How to negotiate a higher salary before starting a new job

  • Click here for the video version of this salary negotiation guide.

1.1 Know the average salary range

  • In order to maximise your take-home pay at a new job, you need to know what companies are paying for the roles you're targeting.

Review job boards and company career websites

  • Look through job listings on Indeed and LinkedIn Jobs to see what your target companies are paying, and review their competitors too.
  • If you live in the US, review job vacancies based in Colorado. The state made it a legal requirement for companies to publish the salary on every job advertisement. 

Talk to people in the same job / industry as you

  • Have a think about the people you know who work in your industry. This could be colleagues / ex-colleagues / managers / ex-managers / peers / LinkedIn connections.
  • You don’t have to ask directly what they're earning. If you talk to someone in your space, simply say:

"I'm applying for [Job Title] positions, and I am seeking a compensation package in the range of [X] and [Y]. What do you think about that, does it sound reasonable?"

  • If you know them well, hit them with the classic: 

"You show me yours and I'll show you mine.”

Gather data from salary calculators

  • Online salary calculators are not completely accurate because the data is self-reported by individuals.
    • However, they do provide a broad idea of what you can expect to be paid.
  • Popular salary calculator websites include:
  • The majority of data on these sites is from the US, so you can also Google the term salary calculators—as you'll find companies who report on salary data in your home country. 

Talk to Recruiters / Headhunters

  • Connect with recruiters who specifically hire within your industry and pick their brains. The good recruiters are transparent. See what you can find out.
  • In the first conversation, ask them: “Just to make sure we are in the same ballpark, can you tell me what the salary range is for the role?"
  • How to find industry-specific recruiters on LinkedIn:
    • Type your job industry into the LinkedIn search bar (e.g. sales).
    • Then click All Filters and select Staffing and Recruitment.
    • Drill down further by Location + 2nd Connection, and you will have a list of industry-specific recruiters.

Ask about the salary in the first conversation

  • As you begin interviewing with other companies, you will start to learn what companies are paying. 
  • If the company has failed to disclose the salary range for the job before the first interview, I recommend finding it out in the first conversation.
  • This is to avoid wasting everyone's time. You don’t want to get dragged through 5 interview rounds only to find out the salary is way off. 
  • As mentioned already, there's no harm in asking:

“Just to make sure we are in the same ballpark, can you tell me what the salary range is for the role?"

2.1 Go in with a plan

  • Before entering the salary discussion, plan out what you want, as you can negotiate more than just money. Benefits can also be on the table.
  • They may include:
    • Paid Time Off.
    • Sign-on Bonus (Just be careful of the bonus terms. If you leave the job early you may have to pay the company back).
    • Performance Targets / Commission.
    • Equity / Stock Options.
    • Delayed Start Date (Paid).
    • Relocation Support / Commuting Costs.
    • Profit Share.
    • Flexi-time.
    • Work From Home Options.
    • Education: Certifications / Professional Training.
    • Healthcare / Wellness / Dental Care.
    • Equipment: Company Phone / Laptop / Vehicle.
    • Annual Pay Increase (10%+).
    • Choice of Projects.

*Shortlist what benefits are most important to you as they can be incorporated into your total compensation package.

2.1 Define your target compensation package

  • Once you have a good idea of the average market rate and the benefits you'd like, it's time to identify your target salary range. 
  • For example, if the average salary range for the jobs you're interested in falls between 50k - 65k, aim to land an offer at the top-end of that range (65k).
  • Plan A will be accepting a job offer with a base salary at the top of your target range. 

2.2 Plan B and C 

  • Plan B: In a perfect world (sticking with the above scenario), the company offers you 65k in cold hard cash. But if they can only offer 60k, you can fall back on Plan B. In this instance, you can ask for the additional 5k in the form of benefits to make up the difference.
  • Plan C: If the company isn't budging, the last option will be to ask for a compensation package that meets the minimum amount you are willing to accept in order to work. Define what this number is before you enter the negotiations. 
  • Spend some time mapping out Plan A, B and C. Knowing exactly what you want increases the probability of getting it.

3.1 "What are your salary expectations?"

