things you’re wondering about how to negotiate salary

Here’s an interview I did with Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, talking about how to negotiate salary, common misconceptions people have about the process, how to negotiate for an internal promotion, and more.

{ 27 comments… read them below }

  1. Jesicka309*

    Wow what perfect timing! I was wondering about negotiating salary and was going to ask.
    You talk about internal promotions: what if it is a lateral move? I am going for a job that’ll take me from coordinator to assistant again, but I feel that my experience will merit a bit more than the average assistants wage. I know I’ll have to take a pay cut, but I’m hoping to meet in the middle. How do you phrase that?
    I’ve also had discussions with recruiters that can’t understand why I wouldn’t want to take a 10k paycut. I can justify 5k (that’s the increase I got when I went from assistant to coord). But 10k less would put me at less than I earned working three jobs during Uni. :( the recruiters get pretty snarky when I say my range is 48-52, and they’re recruiting for a 42k position. :( negotiating salary is hard.

      1. jesicka309*

        It’s moving down a bit. I’d be going from one level above entry level back to an ‘entry level’ position. It’s from a technical department that deals with sales into a sales position, so I have a whole lot more knowledge about their department (and know everyone in it!) compared to your average entry level candidate.
        I guess the change is prompted by a lack of future opportunity in my current department. Where I am now I’ll be waiting years for a promotion, as I’d have to wait for someone to quit. There’s a lot more scope for career development up there, and it’s more in line with my long term goals. I also hate my current role, but I know that it isn’t a factor in salary negotiation. :)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ah, okay. So you could try negotiating by pointing out that you’re coming in with more experience and knowledge than their typical candidate for the position.

          1. jesicka309*

            Great, I’ll do that! Thanks for the advice!
            I know they have a huge problem with turnover – only 1 in 5 sales assistants stick around past probation, so I think I’m in a good position to negotiate a better salary, as I’ve been at the company two years and won’t run off scared if I dislike the job.

  2. Mike*

    Question: I’m about to start a new position. Before the offer came they asked what my expected range was. This was before I started reading this blog and before I had done a ton of research in the cost of living of the area I’d have to move. So I gave my number. Mid week the following week I spoke with their internal recruiter who said that my number was on the high end of their range and wanted to know if I’d come down. I told her I would look into it and emailed them later saying I’d come down $5k/year. When the offer came in it was $2,500 less than my original number (so in the middle of the two numbers).

    I decided not to negotiate further as I felt that was already done earlier. Plus the vacation and holidays were more than I was expecting.

    Outside of the initial fumbling, did I make the right call in not negotiating after the offer came in?

  3. Z*

    I’m wondering how your statement that with internal negotiations, it still comes down to who is more willing to walk away. In the past, you’ve advised against accepting a counter-offer from an employer, or offering one to your employee. It seems to me that in order to be willing to walk away, someone angling for an internal promotion/raise would have to have another job offer they’re putting on the table. Thus, the raise offer from the current employer would be a counter-offer. Is that not correct? Or how do you see these two pieces of advice interacting?

    1. Mike C.*

      Actually this is something I’ve been thinking about as well. I work at a large company where transfers are really common. It seems to me that unless you’re transferring for non-promotional reasons, taking a solid counter-offer is fine.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wouldn’t say that you have to have an offer from another company in order to be able to walk away from an offer for an internal promotion at your current company. It’s fine to say that you can’t see taking on the additional responsibility for less than $X, and meaning it.

  4. Anon*

    One note about internal negotiations: Find out if/how it will affect your next review/raise cycle. I worked somewhere that didn’t give annual raises to anyone who had been promoted in the past year. So, if you got a promotion with a 6% raise, but you would have gotten 3% in the annual cycle, your promotion was really only worth 3% (plus the fact that maybe you got it a bit early).

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This. A friend got an okay raise at New Company. A year later at review time, he found out he was not getting an annual raise because he had been brought in for “so much” money. Confusingly, New Boss said he would have offered more money if my friend said no to the first offer.

      This stuff gives me a headache.

