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How to Negotiate Salary for Beginners (With Examples)

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Knowing how to negotiate salary, especially in your first job offer, can be confusing, daunting, and even nerve-racking. Yet most companies expect you to negotiate your salary; according to CareerBuilder, nearly three in four companies are willing to negotiate an initial offer. If you don’t negotiate, you might be leaving money on the table.

So, how exactly do you negotiate salary? While it’s an important conversation, you need to be tactful and respectful. Here’s your step-by-step guide to how to negotiate salary. 

1. Look to the Job Description

The first part of knowing how to negotiate salary starts with research. You need to understand how much you can reasonably ask for before you ask for it! This ensures you come to every conversation prepared with an idea of what the company might offer, the market rate for your role, and your salary expectation. The first place to look is the job description.

You might be able to get a sense of what the company is thinking about for a salary range before you have a conversation with them. Due to the rise in pay transparency laws, many companies must include salary ranges in their job descriptions. Some companies may include a single number; others might include a range; a few might include pay bands, where there are different ranges per position based on where you live.

While some have large ranges (so large that it feels like it defeats the purpose of the law), you should get a better understanding of what they might offer you — or, at least, the very minimum.

Yet you shouldn’t assume you’ll get the top of the range, either.

“It’s important to keep in mind that the the top of the salary band is reserved for those who have been performing at that role for a while now, especially when you’re trying to apply for your first job and aiming for the highest salary possible,” says Daniela Herrera, director of recruitment operations and ED&I at R/GA.

2. Look at Publicly Available Salary Information

Sites like Glassdoor, Payscale,, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics gather salary information from people who have worked in various professional roles. You might need to get creative if you’re applying for a more unconventional job title. Regardless of what role you’re looking for, you need to look beyond the average for the role and filter for a few different things:

  • Experience level: The salaries you see for different positions online is generally the average for all experience levels. Filter for how many years of experience you have (don’t worry if this is your first role — some sites have filters for 0-1 years of experience!). 
  • Location: Companies in New York pay different salaries than those in Minnesota. Filter for the location of the company you’re interested in. Or, if you’re applying for remote jobs, filter for the state you’re living in.
  • Type of company: Startups may pay differently than large corporations. While you can’t necessarily filter for the type of company you’re applying for, do research on the titles you’re looking for and how the salary average changes between companies. 

>>MORE: Top Companies to Work For (if You’re a Gen Zer)

For example, when I was researching salary ranges for my current role, I was really confused on what the standard would be. There was such variation between what a “senior writer” was paid. I realized this was because there was variation on what “senior” meant between companies! Some companies only hired senior writers with over ten years of experience, while some offered the position to those with a few years of experience. Instead, I changed my search to “writer” and filtered for my exact years of experience. Getting granular about the seniority level allowed me to find more consistent data and understand what the standard rate was.

3. Factor in Your Credentials

There are other factors that can influence your salary negotiation beyond your years of professional work experience, including:

  • Education: Do you have a relevant bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree? 
  • Skills: Do you have specialized or technical hard skills?
  • Certifications or licenses: Are you certified in your industry? Have you completed extra courses in the field? Do you have a specific license? 

Depending on the role, these factors can be a valuable addition to your negotiation.

4. Ask During the Interview 

Should you ask about salary in the interview? Yes. According to Elisa Pineda, recruiter and talent acquisition expert, it’s old-school career advice to wait to negotiate your salary until the offer is on the table. 

The recruiter may bring up salary in your first conversation. If they don’t, it’s okay for you to bring it up if you know you won’t take the position if they don’t offer a certain salary. You can ask them:

In hopes of aligning our expectations, I’m curious about the salary range for this role. Can you provide the current range you’re offering?

“If you’ve built rapport with your recruiter (which you absolutely should!) you can always ask something like, ‘where do you think I fall within the salary band?’, or ‘I was hoping to get closer to the top of the band, do you think that’s doable for someone with my skills and experience?’” Herrera says. “If the company you’re interested in is transparent with its offers, the recruiter might be able to give you some insight and advice before getting to the interview round.”

Talking about salary early on ensures no one is surprised or disappointed later in the interview process, and no one wastes anyone else’s time. Just as you hope the recruiter will be transparent with their salary range, be transparent with your expectations. The first conversation with the recruiter is a good time to let them know if you won’t accept an offer below a specific number. 

