As the conversation around pay parity continually gains traction, salary negotiation has become more than just a smart job search strategy. In fact, it is increasingly becoming a hallmark of self-advocacy and empowerment for women. But if we’re being honest, salary negotiation isn’t always the empowering conversation we’d like it to be.
Although negotiating can be empowering, it can also be nerve-wracking, stressful, and even disappointing. But knowing how to ask for the salary you deserve can maximize your chances of actually getting it.
Like any important conversation, salary negotiation might make you feel uneasy. For most people, that uneasiness is rooted in fear. If you’re like many women who have (or plan to) negotiate their salary, you might be concerned about:
Saying the wrong thing
Not knowing how to start the conversation
Choosing the wrong time to negotiate
Deciding what salary to ask for
Feeling concerned about these things is normal, but don't let it stop you from negotiating a good salary. The most successful salary negotiations start with being calm and confident, but getting to that point can be tricky. Start with the following tips to advocate for yourself and get the salary you deserve.
Tips for successfully negotiating your salary with confidence
Know what you’re asking for and why.
If you ask five different people how to negotiate your salary, you’ll get five different answers. But the one thing that all five people would probably say is that you should do your research. Whether you are negotiating the salary for a new position or renegotiating the salary for your current position, be sure to research the current market rate. Market rate—the average salary that other employers pay people in similar jobs—is one of the factors employers use to set salaries, in addition to geographic location, level of candidate experience, industry, and other factors.
Keep these factors in mind as you decide what salary you’re asking for and what your reasons are for asking. One obvious reason for negotiating your salary is that you want more money, but you might also consider more specific reasons why you’re negotiating your salary, such as:
Covering increased personal expenses
Boosting your earning potential
Making a statement about what you bring to the workplace
Aligning your pay with new training, education, or experience
Aligning your pay with a change in your duties (e.g., additional workload)
Even if you don’t disclose your reasons to your employer (which you are not obligated to do), knowing what is driving you to have this conversation will help you stay calm and confident.
You know that little voice in your head that talks you out of negotiating your salary? Don’t listen to that. It might feel safer to talk yourself out of negotiating, but denying yourself the right to ask for the salary you deserve is almost worse than having your employer deny you. Give yourself a chance to ask for what you want. As the saying goes, ‘If you never ask, the answer will always be no’.
Don’t pardon yourself.
Requesting the salary you want might feel like asking for a favor, but it’s not! Asking for the salary you deserve is your right as an employee. Pardoning yourself—saying ‘sorry’ during the negotiation, for example—is like saying that you don’t really believe that you deserve the money you’re asking for. Other phrases to avoid that can also send this message include:
“I know I don’t have a lot of experience, but…”
“This may not be the best time to ask…”
“Even though I don't have everything you’re looking for…”
Even though you should be clear, professional, and knowledgeable in your negotiation, you do not have to make your request more palatable for your employer. Don’t apologize for seeking the salary you want.
Take your time.
Have you ever felt so nervous or unsure of yourself that you quickly rattled off your thoughts without taking a breath? This is common, especially when you just want to get it over with. Even so, it’s important to take your time while negotiating your salary. Clearly communicate your needs. Pause every now and then if you must.
If you are naturally a fast talker, practice slowing your pace by avoiding filler phrases (such as “I mean”, “like”, “basically”, and “you know”), focusing on one part of the conversation at a time, and taking a moment to breathe before speaking.
Embrace the silence.
The loudest silence you might ever hear is the one that comes after you’ve asked for more money.
Your employer might be considering your offer, thinking of a way to buy some time until they’re ready to give you an answer, or, if they’re distracted, they could be thinking about something totally unrelated. Who knows?
Whatever the case, you should resist the urge to fill every silence. Silence can be uncomfortable but it doesn’t mean you have to find something to say. Instead, embrace the silence as a part of the process. Once you’ve stated your case, allow your manager or supervisor to respond, even if it takes a minute or two. Showing that you’re comfortable with silence can also help to convey a level of confidence that employers often respond well to.
Practice it at least three times.
You’re not going to master the art of salary negotiation overnight, and that's okay! Practicing can help you improve your skill just in time to have the talk with your boss.
When you practice the first time, focus on getting your thoughts out. Rehearse your spiel, letting your thoughts and ideas flow freely without stopping yourself.
During your second round of practice, start polishing what you came up with the first time. What facts or figures do you want to include in your statement? Which filler words or phrases do you need to remove? What important bits did you forget to mention the first time? Use this round of practice to clean up your response. Record yourself on your phone or practice in the mirror so that you can see how you present. Practicing your posture, facial expressions, and body language is just as important as practicing your words.
