How to Negotiate Salary
An honest step-by-step guide by a Talent Acquisition professional
⚠️ Disclaimer. The following answer is not an instruction on how to negotiate your salary. Treat this section as one data point rather than a set of strict rules.
In this article we will cover the following:
- How to negotiate $ at the Phone Screen stage
- Should you disclose your current salary?
- How to negotiate $ at the Offer stage
☎️ How to negotiate at the Phone Interview stage.
🎚️ Level set from the beginning.
Let the company know what would be salary range that would make sense for you to consider the opportunity seriously. You can be more time-efficient by figuring out if the opportunity makes sense at all from the financial perspective.
👌 ️It’s okay to ask about the budget that we have for the role.
Keep in mind that we don’t always have this information so when we tell you don’t know yet it might actually be true.
- A new role for the org that never existed before. The company doesn’t quite understand yet what salary bands are applicable in that particular situation.
- The HR person responsible for compensation is still doing research on the market.
- TA team started the search even before they got the compensation data.
- Small org. There is no dedicated HR person responsible for compensation. HR is learning a lot from the market and from the information provided by peers.
Of course, not everyone is being honest. The first rule of negotiation is:
The one who says the number first defines the range of possibility.
They want to hear your range of possibility first before they reveal theirs.
❌ Don’t just focus on the money.
Being hyper-focused on the money is a huge turn-off for recruiters.
- Distorted logic. You do all the money talk even before you learned about the role. You don’t even know what you are signing up for yet. Why do you care how much it pays? And this is exactly what recruiters will tell you: “It doesn’t matter how much we pay you if the opportunity itself is not interesting for you.”
- Creates the perception that you are money hungry. That communicates a scarcity mindset (not having enough money). And a scarcity mindset is not what top performers are made of. Top performers think growth, abundance, and win-win situations. Money is important for them but it is never a purpose in itself. They know they are the best in the game and hence they never lack opportunities. All the money in the world is out there for them to take but that is not what their work is about. They see their work as a Craft. They see themselves on a Mission.
- You are communicating that you are not an A-player. A-players know that base salary is just an element in the whole equation. And while salary is important, it is not the most important element for them. They look for other things in the opportunity: opportunity to grow, opportunity to make an impact and build a reputation, a strong business, great culture, international exposure, and exposure to important players (investors). Hyper-focus on the money shows that you are not focusing on the right things.
Interest is good. You need to know what the money component looks like. But exercise thoughtful communication. How you talk about money — that’s what makes all the difference.
🔍 Do your research.
There are a lot of things you can research:
- Google is the obvious choice when it comes to finding salary data points for your role but don’t rely too much on the numbers you find online. The numbers presented on different salary-focused websites are often far from reality. The market is changing quickly. These days the compensation data needs to be recalibrated every 6–12 months.
- Speak to your peers. Reach out to folks who are in similar roles. See what data points they can provide to you. Analyze across several industries, not just yours.
- Network with recruiters. We are the best source of information for you. Ask about job levels. Ask about internal equity. Ask about how compensation decisions are being made and what is the logic behind those decisions. Ask about the comp data points for the roles we have recruited before.
- Based on the information you get from them assess your level accurately. Do a full self-audit on your skills and have clarity on the value you can deliver.
- Work with your Talent Partner. All people are different but I can tell you about my personal perspective and the perspective of some of the best in the game — we are not incentivized to save money for the company (we are saving money for the company because we are cheaper than the agency recruiters who take 20–25% fees, and we are more effective because we understand the business and know our stakeholders). On the contrary, we want to get the best deal for you. Why? A. We want you to be excited about joining us so that you could focus on the business and deliver your best work. B. We don’t think only Talent Acquisition, we think Talent Retention. We don’t want you to join us, feel underappreciated, and start looking for a new role after 1 year. From a business perspective in order to maximize ROI on the hire, an employee should work for at least 2–3 years. If the worker lasted less than 12 months, the business is losing money.
🙌 Provide a range rather than an exact number.
Don’t have illusions. Businesses exist to generate profit.
The business wants to buy your time at a maximum discount. Your goal is to sell your time at a maximum price.
The principle is simple:
Their lowest must converge with your highest.
A good analogy would be buying a car.
“Do you want to buy a car? What is your budget? Do you want a Lamborghini? You have to pay for a Lamborghini. Oh! You have money only for Toyota Corolla? Well, that’s what you have to buy.”
HM is the buyer. The Recruiter is the dealer. Your mind is the vehicle.
