5 Keys to Salary Negotiation

Let’s just say that negotiating a job offer can go anyyy number of ways.  At best, one might experience something akin to a great first date: After much practicing in front of the mirror, backtracking, and second-guessing, you surprise even yourself when you discover immediate chemistry with said date: you’re both registered independents, prefer California reds, and enjoy a good book over a night out.

Not many offer negotiations go this swimmingly. At worst, they can feel like a hostage negotiation.  Calmly give me a $25K relo package and 6 weeks of vacation and I’ll sign on the dotted line right now.  I’ll walk away and no one will get hurt…   

This may explain why only 39% of job seekers last year chose to negotiate.  Why do salary and offer negotiations turn toxic so quickly?


  • People get emotional, and when they get emotional their logic becomes clouded and when that happens, they tend to make foolish decisions. 
  • Job seekers start thinking they’re in the colosseum and it’s now a “me” vs. “them” mentality, instead of a “let’s get there together”
  • Salary discussions don’t happen soon enough.  It’s a chicken/egg riddle that has yet to be solved.  Job seekers frequently wait for the employer to address compensation, meanwhile, employers seem happy to keep kicking the can a little further down the road. 
  • Job seekers tend to have a myopic view when it comes to negotiations.  They overemphasize the initial salary figures, while under-valuing other important details like LTIs & benefits.  
  • Job seekers don’t have an accurate understanding of what they’re worth to a potential employer. 


How does one walk the line during this stage of the process, and still come out on top?
As in $7,500 richer on top? Glassdoor figures suggest this is the annual amount that US employees walk away from when they choose not to negotiate.   

So what should job seekers know before they try to sweeten the deal?  

  1. Check your ego at the door.  
  2. Your emotions are your worst enemy right now, and they will only get you into trouble.  Do not say or do anything reactively. When they lowball you, do not turn down the offer. When they take two weeks to get back to you when they said it’d only be 1? Don’t get your feelings hurt and do something stupid. This is business, and stuff happens! Stay positive and enthusiastic. It’s really hard to negotiate an offer you’ve just turned into a paper airplane. 

  3. Use collaborative language, and think “win-win”.    
    “I am really looking forward to joining the team.   I know that between Mark, Julie and myself we are going to have the best quarter the company’s ever seen…”
      In your head, you’ve already committed to the team, and when you use powerful language like this, it draws the other side into mutual alignment & powerful convictions are solidified.  Working out the difference of a few thousand bucks on base starts to feel like a minor detail once a mutual commitment has been verbalized and affirmed. 

  4. Salary negotiations begin as soon as you pick up the phone for the first meet & greet.  
  5. Of course, not literally. But seriously – the way you carry yourself throughout the interview process is a negotiation in and of itself.  Before the company has even run a number through finance, they should be thinking “We cannot live without this person. We need to do everything we can in order to get this person over the buying line.”  But when and how do I bring it up, you ask?  The million dollar question, and these two factors create more fumbles than any given week on ESPN’s Not Top 10.  The short answer is: ask your recruiter. Assuming s/he has developed a strong relationship with said client, they should be able to usher you through the process like a hot knife through butter. 

  6. Accept that no one gets it all.  
    You’ve got an idea of where you want to be financially, and you know what kinds of other negotiating factors are important to you (LTIs, 401k/profit sharing, benefits, PTO/vacation time, and/or relocation bonuses/tuition reimbursement) but concessions are almost always made, and usually on both sides. You are going to go with the opportunity that has the greatest upside, over time – not the one that gives you the quickest pop.

  7. Do your research ahead of time. 
    Understand what similar roles like this one offer, so you can better size up this opportunity.  And the job isn’t the only thing to size up, it’s never a bad idea to perform a self-evaluation. Ask around and discreetly research what others with similar education, employers, experiences, tenures, and accomplishments have earned, so you can approach any negotiation armed with insightful & compelling data.