      New Company employees treated my friend with respect. The feeling was mutual. Cannot put a dollar value on that one.

  5. A Disillusioned Employee*

    This sums it all up:

    “The most important thing to understand about negotiating is that it all comes down to who’s the most willing to walk away.”

    And who would that be: An employer with a number of candidates trying to get the position or a candidate whose savings are about to run out after months of unemployment? I think the answer is obvious, which is why employers routinely lowball the unemployed candidates.

    In addition, if a candidate is receiving unemployment insurance money, there is a requirement to report any refusal of a job offer in a weekly certification form. This could lead to a delay in weekly benefits or even to a denial and disqualification. So, again, who has the power?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s one of the reasons why it’s important to be among the best at what you do, and to cultivate an amazing reputation. It gives you a lot more options in situations like that, and can make an employer want you far more than they want the other candidates. It’s one of the many reasons why I’m baffled when people don’t see the benefit to them of working hard.

      1. A Disillusioned Employee*

        Actually, I am very active and well respected in my profession because of extensive record of publications in technical peer-reviewed literature, including a book. However, this does not matter at all because any hiring manager will have a number of candidates lined up who want the same job.

        It all comes down to budget and bottom line. Who do you think will get the job: The “best of the best” or a “second choice” willing to take the same job for $20K less?

        The only two times in my professional career I got fair offers happenned when I was approached by a headhunter while gainfully employed. This shifted the balance of power somewhat.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          A good manager will want the best of the best, and if $20K more is still within market range for the position, they’ll try to pay that. Good managers don’t pay below market just to save money, if it means getting second-best.

          1. A Disillusioned Employee*

            The bottom line seems to be the god and king in every company I have ever worked for. Managers typically get rewarded for getting done more with less money, which includes less “headcount” and/or cheaper labor.

  6. Roe*


    I had a phone interview with the HR Manager of a potential employer at the end of Sept. No discussions about salary were had. A week later she emailed me to schedule an in-person with the hiring Manager and her team. Plus, one other person from a different department. In that email, she stated a salary amount, not a range. I thought that was strange? She quoted “50K” in the email.

    I decided to go to the interview, even though that is lower than I was making and, the role is for an Assistant Marketing Manager. I met with 4 people; 2-3 hrs in total. I was asked by the person in the other dept. (Sales Director), what my salary range was. I said “$55-62k” Even though, I knew what HR had written in the email.
    Well, last week they called and asked for my references. They just completed them yesterday. Later this afternoon (after 5pm), my direct boss, called and left me a message…I think we know why! :0

    So, how do I negotiate salary – what do I say? What if she’s firm?
    My background: 6 yrs marketing exp.; held coordinator roles; been unemployed since March. Running a business part-time (since July). They know all this fron rez and interview.

    JOB DESC: 1 year exp. req’d
    As I said, it’s for an Assistant Marketing Mgr role – paying less than my last 2 roles (coordinators).

    HELP, please! Hope to hear from you before I call her back tomorrow.


    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She might hold firm at that number, but you can certainly try to negotiate just like you would for any other job, by making the case for why you’re worth more, market rate in your area for the work, etc.

  7. Roe*

    Any key words/statements I should say (in addition to what you stated above)?

    FYI – I noticed most of the salaries for similar roles are anywhere from $50-$65 so, I’m in the right range…depending on the company.

    Let me know.
    Thanks so much!

  8. JJ*

    I just received an offer today! Thank you so much for all your brilliant advice. For the first time, I actually raised the bar and countered a higher salary (despite the risk of losing this great opportunity) after the company offered a much lower one because I’m new to this industry. I can’t believe they accepted my request. Thanks Alison!

      1. JJ*

        I’ve been recommending this site to my friends because it is just one of the most insightful, intelligent and practical advice, not to mention an extraordinary community. I have never ever convinced myself to talk my way “up”, so to speak, a go-getter basically, and this being my first attempt, AND speaking directly to a very difficult CEO… I’m just so grateful. Your superb website truly inspired and motivated me to move forward in a polished and graceful manner, thanks!

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