How to negotiate for a better salary

For many people, the idea of asking for more money feels outright uncomfortable, thinking they may come across as greedy, ungrateful or even arrogant. In all likelihood, the worst that will happen is getting no for an answer. With some research and preparation, you can improve your chances of getting a yes and even emerge from the process with a little more confidence and respect.

The negotiables of salary and benefits

When presented with a starting salary at a new job, ask for a day or two to review it and find out if there is any room for negotiation. As you evaluate the offer, consider the value of the total compensation package on the table. Your budget can get a boost from various benefits, such as bonuses, retirement plan matching, health and dental coverage, commuter allowances, paid time off, tuition reimbursement and other perks.

Salaries are almost always negotiable. If they aren’t, you may find that other important benefits are. For instance, you might be able to score additional time off. Or, working from home may be appealing, as you won’t need to dole out for gas, parking or public transportation… or spend hours commuting.

Start by building a case

To command a higher salary, you need to show you’re worth it. Think about the value you can bring to an organization, whether it’s a specific skill set, important contacts or a vision for solving a unique problem. If you’ve been at the organization for a while, be prepared to provide examples of your significant contributions and results.

Take time to research the salary range for your position. Be sure to narrow down the research by your specific city or market, experience level and industry. An IT project manager may earn more in Portland than in Kennewick, for instance, to compensate for a higher cost of living.

Before entering a negotiation, determine your desired salary range and what the minimum needs to be for you to sign or continue on. If an employer has firmly stated that the salary is non-negotiable, you need to decide if the pay meets your minimum standard and if the job, organizational culture and additional benefits are worth it.

Don’t jump at the first offer

If an employer indicates that salary is negotiable, don’t feel rushed to accept the first offer. Take time to deliberate, especially if you may be entertaining other offers. Be ready to provide some rationale for a counteroffer. For instance, you may note that research shows a higher salary range for the same position within your market.

Also, request that any offers are made in writing and include the salary and benefits involved. Having a written record can help avoid miscommunication as negotiations proceed and ensure that expectations are understood on both sides.

Lay the groundwork for future raises

If a salary bump isn’t possible now, make an effort to understand the process for the future. Ask what it would take to move up to a certain salary range – you may need to be willing to participate in additional education or training, take on new responsibilities or achieve specific performance goals.

Inquire about which career development opportunities are available to you, such as any established career tracks for someone with your skills and education. And find out when and how often employee evaluations take place, particularly for evaluations that influence promotions and raises.

Final tips and tricks

In a new job interview, a question that may crop up, at least in states that still allow it, is one about your salary history and requirements. Many experts agree that it is best to avoid mentioning any numbers and instead note that your immediate focus is on determining whether the position is a good fit. Once you receive an offer, you can compare it to your expectations and counter it.

Finally, be confident, be courteous, and be prepared by practicing your ask on your best friend or significant other. You may find that your employer is impressed by your negotiating skills and willing to boost your salary, helping you take bigger strides toward being financially awesome.