact, many employers purposefully leave some room for negotiations in the initial salary they offer. If you're unfamiliar with salary negotiations and how they work, then this article is for you. 

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Take Home Pay Calculator

A good place to start when negotiating salary is to calculate your ideal take home pay. 

Take home pay is the amount of money that ends up in your actual paycheck. Another term for take home pay is net income. 

Net income is the sum of all your wages after deductions, like taxes, are made. 

Gross income on the other hand, is a calculation of your wages before these deductions are made. 

Let's say you get paid $20 an hour. That means you make $800 a week in gross income. But deductions get made to each paycheck for things like taxes, social security, pensions, insurance, employee benefits, etc. That means the same employee making $20 an hour will actually take home less than $800 each week in net income or take home pay. 

How to calculate take home pay is different for each employee. 

For example, if you have insurance with your employer then those monthly insurance payments might come directly out of your paycheck or they might not. Take home pay will also look different depending on how you filled out your W-4 and whether you decided to withhold anything from taxes. 

Use this free Take Home Pay Calculator to quickly figure out how much you actually take home each paycheck. It takes into account everything taxes take out of each paycheck. This gives you a more realistic view of what you're getting from your job.

Should I Negotiate Salary?

How do you know when you should negotiate salary? There are a few specific circumstances that call for a salary negotiation like when you've received a job offer or when you're getting a promotion at work. Then there are instances where it's appropriate to initiate a salary negotiation like if you've recently taken on more responsibilities or learned that someone in your field or position should be making more on average. 

When to Negotiate Salary

If you're stuck on knowing when to negotiate salary and when not to negotiate salary, here's a helpful guide to follow: 

Negotiate Salary When You Have an Offer Letter

Sometimes a certain amount of salary negotiation is appropriate during a job interview. But in general, you want to save real salary negotiations for after you actually have an offer letter. 

An Offer Letter or a job offer letter, is the official letter an employer sends you when they want to offer you the job. An offer letter might also include basic information about the job like when you'll start, how much you'll make, and what your hours will be. You don't want to waste your time or the recruiters time by talking about salary decisions too soon. 

That being said, you might be asked in the interview for an idea of what kind of salary you'd be expecting. But real negotiations about the final salary are best saved for after you've been offered the job. 

Negotiate Salary When You Have a Promotion

Usually promotions come with some kind of pay raise. Negotiate this pay raise with your employer so that you're fairly compensated for the extra work, duties, and responsibilities you'll take on once you're promoted. 

Negotiate Salary When Your Work Responsibilities Increase

Someone quits and you end up taking on their workload. This is a prime example of when your work responsibilities increase and you could appropriately negotiate a higher wage. Things happen. Maybe when you were hired, you were expected to do A, B, and C tasks, but for whatever reasons, you end up doing X, Y, and Z tasks as well. Approach your employer and show them all the extra work you've been doing when negotiating for a higher wage. 

Don't Negotiate Salary When You Haven't Been offered the Job Yet

Preliminary interviews aren't usually a great time to negotiate salary. The interviewer is still learning about you and your skill set. It won't be until later when they weigh their options that they'll decide whether to offer you the job or not. So, in a preliminary interview, the most you want to do is give the interviewer an idea of the salary range you'd be interested in, if they ask you about it. Otherwise, avoid seeming presumptuous by waiting until after you've received an official job offer or offer letter to negotiate salary. 

Don't Negotiate Salary When You Already Accepted the Salary They Offered

Once you accept a job offer, it's not very appropriate or professional to change your mind and try to negotiate a new salary. This is why it's important to be prepared before going into interviews. Know what your skills are financially worth. Know what the average pay for a person in your field is in the state you live in. Trying to open up salary negotiations after you've already accepted a job offer's proposed salary makes you seem fickle and unprepared.

Stop Negotiating Salary When They've Given You Their Best Offer

Every business has a budget they need to stick too. This includes a budget for how much they can pay their employees. Some companies are better equipped to pay higher wages than other companies. If an employer has made it known that a certain salary amount is the best they can do, it's time to either accept the offer or continue the job search. It might also be time to stop negotiating when the employer is already offering the average salary for someone of your skillset and experience level. 

How to Negotiate Salary

Decide on the right moment and then start preparations for the negotiations. 

Step 1: Research Common Salaries in Your Field

Before you even go into job interviews, you should research common salaries within your field. Websites like PayScale, Glassdoor, and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics can all give you statistics on what other workers like you are making right now. 

While researching how much you can expect to get paid, consider the following variables: 

  • State
  • City
  • Experience level
  • Skills
  • Licenses and certifications
  • Education level

These variables are important and will change how much you can reasonably ask for from an employer. For instance, the typical salary range for someone who graduated with a bachelor's degree is usually less than someone who's graduated with a master's degree. Likewise, if you're still new to the field you probably won't get the same salary as someone who's been working in the industry for 20+ years. 

Take into consideration the state you live in, the city you live in, the years of experience you have, the skills you've developed, the extra qualifications, licenses, and certifications you have, and the education level you have when researching average salaries. 

Step 2: Practice with a friend

Once you have the information you need to make your point to your employers it's time to role play the conversation with a friend. Practicing job interviews and salary negotiations with a friend can be the perfect cure for any nerves. Then you'll be freshly rehearsed and confident as you present your well-researched points to your employer. 

Step 3: Present your research

It's time to put all that research and rehearsing to good use. Present your research and your talking points to your employer. Clearly outline the data suggesting how much you should be making in this position. Go over the skills, expertise, and qualifications you bring to the job to illustrate why you should make the salary you are negotiating. Then see what the employers have to say in response and work with them the best you can. 

How to Negotiate Salary During Interview

First of all, it's best to negotiate salary after you've actually received an official job offer and not before.  

But sometimes, during interviews, it's apparent that you are getting the job, or, they want to get an idea of what salary you'd like so they know what to offer you if you do get the job. 

It's perfectly alright to ask for an idea of the starting salary in a job interview. 

You don't negotiate salary in the job interview to finalize what you'll be paid, because you don't have the job yet. But some preliminary talks about what you might expect in a salary, or what salary they might provide, is very common in job interviews. 

Again, this is why doing salary research is important to do before you even head to the job interview. 

You need to know what your skills and experience level are worth in the job interview so you make a reasonable and appropriate response to what your salary requirements are. 

Negotiating Promotion Salary

Promotions, raises, and performance reviews are all great opportunities to negotiate for a better salary. When getting a promotional raise or a merit raise, it's important to be prepared and begin negotiating before the business budgets have been set in stone. 

Don't waste time. Get prepared and schedule your salary negotiation as soon as possible. Your employer will be more likely to help you out if the budget is still adjustable. Promotional salary negotiations often involve raise percentages since you already have the job. Calculate ahead of time what percentage raise you'd like to receive. 

Negotiate promotion salary by doing the following steps: 

Set a salary/raise percentage range

In any negotiation it's a good idea to have a range for your expectations. Decide what the lowest and highest raises are that you would be comfortable accepting. It also helps if you have some data to present that backs up your salary requests. 

List your accomplishments

Support your argument for a higher raise with specific examples and stories that illustrate your merit and why you deserve this raise. 

Be flexible

Negotiations aren't just about getting what you want. They're also about compromise. Employers have a budget and company structure they have to work with. Keep your coworker relationships civil by being flexible, understanding, and working alongside your employer in upping your wage. 

How to Negotiate Salary Over the Phone

It isn't always possible to negotiate salary face to face. Sometimes you'll have to negotiate salary over the phone instead. Phone conversations are different from a face-to-face conversation. In a face-to-face conversation you can read the body language and facial expressions of the other person. There are important unspoken parts during an in-person conversation. 

Over the phone, you lose access to these unspoken messages. To negotiate salary over the phone, prepare yourself in the same way described above. Then, prepare yourself further to be direct and clear during your phone conversation. Be more direct when giving and asking for feedback during the conversation. 

