Key takeaways

  • When it comes to salary negotiation, remember that compensation is more than your paycheck. Consider paid time off, health insurance, parental leave and other benefits. 

  • Prove your worth by highlighting your professional achievements and including positive feedback from colleagues or clients.

  • A raise can also be tied to inflation. If you haven’t received a raise in some time, come to the meeting with evidence of how your salary hasn’t kept pace with the cost of living.

It’s a question almost every employee thinks but few give voice to: “Am I paid enough?”

Though it can be an intimidating conversation to start, it’s often one that’s worthwhile. A recent survey found that 85% of Americans who countered on salary or other compensation benefits received at least part of what they asked for.

If you’re thinking about negotiating your salary, a bit of preparation can go a long way in helping the conversation go more smoothly. This article will take you through concrete steps to prepare for a salary negotiation—whether at a potential new job or your existing one—including what research to bring to the table and what you might expect throughout the process.

With the right preparation, you can feel confident in advocating for the salary and total compensation that reflects your skills and expertise.


Preparing for salary negotiation

When you’re getting ready to negotiate your salary, whether it’s a starting salary for a new job or a raise at your current one, do your research. Take the time to investigate current salary trends, assess your skills and experience, and set reasonable expectations.

For any salary negotiation, you should have a sense of:

  • General salary trends and ranges. Dig into reliable sources like salary surveys, industry reports, and online resources from reputable organizations to get a sense of salary ranges for your specific role, experience level and location. Tools like Glassdoor and can be helpful starting points.
  • Your most marketable skills. Beyond market trends, take stock of your unique skills and experience. Consider quantifiable achievements, positive performance reviews, and any additional certifications or expertise you bring to the table. This self-assessment helps you articulate your worth and further justify your request.
  • Your salary expectations. It’s important to go into salary negotiations with a clear understanding of what you’re asking for based on the research you’ve done and how it aligns with your expertise. Aim for the top of your researched range but try to decide beforehand how much room you’ll leave for counter offers once negotiations take place.

Doing your research, knowing your worth and anticipating how you’ll handle different outcomes are all solid strategies for staying calm and professional throughout the discussion.

Salary negotiations for a new job

When you’re applying for a new job, it can feel intimidating to negotiate your salary. After all, you’ve just spent multiple interviews trying to convince the people you’ve just met that you’re the right person for the role. However, negotiating your salary before officially accepting an offer can be a smart way to ensure you start off on the right financial foot—and within the range that accurately reflects your skills and expertise.

Follow these tips to ensure you’re advocating for yourself before you sign an offer letter:

Know when to discuss salary during the hiring process.

With salary transparency becoming more common than ever, some companies may let you know from the start what you can expect your salary to be. If not, you’ll want to negotiate your starting salary toward the end of the hiring process, typically only after you’ve received a job offer. At this point, the company is actively prepared to hire you — and may be more likely to work with you on salary.

Plan for how you’ll respond to an initial salary offer.

When you’re presented with your initial salary offer, it’s okay to take a few days to consider it. If it’s lower than expected, you may do additional research to back up why you want to negotiate for more.

You should also be prepared to go into the negotiation with a general plan for what you’ll do if they deny your request. What type of counteroffer would you be willing to accept? If they don’t want to budge from their initial offer, will you walk away? This is also a good time to consider what questions you may have about the full package of benefits being offered, and if any of those offerings may influence your decision—which brings us to a crucial third point.

Don’t forget about compensation packages.

Salary is an important part of your total compensation—but it’s not the whole package. Remember that there may be other areas to negotiate, including components of your benefits package, work flexibility and more.

For example, even if the salary is lower than you desire, the company might be paying for most or all of your healthcare or giving you more paid time off than you currently receive.

In addition to — or perhaps in place of — a higher salary, make a list of other benefits that have value to you. These are unique to every individual, but some things to consider include:

  • 401(k) match
  • Additional PTO / vacation days
  • Enhanced parental leave
  • Remote work options
  • Signing bonuses
  • Stock options or equity


Salary negotiations at an existing job

If you’re negotiating a raise for your current salary, the stakes might feel high for a different reason: Your supervisor will likely be more invested seeing how your contributions to the company would merit a salary increase. That’s why it’s important to do your due diligence beforehand, so you can come to the meeting ready to confidently advocate for yourself.

Here are some concrete steps to take to set yourself up for success:

Tie your salary request to your accomplishments and added responsibility.

It’s not enough to simply voice that you want a raise—you need to provide proof that ties your request to your achievements. Gather as much information as you can about performance highlights during your time at the company. Be specific and include both quantitative and qualitative research—everything from successful projects you’ve led or participated in to specific praise from team members.

Preparing this data beforehand will show that you take your request seriously, and it can also help to boost your confidence going into those conversations by reminding you of what you’ve contributed to the company.

Negotiating a raise isn’t just about proving what you’ve achieved, however. Most companies will want to know what added responsibilities you’ll be taking on to reflect a pay increase.

You might make a list of upcoming initiatives you’d like to spearhead, a new certification you’d like to pursue or added tasks you could take off your manager’s plate. Be prepared to provide what added value you’ll bring to your role that will justify a higher salary.

Consider cost of living increases.

If you haven’t received a raise in some time, you might also tie your request to cost of living increases. Do your research into how much the cost of living has increased since your salary was last adjusted. This is a concern that affects everyone, and inflation has only contributed to this pressure. It may be time to adjust your pay to reflect these changes.

Choose the right person at the right time.

Every company approaches salary negotiations in a different way. For some, an annual performance review is when they consider merit increases; for others, you may advocate for a raise at any point.

If your company uses annual reviews to negotiate salary adjustments, be sure to schedule a discussion with your supervisor well before this date. Clarify that you’d like to discuss salary and compensation during your review and that you’ve been tracking performance insights to bring to the table. They may ask for you to share this information beforehand, so they can use your review to negotiate with you or speak with you before this meeting to discuss expectations.

If your company considers pay raises at any time throughout the year, you might choose to set up a meeting when you’ve just wrapped up a project that contributed to company goals—or when you’ve just been given more responsibility. There may never be a perfect time to ask, but starting the process by requesting a meeting with your direct supervisor first — no need to go over their head — is the right way to go about things.

Also, be sure to make this conversation its own separate meeting; trying to tack it on as an agenda item to an existing meeting won’t give it the significance it deserves, or the time and space you need to share what you’ve prepared.

Know how you’ll handle pushback or uncertainty.

Of course, the best-case scenario is that your manager or supervisor sees all the hard work you’re doing and agrees to a raise on the spot. Yet companies can have many reasons for declining a raise, including budgetary concerns. Be prepared for someone to decline, or, at the very least, not give you an immediate answer in the moment.

Often, these decisions may take multiple conversations or involve other stakeholders. If you don’t have an answer at the end of the meeting, thank your supervisor for considering your points and be prepared to follow up in a few weeks if you haven’t heard back.


Navigating the salary negotiation process

Negotiating your salary can be difficult, but you can’t know if something is possible unless you ask. Doing your research, knowing your worth and anticipating how you’ll handle different outcomes are all solid strategies for staying calm and professional throughout the discussion. You might even practice and refine your negotiation skills with someone you trust beforehand to make yourself feel more at ease — whatever will help you feel grounded and prepared.

By coming to these salary negotiations with the proper research and preparation, you can confidently advocate for yourself and ask for what you deserve. Watch the video for additional tips from Gunjan Kedia, vice chair of Wealth, Corporate, Commercial and Institutional Banking at U.S. Bank.

Learn how our approach to wealth planning can help you see a full view of your financial picture.

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