  • It's now game day. You're in the interview. As the conversation progresses, you ask the hiring manager what their budget is for the role. It's not uncommon for the interviewer to throw the ball back at you and ask for your salary expectations. In this instance, here are a couple of approaches to take:

Option 1:

  • There's no harm in delaying your answer if you are unsure about what the role fully entails.
  • You can simply reply with:

“Before I can give an accurate salary range, I’d like to know more about the role and what’s fully involved.”

Option 2: 

  • It’s best practice to provide a large range upfront when asked about your salary expectations. 
  • I don't recommend being evasive and responding to this question with "market rate" or "I want to be paid fairly".
  • It doesn't show confidence. You want to demonstrate to the hiring manager that you know your value, and you know where you're going.
  • Don’t worry about lowballing yourself. At this point, your salary expectations are only an estimate.
  • The range you provide is not a binding contract. You reserve the right to increase that amount as you discuss the role further.
  • When it comes to providing a range, reframe your salary as an investment. You are building a business case, so lay out why it makes sense for the company. 

3.2 What to base your case on 

  • Carefully review the job description for the role and identify the challenges or pain that the hiring company is facing.
  • Research the biggest challenges currently being faced within the industry.
  • Pitch yourself as the solution to the company's problems, and if possible, explain how you can generate revenue, save revenue, or both.

Sample script:

"I want to first preface my answer by stating I am certainly flexible and open to discussion.

Now, as detailed in the job specification, my main objective in this role will be to do [State Objective(s)].

I am very confident I can execute on these deliverables given my track record while working at [Past Company] where, under similar circumstances, I did [Action] to achieve [Outcome].

Based on the goals outlined, coupled with my relevant skills and significant experience in helping [Companies/Leaders/Teams] do [Relevant Goal/Target], along with reviewing the average market rate for a [Job Title] role, the total compensation I would be seeking is in the range of [Number] and [Number].

How does that compare to the range of this position?"

*Mention the term total compensation. It leaves more room to negotiate (Hat tip to Daniel Space / DanFromHR).

**Provide a range, not a single number. It can be between 10k - 20k, or more depending on the role. Make sure the lower end is a figure that you'd happily accept, as the hiring manager may lock on to this number.

  • As you move further through the process and the job offer comes in, you may need to counter-offer. Here's how:

4.1 Counter-offering

  • Base your counter-offer on the specific objectives the hiring manager wants you to come in and achieve.
  • Early in the first job interview, gather this information by asking:

"What are you hoping is achieved in this role within the first 12 months?"

Or

"What would success look like in the role a year from now?"

  • The interviewer will detail some big goals that will either generate revenue, save revenue, or both.
  • After they spill the beans, gather more information by following up with this question:

"What are the biggest challenges getting in the way of achieving these objectives?"

  • This line of questioning forces the hiring manager to lay out the biggest problems they're facing and the goals they want the new hire to accomplish. 
  • With a complete understanding of what the hiring manager wants, you can tailor your pitch accordingly.

4.2 The structure of your counter-offer

  • Reference the desired goals mentioned.
  • Provide evidence of your ability to achieve said goals.
  • If possible, detail how the company will benefit financially (Increase in revenue, reduction in costs, or both).

4.3 Example negotiation pitch 1/2

Part 1—The Objective: "As you mentioned earlier, my main objective in this role will be to get [Company Name]’s client base to 300 users."

Part 2—Providing Evidence: "This goal is something I am very confident I can not only reach but exceed, given my track record while working at [Past Company], where, under similar circumstances, I led the sales department to a record-breaking 30% increase in company profit over an 8-month period."

Part 3—Financial Gain: "Bearing all that in mind, and with my projected targets set to generate an additional XXX,XXX for [Company Name] by 2023, your salary offer of 48k is a solid number that we can work from. How can we bring the total compensation to 55k?”

  • You won't always have specific information on how your role will benefit the company financially. In those instances, just exclude the reference to projected targets in the above script.

4.4 Example negotiation pitch 2/2

  • Here's an alternative counter-offer pitch worth trying:

“As I said, I’m really excited at the prospect of joining your team because [Discuss how you will bring value to the team and achieve their biggest objectives + why you want to work at the company], is there any way we can make up the difference, as that is the number that I feel comfortable with to bring 100% of myself to work every day.”

(Hat tip to career expert Austin Belcak for that final sentence, it really plays on their heart strings).