Your job is to be a Lamborghini and charge a premium for it. If you put your money where your mouth is, your buyer will find you.
But don’t tell yourself that you are a Lamborghini when you know you are driving Corolla. It wouldn’t lead to any productive conversations. Self-awareness is the key.
🙊 What to say
“I am currently entertaining opportunities in the range of ___ to ___. Is that something that is aligned with the budget that’s been allocated for the role?”
“My recent research shows that the salary range for this type of opportunities is somewhere between ___. Is this in line with what the information that the business has given you?”
“My expectations are ___. This should be the minimum for me to consider seriously my next opportunity. But of course, I am aware that this number might change as I collect more information in future conversations should we proceed further.
Should I mention my current salary?
Yes and No. Let me explain.
❗ Disclaimer: you don’t have to disclose anything. It’s illegal to demand to disclose your current compensation.
❌ No. I don’t recommend disclosing the salary if you are currently being underpaid and you know it. If you are below the market, sharing your current comp will not serve you. You should be the one setting up your own rates. You are the most valuable person to you. Know your worth and communicate it with confidence and clarity.
❌ No. Do not disclose the salary if you want to have a significant step up. You don’t want to define and limit your range of possibility. If you claim a high salary, you might have a chance to get it. If you don’t, the chance is zero. Of course, be reasonable. That is why you need to do your research and full self-audit on the value you bring to the table. You don’t want to put the business in a situation where they think: “Hey, why do we need to overpay for this person if we can acquire this skillset at a more affordable price elsewhere.” You want to have them thinking: “Yes, they are expensive. But we are paying a premium because this is the best talent we can get at this price point.”
❌ Don’t disclose your past salary if you were off the market for some time. Things might have changed while you were away. Gain intelligence first before you are jumping on the call.
🙊 What to say
If they ask you about your current comp:
“I don’t feel comfortable disclosing my current compensation. But I can tell you what’s the range I will be looking for in my next role.”
“I’d rather not discuss my current comp. But happy to chat about what you had in mind for this role.”
✅ Yes. It’s ok to share your current comp if you know that you are being paid right on the market. If you share this information with the Talent Partner, they will think about how to make a reasonable step up for you to incentivize you to accept the offer.
✅ Yes. If you know you are being paid above the market, but you want to leave your current situation. Toxic culture, sinking business, no work-life balance, tons of travel, moving to another city. Whatever reason you have behind the desire to leave your current role — transparency is the best approach. If you are willing to take a pay cut but win in other variables of the equation, work with your Talent Partner and you might be able to come to an agreement that works for everyone.
✅ Yes. If you know your value, you know exactly what salaries you can command on the market, and you will not take anything less than X number. You can always say: “This is my line on the sand. It wouldn’t make sense for me to move unless the base is ___ or the total package is ___.”
🙊 What to say
“Hey, I appreciate your transparency and I want to be transparent with you too. Currently I am at ___. Ideally, I would like my next comp to be at ____ level. But of course, I am looking at the opportunity holistically. There are other things that are important to me. Would you say that my ask is realistic and is in line with the market and the value I can bring to the table?”
🤝 How to negotiate at the offer stage.
If you do negotiate, it makes more sense to negotiate at the end when you receive the verbal offer.
✅ You have the confirmation that they want you, and hence you have leverage.
The offer says they want you, the question is — how badly do they want you?
If they lowball you or you decide to negotiate a number slightly above what is being offered, be ready to provide sound and logical rationale behind why you think you are worth more at a current market.
Here are some things that I don’t recommend doing:
❌ Do not lie. Don’t say: “Hey, initially we discussed a higher number, not the number you have come up with. Why have you changed the number we discussed at the phone interview stage?” Don’t do that. This won’t fly and it will just start the conversation on the wrong foot. A poor start to the relationship is guaranteed if you choose to sign.
❌ Do not accept the verbal offer with a poker face. Show some excitement. The team needs to know that you are really excited to join. They don’t want to have people on the team who came on board thinking: “Meh…. the offer and the job are so-so. But I guess it is ok…” They want you to think: “YASSS! Can’t wait to start!” This brings me to the next point.
❌ Do not hesitate too long before accepting. The longer you think, the more anxious are the key stakeholders within the business. “What if they don’t accept? We need to restart the search. We need to develop some plan B.” These and other thoughts are racing in their minds. Waiting is a huge turn-off. You don’t want them to doubt your commitment. Always ask how much time you have to make a decision. Your decision is not what is happening in the end. You should be thinking about joining them throughout the whole interview process. You’ve met the team, you’ve done your research on the company, you understand the role. So by the time you get the last variable of the equation — the salary, you should be able to make a decision. If it’s not a Hell Yes, it is a Hell No. Trust your instincts.