If possible, do your third round of practice with a friend. Have your friend act as your employer, then practice going through the negotiation with them. Ask your friend to throw a few questions at you or challenge you to overcome a unique situation. For example, if you struggle to talk to people who are visibly distracted, ask your friend to appear distracted during the negotiation. This will help you work on a way to overcome this situation and still get your message across.
Practicing three times can help you work out the kinks of your negotiation, but you can practice as much as you need to. Do it until you feel more calm, confident, and comfortable presenting your request.
10 salary negotiation conversation example scripts for every scenario
Once you’ve worked on some ways to feel more calm and confident, you still need to figure out what to say when you negotiate your salary. Review these scripts to help you navigate the conversation. Each can be easily modified based on your unique situation and can even be combined if you find that your situation warrants it.
Ideally, you will be able to negotiate your salary face-to-face, so most of these scripts are written as if you will be speaking to your manager. However, you can adapt these scripts to a written form if you plan to email your request to your employer—this is going to be most common for prospective employees who are negotiating a new job offer, and have been communicating with the potential employer mostly via email.
1. You’re negotiating a new salary.
“Hello, Camille. Thank you again for offering the Developer I position. I’m so excited to have the chance to join the XYZ Company team. However, before accepting your offer, I’d like to request a salary of $80,000 to $85,000 as this range aligns with my experience and education as well as the market rate for this position.”
2. You’re renegotiating your current salary.
“Thanks again for meeting with me today. As I mentioned in my email, I’ve been with the company for three years now and, in that time, I’ve taken on additional responsibilities as we’ve lost several people on the team. Most recently, I’ve been asked to assume the Purchasing Manager role in addition to my role as Purchasing Assistant. Before I can commit to that, I would like to review my current salary and reach a figure that is on par with the additional duties I’ve been asked to fulfill. Earlier this year, this role was posted with a salary range of “$106,000 to $110,000. I believe that a salary of $108,000 makes the most sense for me.”
3. You initially accepted the offer, but changed your mind.
It’s important to note that renegotiating a salary you already accepted can work against you in some cases, and the employer could rescind the job offer altogether. However, if you have a change of heart about the salary you initially accepted and want to negotiate, this script can help you do that without losing your job offer.
“Since initially accepting the job offer that came with a salary of $50,000, I have had some time to further research the position, and some new information has come to light about what is required for the role. While I have remained interested in the position and would be ready to start at the same time we initially agreed upon, I would like to renegotiate the salary at a range of $55,000 to $60,000. Do you believe this would be a suitable range that we can finalize today?”
Give yourself the best possible chance at making this work by following these additional tips:
Don't change anything else. Keep the start date and job title you agreed to.
Reiterate your interest in the role and the company. Let them know that you just want to make sure you’re satisfied before stepping into the role because you’re planning to stick around for a while.
Be ready for anything. The employer might approve the new salary you want, reject it, or give it to you at the expense of something else (e.g., taking away your hybrid work schedule in exchange for the increased salary). Try to anticipate multiple responses from them and be ready to respond effectively.
Don’t wait too long. Once you accept an offer, most companies move quickly to finalize the hiring process so you can get started. Try not to wait any longer than 24 hours to renegotiate.
4. You’re using the “Gratitude Sandwich.”
The great thing about a sandwich? It starts and ends the same way. This script is based on starting with a ‘thank you’ and ending with a ‘thank you’.
“Thank you so much for offering to make me a part of your team. I was already a big fan of the DEF Company brand, but going through this process has taught me even more about your team, and made me even more excited about joining your organization! I would like to note that the offer for this role is lower than I anticipated, but I’d be eager to accept a salary of $95,000.”
5. You’ve been lowballed.
“I appreciate you sending the offer for the Senior Business Analyst position. I’m confident that I could be an asset to your team, starting with cleaning up your current business requirements to create greater efficiency.
Before I accept your offer, I would like to review the proposed salary. As I shared during my interview, I have thirteen years of experience in FinTech, five of which have been spent at a large corporation that operates much like this one. For the past eight years, I have managed a high-performing team that has consistently exceeded their targets by 10%, which will be of great value to you since the person in this position would be overseeing two large teams. Given my background, I am seeking a salary between $160,000 and $170,000. What can you offer me in this range?”
6. The offer is at the lower end of your salary range.
You might wonder why you should give a salary range (instead of one specific number) if you don’t plan to take the lower end of the range. Giving a salary range leaves room for you and the employer to find a middle ground regarding the salary. But here’s a little secret: No one really wants the lower end of their range.