4.5 Moving to Plan B or C

  • If the company is unwilling to budge, and you're falling back on Plan B or C, lay out your counter-offer by incorporating benefits into the compensation package:

"If we can't move on the base salary, as part of my total compensation package, would you consider offering [Insert Benefits]?"

4.6 Simpler approach

  • I know professionals who've negotiated their target salary successfully by simply stating:

“Look, I’d sign right now if you could make the offer 58k.”

5.1 Negotiating through email

  • In many cases, the salary negotiations will take place after the interview.
  • I recommend moving the negotiations to email because it creates a paper trail. 
    • Verbal promises or offers don't always hold up. It's essential that you get everything in writing in case any disputes arise down the line.
  • Negotiating through email also allows both parties to consider all options and takes the pressure off making an immediate decision.

Email negotiation template:

Hi [Hiring Manager],

Thank you for offering me the [Job Title] role. I’m excited to join the [Department Name] department at [Company Name].

In relation to the compensation package, your offer of [Number] is a solid number that we can work from. I’d like to request an increase in salary so it’s closer to the [Number - Number] range.

Considering my track record of helping [Companies/Leaders/Teams] achieve [Relevant Goal/Target], which will be my main focus from day one, coupled with [Number] years of industry experience and the average market rate for a [Job Title], I feel an offer closer to the [Number - Number] range is more reflective of the value I can bring to your team.

[Company Name] is my employer of choice. I have been a long-time admirer of the work you and your department are doing, and based on our discussions throughout the interview process, I am very confident I can come in and bring the [Department Name] department to [Main Objective].

I feel we are nearly there. If we can get the range towards my target of [Number - Number], I will be happy to accept this offer.

Warm regards,
[Your Name]

6.1 Preparation

  • Practice negotiating with your friends/family. You will be far more comfortable when it comes to game day.
  • Set up roleplays which involve the hiring manager objecting to your counter-offer. How will you respond if they say "It’s just not in the budget"? 
  • Practice handling these types of objections and exploring alternative options, such as pitching Plan B or C (negotiating a solid base salary + benefits).

7.1 Working with recruiters

  • If the recruiter asks for your salary expectations, follow the strategies outlined above in Section 3.
  • Create a team dynamic with the recruiter. They get paid a commission if you are hired. So reframe the salary conversation by asking them: “What do you think we can get?”

8.1 Reminders 

  • Have a 'walk-away' number. Enter the salary discussion knowing the absolute minimum you are willing to accept. You don't have to accept the offer.
  • Assume there is always room to negotiate.
    • In the majority of cases, the company paying you an extra 10% - 25% means nothing to them and everything to you.
  • Even if you are happy with the offer, ask for a little more.
  • Worst case scenario, the hiring manager says no and you shake their hand and accept the offer.
    • I have never personally come across it, but in the very rare case that a company pulls an offer because you counter-offered, you avoid working for a company that does not respect open dialogue.
  • If the salary offer is too low, respond with grace. You don’t want to make it a war, nobody will win.
  • Make sure you get everything in writing.

9.1 Parting words

  • Ask for what you want.
    • Step into the discomfort. This is your life. The sooner you start asking for what you want, the sooner you'll get it.
  • If you don't ask, the answer will always be no.

Good luck my friend 🍀

10.1 Bonus guide: Go where the money is

  • The most reliable way to get the most amount of money at a new job is to work within the most valuable job industry, with the most valuable company.
  • This may not be an option for you right now, but it's certainly worth considering for the future.
  • Now as an example, let’s say I build mobile apps for a living.
    • I go on LinkedIn—Apple and Procter & Gamble are both hiring Software Developers.
    • If I want to get paid the most amount of money as a Software Developer, I'm going to prioritise working at Apple (Highest paid developers earn $738k per year).
    • I am not going to prioritise working at Procter & Gamble (Highest paid developers earn $152k per year).
    • The reason Apple pays more is because they invest $22 billion per year to develop its software.
  • You are also far more likely to be paid above the market rate at global companies because they have in-house compensation teams who are trying to outcompete their rivals to attract top talent.
  • The take-home message here is to be strategic about the company you choose to work with in order to maximise your earnings.
  • Target companies that specialise in your chosen field.

What else I can assist you with: