Tuesday, May 9, 2017

How To Negotiate The Salary You Want In A New Job

This post is adapted from a post made on October 21, 2011.  I thought it worth repeating with a bit of updating.  

I have literally negotiated thousands of salaries and jobs over the past thirty some odd years.  I can only think of a handful of cases where a negotiation failed to produce a happy candidate and a happy client.  In order to be successful in negotiating, you have to approach an offer and potential negotiation with the correct mind-set.  In almost all the cases where there was a failure, either the candidate (usually) or the company (occasionally) approached the offer as a take it or leave it affair.

Start with a premise.  There should be no winners and no losers in a negotiation.  A negotiation should merely be a buyer (company) and a seller (prospective candidate) who are looking towards the same goal - a successful hire.  The buyer wants you to work at his or her company; the seller wants to work there.   While I recognize that there are bean counters, some HR people and some candidates who insist on “winning”, they are approaching the negotiation in the wrong way.  I always think that an offer should be accepted with the company thinking it is paying a bit too much and a candidate feeling that he or she is making too little. (I have never understood why a company will give me a job with an initial a salary range and then come in with an offer at the low end of that range (occasionally, they offer a salary that is below the original range); at the same time, candidates always want more than they end up making. I always give the range, knowing that the candidate will generally only hear the highest number.) If one approaches a negotiation as a win or lose situation, it will result in a less than happy hire.

The truth is that by the time a company decides to hire a specific candidate, they are very much committed to him or her.  And, at the same time, a candidate who decides that the company is right for them is equally committed.  So why should it be unpleasant with winners and losers?

The ideal negotiation, if there is any, should go like this: the company offers x, the candidates wants y and they meet in the middle.  It should not be protracted or difficult.  And there should never be ill will.

Candidates sometimes actually have to give themselves permission to accept a job. What I mean by this is that the candidate has committed to himself or herself at a certain financial or title level.  They may have even told themselves or their spouse how much they think they are going to get (often, far more than may be realistic).  And with that number or title in mind, they go job hunting.  When an offer comes for less then they previously thought they should get, they have to find a way to accept the job and not lose face to themselves or their family. There are lots of ways to do this.  Scheduled salary reviews, signing bonuses, guaranteed bonuses, guaranteed salary increases, extra vacation, better titles, spousal accompanying on business trips are all methods companies can use to get people to say, “Yes”.  These things should be part of a negotiation. 

Once an offer has been made, one of the best ways I know for candidates to get more money, a better title or other perks is to tell the company (or recruiter) that you really want the job but that you need more and if they give it to you, you will accept on the spot. This commitment before actually accepting works 90% of the time.

One of the perplexing things about recruiting is people who have been interviewing at a company for weeks, even months, who then receive an offer and ask for the weekend (or longer) to think about it.  They have had the entire time they have been interviewing to think about it already.  I certainly understand discussing an offer with a spouse or family.  Hopefully, that has been done long before an offer comes in so that accepting is merely a formality.  Accepting with enthusiasm is a positive way to start a relationship.

Telling a company you are waiting for another offer and want to compare them is not a smart move.A candidate who only comes for money will also leave for money.

One piece of advice.  Before resigning, you must have an offer letter.  The letter should spell out the full agreement of employment – title, responsibilities, salary, reporting structure, bonus, reviews, and any other understanding of the job which was discussed that is be relevant.  An offer letter is not a contract but it spells out your mutual understanding of the deal.  Remember, if it isn’t in the offer letter, it isn’t part of the deal.

When the negotiation is over, both parties should be happy and positive. 


  1. After 40 years in the agency business, here’s my advice to all job candidates, at any level, when interviewing and possibly negotiating … The first thing a potential employer will ask is how much you’re making now or looking for. To which you should say “Well, what’s your budget range for this position?” An equally legitimate question, but one which could be perceived as being uncooperative; lead to a stalemate; and then become a question of who blinks first. For sure, an awkward moment in either case. But the reality is, if the employer decides that they really like and want you, they will find a way to make it work out for all concerned. And if they don’t, stay where you are. Money is only ONE reason to move and it could turn out to be a very temporary gain.

  2. Nowadays many companies start you with a written or online "application" that requires you to fill in salary history and salary desired. If you don't fill that in, the application won't advance to the next page. Extremely frustrating!

    1. Companies will have to change that policy since New York City has passed the law making it illegal to ask for salary history.


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