>>MORE: Interview Questions, Answered: ‘What Are Your Salary Expectations?’

5. Come Up With a Range

Once you have enough information about what the company is offering, industry standards, and your qualifications, you’ll need to come up with an ideal salary range. You need to know the bottom of your range: the number you absolutely can’t or won’t go below (and use our take-home pay calculator to understand exactly how much you need to ask for). Then, you need the high-end of your range. You want to get what you deserve, but you don’t want to go too high that you lose the chances of getting an offer. 

A good rule of thumb for how for a “reasonable” counteroffer is $5,000-10,000, or 5-10% more than the company offers, says Lisa Dupras, career coach at Elev8 Consulting. When an offer is around that range but lower than what you’re looking for, this is a good time to negotiate.

“The rule of thumb is to have the request be reasonable and have some information to back it up,” Dupras says. “Many companies have internal guidelines around how high their offers can go. Many companies also build in room to negotiate as they expect counteroffers. They rely on candidates to research and ask for a reasonable salary.”

So while the 5-10% metric isn’t a hard rule, it’s a helpful factor when you’re trying to figure out just how much you should negotiate for.

6. Prepare Your Case

You’ve researched, learned the salary range, and determined how much you want to ask for. Now, it’s time to figure out how to prepare your case.

Start by writing down why you think you deserve the salary you’re asking for. A company won’t usually give you money for the sake of money. They want to know why raising your offer is worth it. When you’re entry-level, you might not have as many previous experiences to come armed with, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have unique skills and value that can truly help the company. Show how hiring you will make a positive difference — one that will impact the company’s bottom line.

Once you’ve gathered your thoughts, practice with a trusted friend, mentor, or even in the mirror. These conversations can be nerve-wracking, and being confident will not only make the interaction go smoother, but also help your case! 


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7. Negotiate Respectfully

It’s time to put your plan into action. Start by thanking the recruiter or hiring manager for their offer, then launch into your case. When negotiating, make sure you’re being:

  • Friendly: Even though you’re countering what the recruiter has mentioned or offered you, you should still negotiate in a friendly manner. Think of it not that you’re working against the recruiter, but rather with them for a mutually beneficial offer. 
  • Confident: Negotiating is scary, but you should be confident when making your argument — as long as you’re not asking for far over the discussed salary range, you have every right to ask the company to budge on salary. 
  • Gracious: Even if the offer isn’t what you’re looking for, you should still show you’re grateful for it before you start negotiating. This means saying the words “thank you” before you dive in — the recruiter will be grateful for your gratitude! 

8. Be Prepared to Make Your Case

While a negotiation shouldn’t be a battle — that’s a red flag from the employer! — you should be prepared to get some tough questions, and, in some cases, not the exact salary you’re looking for. You might get questions like:

  • Can you elaborate on the specific reasons why you’re requesting a higher salary? 
  • If we were to meet your salary request, what specific contributions do you believe you would bring to the company to justify this compensation level? 
  • Are you open to discussing other forms of compensation in addition to salary?
  • Our final offer is $X. Would you be comfortable coming in at that number? 
  • If we agree to the higher salary offer, will you accept our offer immediately?

Sometimes, the company might be looking for additional reasons or research to understand why you think you should have a higher salary. In this case, be sure to have other examples of your skills and experience you’re ready to speak to, as well as concrete research to support anything you’re saying about the market rate of the role.

9. Know When to Walk Away

Unfortunately, sometimes the company isn’t willing to budge on the salary. If the number is truly too low for you to accept, it’s OK to end the conversation and walk away.

Before you end the conversation, ask yourself:

  • What’s the lowest salary I’d need to accept this offer?
  • Are there other benefits of this position that make it worth it despite a lower salary?
  • Is there anything else I can negotiate that would make me accept this offer?

Sometimes, the company may want to work to give you an offer you’re happy with but might not always be able to offer you a higher salary. If you’re willing to accept other forms of compensation — like more vacation days, a flexible or reduced work schedule, or a fast-track to a promotion — be ready to negotiate and discuss these options before you walk away.

If not, it’s OK to end the conversation. Be transparent and respectful — while it can be frustrating on both sides, it’s better to be honest and upfront about your situation.

