Networking and Career Advice

How to Ask for a Higher Starting Salary 

Marcie Wilmot

Certified Resume Writer, Career Coach, and Business Owner

Maybe you think you’ve finally found your dream job. Everything about it is perfect, except… the salary. Unfortunately, it just isn’t where you want it to be. So, should you give up and move on? Given all the effort you’ve already invested, it’s probably wise to try and negotiate a better salary before you do. 

There is a real chance you can get them to move the needle. Keep reading to learn exactly how to ask for a higher starting salary, and who knows? Maybe that dream job of yours will work out after all!

When’s the Right Time to Negotiate Your Starting Salary?

One of the most challenging aspects of negotiating pay is figuring out when to do it. In modern society, most people shy away from discussing money – it’s even considered taboo in certain scenarios. On top of that, we don’t want to appear money-hungry and turn off the interviewer (or potential employer who we’re really trying to impress). The timing has got to be right so we don’t blow our opportunity.

Here are two times when it’s appropriate to talk about your salary:

After the interviewer brings it up

The interview should be a time where the focus is on what you bring to the table and how great you’ll fit into (and benefit) the company. However, the moment the interviewer introduces the topic of money, it is the perfect time to state a preferred range or even ask for a higher salary. Since they introduced the topic, you won’t mistakenly be perceived as money driven.

If the interviewer never brings up the topic of money, then it’s acceptable to broach the topic at the end of the interview when they open the floor for questions.

After you’ve been offered the job

Another good time to discuss your salary is after the company offers you a job. Now you’re at the point where you must commit or walk away. It makes sense that you’d want your salary to meet expectations before you decide to take the job. So don’t shy away from negotiating.

Before you begin negotiations, make sure you’ve done your research. Know how much people with your experience, in your location, and in your industry are raking in. Even with having this knowledge, ask for five to ten thousand more than they’ve offered and see if they have any wriggle room. The goal is to get the market value of your position or more. If they really want to hire you, they’ll likely try to increase the amount to a certain extent.

Should You Always Negotiate?

Long answer short. Yes.

Experts recommend trying to negotiate a higher salary and more benefits before accepting any job offer. Why? Because it’s a lot harder to ask for more money down the road. Right now, your salary is somewhat in flux, and nothing is set in stone, which makes it the perfect opportunity to test the waters.

Plus, asking for a higher salary will show your future employer that you believe in your abilities and know your value. It’ll convey your confidence and professionalism. Chances are, they might reward you with whatever you ask (or at least close to it). So give it a try! 

Having said that, there are a few times when you shouldn’t speak up:

  • It’s only the first interview – now isn’t the time to talk about money
  • You don’t have a firm offer in hand yet – don’t count your chickens before they hatch
  • You’ve already accepted an offer – you’re too far along in the process at this point

12 Tips to Help You Get a Higher Starting Salary

man negotiates his starting salary and receives a higher pay before signing contract

It’s natural to feel uncomfortable about asking for a higher salary. Most people don’t like to be a bother. While these feelings are completely understandable, with the right guidance, you can do it. Check out the tips below:

1. Do Your Thorough Research

You’ve probably heard it before: prior to the interview, research what people typically earn for this type of role in this location so you know what kind of salary range is reasonable. This way, you won’t accidentally request a salary that is completely outlandish. Fortunately, with all the salary transparency laws that have been passed recently, it’s easier than ever to figure out what people get paid for your role.  

2. Build Your Case to Justify Your Ask

An employer isn’t going to just blithely give you whatever you ask for. You need to prove that you’re worth your ask. Not only is this a good time to bring up your market research, but it’s also a perfect time to pitch yourself. Talk about how your skills and experience will benefit the company. Use the data from your resume to build a strong case.

For example, suppose you increased sales by 45% at your old company, and this new company is looking for unique ways to market and sell a new product. Then, you can discuss how you innovate and facilitate successful solutions. Without being arrogant, make them feel like they need you around.

3. Understand the Person Across the Table

It’s critical to understand the person sitting across the negotiation table from you. Why? Because you’re going to negotiate differently depending on their role and what their needs and concerns are. So before going into your interview or negotiation meeting, do a bit of research. If an HR representative is interviewing you, then they may care more about how you fit into the company’s culture. On the other hand, if you interview with a potential manager, they will care more about the business’s bottom line.

4. Use Other Job Offers as Anchor Points

If you’ve received another job offer, that salary can serve as a helpful data point during this conversation. You can request a higher salary with confidence, for example, if you’ve already received another offer from a different employer that’s on the higher end. You already know your value, so it’s easier to ask for it from someone else.

5. Bring up the Salary of the Previous Job (Only If It’ll Help)

On a similar note, if you’re currently making a higher salary than what they’re offering, use it to your advantage. Nobody wants to leave a job for another one where they’ll make less, and the interviewer knows this. So, while you should remind them about your excitement for the role, be sure to emphasize that your priority is to leave a good situation for a better one.

6. Give a Range

It’s in your best interest not to pigeonhole yourself by giving the interviewer an exact salary amount. Instead, provide a salary range. Before the conversation, identify your

  • low point (the lowest base salary you could accept and still make ends meet financially),
  • mid-point (based on your research, the salary most people in the same role make), and
  • high point (your dream salary).