You won't be able to see their face and know if that number seemed way too high to them. Don't forget to ask directly for their thoughts to so you can get a clear understanding of their responses. 

Salary Negotiation Email

Emailing can be really stressful. There's no forgiveness when every word is written down for everyone to read and analyze over and over again. You have to be extra careful writing and editing a salary negotiation email. A salary negotiation email needs to include: 

  • a salary proposal
  • a response to a previous salary proposal 
  • what your salary proposal is based on
  • gratitude

If you can, ask someone you trust to read over your email to double check it for errors. 

Salary Negotiation Email Samples

Sometimes you need a little help drafting a good email for something as important as salary negotiations. Use these salary negotiation email samples to help you figure out what to say in your own email. But, don't just copy and paste these email templates. Use them to write your own salary negotiation email that is more specific to your personal circumstances. 

Salary Negotiation Email for a New Job

Company Name, 
Thank you for this job opportunity. I am confident I can make a great addition to your team and look forward to working together. 
Before I officially accept this job offer I would like to take a moment to discuss compensation. 
An employee with my expertise makes anywhere between $_____ and $_____ a year in our area. Ideally, I would be the most comfortable settling on a base salary of $_____ a year. 
I feel this base salary amount best reflects the skills and qualifications I have to offer. 
Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I hope to hear back from you about this salary proposition soon. 
Your Name

Salary Negotiation Email for a Current Job

Company Name, 
I have been working at (Company Name) for _____ number of years. In this time I have (talk about your responsibilities, accomplishments at the job, and ways you've improved the Company). 
I would like to put my current salary up for consideration. Right now I am making $_____ a year, and considering the above mentioned merits, I would like to propose a raised salary of $_____ a year. 
I feel this proposed salary increase better reflects skills and qualifications I bring to the Company. 
Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I hope to hear back from you about this proposed salary increase soon. 
Your Name

General Salary Negotiation Email Format

Company Name, 
Paragraph about your personal merits, skills, education, experience level, qualifications, and talents that are variables in the decision about how much you should make. 
Paragraph with links to any data about the average salaries that employees with your similar experience, education, and skills receive. 
Brief paragraph with a straightforward salary proposal. 
Brief expression of gratitude and thanks to the employer and a friendly reminder for when and how to contact them to continue and finalize salary negotiations. 
Your Name

Salary Negotiation Tips

Here are all the salary negotiation tips and tricks you should use and keep in mind when heading into salary negotiations. 

Know Your Worth

And know how to base your professional worth. It isn't based on what your previous job paid you or how much a colleague in your same field gets paid. There is a market for your career and the salary in that market is based on education level, skills, and experience. Don't settle for less than you deserve. Research the salary market in your profession and know what your skillset is worth to an employer. 

Go Higher

Start salary negotiations with a higher number than your actual ideal salary. Then, even if the employer comes back with a lower number, you're more likely to actually get the salary range you were hoping for in the first place. Likewise, if you provide an employer with a salary range, keep the lowest end of your salary range a little high. That way, if they offer your "lowest" salary range, you'll still be getting a salary you can be happy with. 

Consider Expenses

When listing the reasons you want your proposed salary, don't forget any expenses. Maybe you can't afford to live close to work and will have daily commutes to budget for in this job. Maybe you have a household of dependents who need your financial support. Or maybe this job required extensive education that you now need to pay off. 

Consider Other Benefits

Not all job benefits go directly toward your salary. There are other job benefits you can negotiate about like insurance, transportation, gas funds, employee perks and benefit programs. 

An employer might not have the budget for the exact salary you want, but they do have the budget structured in such a way that can give you gas money, an employee pass to a nearby gym, or free breakfast. 

In Conclusion, 

We spend a lot of time at our jobs. They become a big part of our life, our passions, and our livelihood. The passion, time, and energy we put into our work deserves to be properly compensated. Do your research and negotiate with confidence. And good luck on all your career endeavors!