Striking Balance in Salary Negotiations

Salary negotiation can be one of the hardest parts of starting a new job. Some people overdo it and alienate prospective employers, while others feel too timid to assert their worth. Finding the right balance between pushy and pushover can impress interviewers and get a person the salary they deserve.

Many people struggle to communicate their salary demands; in fact, one survey found 58% of American respondents accepted offers without bargaining. At the same time, 85% of those who did negotiate got at least some of what they asked for. Employers will often make a first offer with room for improvement, as they must be ready for counter-offers.

Salary negotiation can majorly impact financial well-being because the gains will compound over time. Getting the hang of effective negotiation makes it easier to enter a new workplace confident and on the right track.

Let The Data Talk for You

“Be data-driven,” advises CEO Chas Cooper, whose company Luminos publishes the career development site Acendance. He suggests arming oneself with a printout of comparable job openings and salaries. “If you let the data play hardball for you, then you can afford to be very polite and respectful when you have the discussion.”

Websites like Glassdoor, Payscale,, or JobBuzz can yield the data necessary for these conversations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics can also be of use in obtaining data. Given that it’s never clear which way the interview will lead, be sure to bring as much detail as possible on the available positions.

“Once you've established the gap between your value on the job market and your current compensation,” Cooper says, “make your ask very specific and clear. Don't just leave it up to your employer to guess what compensation will make you happy. Spell it out for them in specific numbers and terms.”

Give a Reason for The Ask

It’s easy to get caught off guard in an interview if unprepared to defend a salary request. Becoming versed in the case for oneself will assist in the goal. Take time to practice responses to likely questions with a friend or even ChatGTP.

“People are more likely to give in to your requests when you state a reason, regardless of what the reason is,” says career coach Mandy Steinhardt. “They assume if you state a reason, then you are negotiating in good faith.”

It’s important to project confidence and never appear as if one hasn’t already thought through the situation. The trick is to make clear the request is what should reasonably be expected rather than a plea for special treatment.

“You need to provide supplemental evidence to back up your argument,” explains Darren Shafae, founder of the service ResumeBlaze. “This could include positive employee reviews, recent performance assessments, or any awards or recognition you have received.”

It Pays To Be Honest and Likable

Sticking up for oneself is crucial in any negotiation, yet assertiveness must be weighed against friendliness when dealing with prospective co-workers.

“Approach your salary negotiation like it’s a business problem that you’re solving collaboratively with the company,” says Kate Dixon, a consultant and author who wrote a book on salary negotiation. “The result needs to be a solution that works for you and your prospective employer.

“Negotiations are a great way for the company to see what it’s like to work with you,” she adds. “By being professional, focused, and collaborative, you’ll show them your best self.”

She recommends meditation or deep breathing exercises when possible before interviews. Achieving some degree of emotional distance has a powerful effect: “It can literally pay off for you.”

It’s also essential to be forthright and direct when communicating with interviewers. Attempts at deception may lead to stress or even boomerang later.

“If you have a competing job offer,” Steinhardt explains, “be upfront about this if it affects your timeline or decision. It will make both sides eager to land you. But do NOT lie as it could blow up in your face.”

Don’t Lead With The Delicate Questions

It’s best to keep the interview focused on the job itself until near the end. There should be plenty of topics to discuss before getting into compensation.

“Salary should not be the first, or even in the initial few questions to be asked,” according to executive coach Smita D Jain. She counsels that job-seekers should be more focused on asking about the role, the company, and the various challenges and opportunities.

However, when the time comes, it’s good to be direct: “Don't beat around the bush or feel apologetic in asking the question. A recruiter has nothing to hide about salary, and they will be happy to provide this input.”

All the details of the compensation structure do not need to be addressed at the outset either. “Confine your question to the overall compensation and the mix of fixed and variable pay therein,” Jain adds. “Detailed information about the components and their breakup will be in the offer letter, and subsequent negotiations will follow.”

The Role of Non-Monetary Benefits

In recent years, working from home has turned out to be as important as marginal increases in salary for many people. Sometimes, when a company cannot meet additional salary demands, offering the choice to work from home, or other non-monetary benefits, allows them to make up the difference.

“While most non-monetary benefits like health, dental, and vision insurance can’t be negotiated per se,” says Dixon, “it’s important to understand what the prospective company offers and how it compares to what you already have. Read all of the benefits materials, and if information about coverage and premiums isn’t included, ask for it.”

“A client I worked with had a very expensive prescription,” she explains. “If that medication had been excluded from their new company’s formulary, they would have had to pass on the job.”

Other benefits to push for include flexible start dates, assignments to particular teams or projects, as well as better job titles.

“Your job title can again make or break your impression as a potential employee in the future,” says Anjela Mangrum, president of Mangrum Career Solutions. “It does carry weight, so requesting to remove ‘junior' or ‘associate' from your title or asking for one more relevant to your role can be wise for your long-term progress.”

Remember: It’s Not Personal

Making salary requests can feel like going out on a limb. It can also feel like an acute rejection when they're not met. This is incorrect, and a failure to win a higher salary does not mean the effort was a mistake. Reputable employers will certainly never punish would-be employees for negotiating gracefully; indeed, it’s expected candidates will advocate for themselves.

“Once you've stated your ask, it's important to remain silent and avoid over-explaining, hedging or tethering,” according to executive coach Christoff Poppe. “The silence after this may be uncomfortable, but don’t speak. Let the recruiter think and reply. Pay careful attention to what they say and how they say it; this can give you insight into how much further to press.”

“When wrapping up the call, it's important to reinforce your appreciation of the recruiter, the offer, and the effort to make it work,” Poppe adds. “The goal is to build a positive relationship. Remember that negotiating your salary doesn't mean you're not interested in the role or the company. It simply means that you're considering multiple factors before accepting the offer.”

A strong tolerance for uncertainty is an asset when looking for a job. Sometimes it can be nerve-wracking. Interviewees should rest assured they are entirely within their rights to negotiate.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.