❌ If you know that the offer is fair, think twice before you decide to negotiate. Yes, I understand that you are wondering if you are leaving money on the table and maybe there is a chance to win a couple of thousands more. However, regardless of how badly they want to acquire your talent, the team also understands your level and your capabilities, and they might also have some other options with the money that they are offering you. If you start battling them over a couple of grands, they might think that you are “high maintenance” and this is also another huge turn-off. You don’t want that unless you yourself have other options and are ready to walk away.
Things that I recommend doing:
✅ Collect more data if you need. If you are not sure you have collected enough data to make an informed decision, ask to meet more stakeholders. Ask to meet them in person (not just virtually). It is totally ok. You are not being a pain in the ass. On the contrary, they will appreciate your interest, curiosity, and thoughtful approach to career decisions. If they made an offer, they want to close you. So they will go the extra mile to make it happen.
✅ Understand the company's limitations. Take into consideration all the variables that the business stakeholders have on their side:
- budget allocated for the role
- macroeconomic conditions (like the ones we are going through right now)
- availability of your talent on the market (how easy it is to find someone with your skillset/specific knowledge)
- data on the market rates
- internal equity (bringing an external hire at a very high salary impacts others who are currently not being compensated at that level),
- the company compensation philosophy
- job leveling (research: Radford Levels), etc.
✅ Understand Talent Partners. If you are working with an agency recruiter, they are incentivized to “sell” your talent to the highest bidder. Why? Because they are taking a cut of the deal. The size of their paycheck is directly proportional to the number on the offer you sign. Talent Partners, on the other hand, don’t get paid more if they close you. Our package is base salary + annual performance bonus. We don’t get paid more for successful closes. Our Job is to drive Enterprise Value through Talent. Our Success is Building Productive Lifelong Relationships. We win when you win. And we want you to win big.
✅ Accept the offer if you know it is a fair offer.
✅ Negotiate if it makes sense. If you don’t ask the answer is no. Asking for more is always a smart thing to do. Just be smart about how you ask.
✅ Thoughtful communication. You can ask for more money without being an a$$hole. Exercise thoughtful communication and work with your Talent Partner.
❓ Ok, so how exactly I should communicate to get a raise in the offer?
Provide sound and logical rationale for why you are worth more.
Hey there Chengeer, hope you’re having a great day!
I was very excited to hear this morning that Caseware was extending an offer to me. It was great start to the day, however tempered by the salary being lower than anticipated. I wanted to follow up our conversation this morning to highlight some of the reasons that I believe the salary level should be adjusted upwards, in order to make your life easier when bringing it to those who have final sign off. In essence, I believe that during the interview process it was clear that I was a really good fit for the team. I was able to successfully solve the technical problem presented, and present my development experience that matches what you’re looking for:
I understand that Caseware is currently using webpack’s module federation to integrate different UIs together; for the past six months, I’ve been working on a project using this technology to integrate two applications’ UIs as well as integrating their complex authentication setup — Caseware is looking for experienced Angular developers;
I have been using Angular 12 for the past 18 months to lead development on a large FE application, integrating with multiple backend APIs and microservices and collaborating with multiple teams — Caseware is looking for developers with a proven track record of delivering high quality code and features;
I have a proven track record of high quality deliverables, as shown by the testimonials written for me on LinkedIn I’d be very excited to join the Caseware team and really hope that we’re able to work towards a compromise on this one :)
✅ Things that are done right:
- Personal and warm opener
- Communicating excitement
- Re-iterating that there is a fit
- Communicating true understanding of the technical challenges that we are facing
- Re-iterating on the value that they bring to the table
- Re-iterating on the excitement
Was the offer bumped up?
Will you always get an offer bump even with a thoughtful approach?
Again, we operate within certain limitations. Sometimes we can’t do anything about what we offer and those are just business constraints. Please, understand those, because we will be also communicating them thoughtfully.
One last thing:
Remember. The best time to negotiate a raise is at the salary negotiation stage not when you are already in the company.
🥳 Congrats! You have arrived at the end of this article.
Now you know:
- How exactly you can manage expectations from the beginning at a phone interview stage
- Whether you should disclose your current salary or not
- How to conduct salary negotiation at the offer stage
Hope this helps you to get the offers you deserve.
Life is too short for mediocre career experiences.
Join companies that value your talent and know how to show their appreciation.