Meeting you halfway by at least offering the midpoint of your range shows good faith on the employer’s part. So, if they offer you the lower end of your range, they might be showing you that they are only willing to offer you just enough to get you to take the role. If you believe you could be happy with that number in the long run, go for it! But if you decide you want to counter the offer, here’s how to go about it:
“I sincerely appreciate your flexibility. Based on the value I would be bringing to your team, as well as the MBA I recently earned, which exceeds your educational requirements for this position, I’d like to get as close to the top of my salary range as possible. I’d be most comfortable accepting $90,000. What would you need to get the offer closer to that salary?”
7. You don’t have all the qualifications.
Let’s say you meet three of the five required qualifications listed for the job; you might wonder whether you can still negotiate your salary. The answer is an emphatic YES! Truthfully, there are no perfect candidates and even required skills aren’t necessarily required in every case. So, even if you don’t meet all the required qualifications, you should still negotiate. After all, by making you a job offer knowing what qualifications you have, the employer has already shown that they really want you for the role. Keep this in mind as you negotiate, but don't highlight what you don't have. Instead focus on what you do have, especially if the employer has already pointed it out in the process.
“I appreciate the opportunity I had to interview with you. Thank you for the offer! As you pointed out during my interview, I have worked for a health and wellness startup before, so I understand the demands of a startup and am fully committed to assisting with your quickly-changing business needs. Given this, I would like to counter your offer of $35,000 with $45,000. Would you be able to accommodate me at that salary?”
8. Your written offer is lower than the verbal offer.
Picture this: You’ve already gotten the verbal offer you wanted for a great job, and now you’ve finally received the written offer, but the salary is lower than what they said. The first thing you want to do is confirm whether it’s a mistake on their part. If it is, it should be an easy fix to get it corrected. But if it’s not, you may need to negotiate. In some cases, employers will change their offer based on a review of your salary history, which is when a potential employer uses your current salary to determine what your new salary should be. If the employer has lowered the offer based on the salary review (or for another reason), here’s how to address it:
“I can understand that you’ve updated the salary offered based on new information. However, my needs have not changed and I still have the skills, experience, and education needed to excel in this role. As a result, I would like to negotiate the salary to $55,000, which was the original salary offered.”
Many employers extend a verbal job offer before providing the written offer—wait for the written offer before negotiating your salary.
9. You provided a desired salary prematurely.
In some cases, an employer will ask you what salary or range you’re seeking early in the hiring process. Once you provide that figure, the employer might hold you to it by offering that exact number toward the end of the process. If you want to stick with it, there’s no further action required on your part besides accepting the offer for your new job! However, if you’ve discovered new information about the role during the interview process, you may want to change it. Maybe you learned that regular travel is required for the role even though that wasn't in the job posting; you’re still well within your rights to negotiate. Here’s an example:
“I can tell that you’ve been listening closely throughout this process since you offered the amount I initially mentioned, and I appreciate that. During this process, I’ve learned about some additional requirements that were not outlined in the job posting, such as the required travel. That has changed my desired salary for the role. I would be most comfortable accepting a salary between $55,000 and $60,000, given this new information.”
10. You hate negotiating.
Negotiating your salary is easier said than done, so many women still avoid it altogether. In fact, 57 percent of women surveyed by Randstad have said that they’ve never negotiated with an employer, with 60 percent reporting that they would quit their jobs to get the salary increase elsewhere. Still, negotiating your salary can help you get the money you want and set an important precedent: asking for what you want, even if it comes with a hard or uncomfortable conversation. Negotiating your salary is just another way to advocate for yourself in the workplace, and that’s always a good thing!
To ease any tension, address the elephant in the room. Here’s how:
“I know that negotiating can be uncomfortable on both sides sometimes, but I do want to say that advocating for myself makes me a better employee and team member. When I have what I need to thrive in the workplace, which includes fair pay that is on par with my experience, I am better equipped to make meaningful contributions to my team, but also to the company as a whole. Based on my research, $79,000 to $85,000 is a more suitable salary range for this position, and for this level of my career. How can we work together to make this happen?”
Although these salary negotiation scripts can be tailored to different situations, you will notice that they each include a “thank you” for the offer. This is because gratitude is an important part of any negotiation, and it can help you build rapport with your counterpart. You will also notice that each script includes a specific salary or salary range. In addition to gratitude, this is one of the most important parts of the negotiation. Do not ask for a “higher salary,” then make the employer figure out what “higher” means. Be clear and specific every step of the way.