Salary Negotiating Guidelines

Career Blog

Many people have difficulty asking for or even discussing money. Reasons for this range from culture and upbringing to self-worth and skill set. While I’ve been a career coach for 20 years, I’m no psychologist. If you need a little couch time, meet with a qualified therapist. However, if your issue is skill based or a natural reluctance to engage in an albeit uncomfortable conversation, try the following best practices when you find yourself embroiled in the salary discussion.

  1. Avoid Giving a Salary Requirement: When provided this information, many employers will start with an offer on the lower end of their range. To keep the upper hand, delay discussions until they ask. Once they commit to a number, you can counter with a higher figure. 
  2. Don’t Reveal Your Current Salary: It’s irrelevant and frankly none of their business. Somehow we’ve been tricked into believing that employers have a right to this data. They don’t. You don’t ask you plumber to provide you with a list of what he charged other people in the neighborhood, so why does this construct apply to corporate jobs?
  3. Never negotiate against yourself. Companies should be prepared to make you an offer, so don’t get pressured into speaking first. When asked about your current salary, softly turn the tables by inquiring as to the company’s “typical range” for the position. Once you have the details, negotiate each element separately and in order of its importance to you.
  4. Make a Counter: When they make an offer, always ask for an additional concession. This could come in the form of straight salary, additional vacation, or other ancillary benefit such as a sign on bonus. 
  5. Don’t Leave Money on the Table: Be sure to consult the calendar. If you are due for a raise, bonus, or other perk e.g. tuition reimbursement, in three months or less, make sure that is factored into the final offer. 

Finally, never put too much faith in future offerings. Sometimes candidates will accept a lower base salary in exchange for a “promise” of a future performance-related bonus. This sounds reasonable until they realize that more than personal effort impacts the likelihood of receiving a payout.

While it’s true that the right bonus figure can produce a better end-state economic outcome, candidates must understand (1) how the pool is funded and distributed and (2) the history of payout. Having a 20% bonus sounds great until you realize that, for the last five years, the company has averaged only a 30% of target payout.

Negotiations is all about the details. Take time to make sure you understand them.

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