Just ensure the range is reasonable (sorry, you may have to find another way to make 100K a year!). Then, ditch the low point and give the interviewer your range between the mid and high points.

7. Be Prepared for Tough Questions

The interviewer is going to wonder why you feel you deserve the salary you’re requesting. Be prepared to respond confidently and intelligently to any questions they pose. While you should be truthful in all of your responses, it’s just as important to be firm and not expose your weaknesses so you don’t lose your leverage. Practice answering tough questions prior to the interview.

8. Understand Their Constraints

During negotiations, your future employer has tons of thoughts running through their head. They might even wish they could pay you a million dollars a year, but let’s be realistic. No matter how much the interviewer likes you, they are limited by what their company can pay for the role. Although their input is clearly valued, it won’t be entirely up to them what your salary will be.

9. Consider the Whole Deal

If you find yourself in the above situation, take a moment to realize that maybe your negotiation shouldn’t only be about money. The employer might be able to include additional perks and benefits in your full compensation package. Extra PTO, flexible start dates, childcare discounts, signing bonuses, free tuition, professional development opportunities, matching 401(k) contributions, and other perks can sweeten the deal tremendously.

Also, think about the flexibility of the role, how much travel there is, and whether you’re truly excited about the responsibilities or not. Beyond the money, will you like the job? Make sure you’re taking everything into consideration. 

10. Understand Your Ground: Can You Afford to Walk Away?

In a sense, negotiation is a bit like playing chicken. It’s inherently risky, and there is the chance you might upset the interviewer with your request. Going into the conversation, know your numbers and what you’re willing to risk. Don’t risk anything that you’re not willing to lose.

11. Ask for Time to Consider an Offer

It’s best not to be impulsive. Even if everything the interviewer says sounds great to you, tell them you’d like to have some time to consider their offer. This way, you can go home and think things through before committing to anything. This is a big decision – you might want to talk it over with your spouse or spend time comparing it to another offer you have. While you’ll have to give a timely answer, the employer can spare a day or two so you can make a thoughtful decision.

12. Get Everything in Writing

Don’t count on anything unless it’s written down. Sometimes people make off-the-cuff remarks and promises. While they might sound nice, wait until you have them in writing before legitimately considering them. In fact, towards the end of the negotiation, be sure to ask for written documentation that details the role’s responsibilities, salary, and any signing bonuses or special benefits.

Should You Negotiate Over the Phone or Email?

There are obviously different ways you can choose to negotiate: in person, over the phone, or via email. While everyone has their own preference, and there are advantages to each of these methods, we recommend doing it over email, especially if the job offer is emailed to you. Let’s quickly explore the reasons why:

  • You can clearly present your case for a salary increase – unlike in-person or over the phone when you might accidentally misstate things, email gives you the ability to thoughtfully and persuasively cite your evidence, research, and rationale.
  • You might not meet your new manager face-to-face for quite some time – because of the pandemic and the rise in remote work, there’s a good chance your interviews and initial meetings might take place on Zoom, making email a good way to communicate.
  • It might be easier for your interviewer to save face if they have to say no – like you, an email will give them time to collect their thoughts before responding. 

It’s important to note that your email should encourage an in-person or phone conversation. While the email gives you a great forum to spell out exactly why you believe you should be paid more, ultimately, you’ll likely need to discuss this verbally with someone before it gets approved.

Salary Negotiation Email Templates

If you do decide to ask for a higher salary through email, you might be wondering exactly what to write. Don’t worry! Below are two templates you can work off of as you write your own:

Email Template #1 – Match My Current Salary

Subject: Can we discuss the starting salary?

Dear [Interviewer Name],

I am excited to receive your job offer. Before moving forward, however, can we discuss the starting salary?

I’ve reviewed your proposed starting salary. While I appreciate the offer, I currently make more at the job I hold now. I have a lot of experience and skills to offer, and I’d love for my starting salary to reflect this.

Can we please schedule a time to discuss my request in more detail?

Thanks for your time and consideration!

[Your Name]

Email Template #2 – Match Another Job Offer

Subject: Starting salary – are you available to chat?

Dear [Interviewer Name],

Thanks for sending me the job offer. When you get a moment, I would like to talk to you about the starting salary.

I’ve taken a look at the starting salary in your offer. While I’m appreciative, I’ve been offered another job with a higher salary. I’d love to discuss whether you would be open to matching or exceeding it, given my deep experience in this field.

Do you possibly have time to talk about this further?

Thanks so much for your time. I look forward to hearing back from you!

[Your Name]

Final Thoughts

Salary negotiation can seem scary, especially when part of you is just happy you got the job offer. Nobody wants to rock the boat and risk losing it all. But before you commit, seize the opportunity to request more money and better benefits – after all, this is the best time to do it (trust us, it’s harder to ask once you’re officially employed). Most of the time, employers agree to it, and most importantly, you deserve it. So, have a little confidence that you know how to ask for a higher starting salary and use the email templates above to get started on securing the salary (and job) of your dream.

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