>>MORE: How to Decline a Job Offer (With Examples)

10. Get It In Writing

If you do end up negotiating for a salary you’d accept, congratulations! The next step is to getthe verbal agreement in writing. Sometimes, the recruiter or hiring manager will automatically include the salary in your formal offer; if not, you can ask them directly for documentation. 

How to Negotiate Salary (Examples)

Now that you know the steps to negotiating salary, what does that actually look like in practice? Here’s example language for negotiating salary in common negotiation conversation scenarios. 

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If the Salary Range Is Much Lower Than Expected

This example is for the beginning of the negotiation process when you’ve asked about the range in the interview.

If the salary range is significantly lower than you were hoping for, you need to do two things: first, make it clear why the offer doesn’t meet your expectations and second, ask if there’s room for negotiation. For example, if you’re in the initial interview and the recruiter shares a salary range much lower than you exected, you could say: 

Thank you so much for your transparency. Based on the research I’ve done comparing salaries for this type of role, location, and company size, this is much lower than my expectations. However, I’m very interested in this role and excited about the idea of working for this company. Is there any flexibility on pay?

If the Salary Offer Is Still Much Lower Than Expected

What if you’ve already gone through the interview process and received a much lower offer than you expected? Again, you should share your research and why you deserve a higher salary. You can also ask if the salary range you’re looking for is doable for the company at this time. For example:

Thank you so much for the offer. I’m really excited about the idea of working for Company X and think my programming experience in a collaborative environment can bring value to the team. Is there any flexibility on pay? Transparently, this range is much lower than I expected compared to market rates for roles at this level, in this location, and company size. I’m looking for something closer to $55,000 — is this achievable?

If the Salary Is on the Lower End of Your Range

If the salary is within your strike zone but not precisely what you’re looking for, show your gratitude and ask for a specific number or percentage increase. Be sure to include your reasoning for the increase, whether that’s market research or particular skills you bring to the table. For example:

Thank you so much for the offer — I’m really excited about this opportunity. However, given that my design skills are advanced and my experience working directly with clients, I’d like to ask for a $70,000 starting rate. 

If the Salary Is at the Top of Your Range

Congratulations! The job might be a good salary fit for you. 

If the offer is generous enough — and, of course, in-line with what you’ve researched. You don’t need to negotiate just for the sake of negotiating. Instead, be transparent with the recruiter and tell them you’re aligned with the salary.

Thank you! The range aligns with my experience and the market rate for this type of role. 

Yet before you decide not to negotiate, take into account the full package of the offer. How much will you take home after taxes? Are you happy with the benefits? The work-life balance

Even if this offer is at the top of your range, is it comparable with the market rate? Is it at the higher end of the company’s salary range? While you want to ensure you’re getting the money you deserve, you also want to avoid over-negotiating. 

If you’re satisfied with all of the above, you can happily accept the offer without negotiation. But if you think you’re leaving money on the table, use a similar script if the salary were on the lower end of your range. Again, back up your ask with data and examples of why you deserve more money.

>>MORE: How to Accept a Job Offer (With Examples)

If the Recruiter Says No

Unfortunately, not every salary negotiation will go your way — at least initially. If the recruiter responds in a negative way, there’s no need to sweat. Instead, respond confidently and be prepared to restate your case. For example:

Thank you for letting me know that there’s not much flexibility; however, based on the market rate for the role this range is much lower than I expected. I’m still interested in the role and would love to make this work — is there enough flexibility to raise the offer to $65,000?

If there’s no budging on the budget, but you’re still interested in the offer, you can ask to negotiate other parts of the offer. For example: 

Are there other negotiables within the offer, such as benefits or remote work? I’m still very interested in the role and would love to make this work.

Of course, if you’re still getting a negative response and you know you won’t take the current offer, you can walk away. While it can be frustrating to turn a job down, you just might save yourself time and long-term stress of being underpaid. Over half (54%) of Gen Z employees say they would quit their job due to an unsatisfactory salary, according to a survey from TalentLMS and BambooHR. 

>>MORE: Learn more Generation Z Workplace Statistics.

When to Avoid Negotiating Salary

We’ve done a lot of talking about how to negotiate salary — but is there ever a time when you shouldn’t? While an employer shouldn’t withdraw an offer because you’re negotiating, there are times when you shouldn’t ask for more.

If You’re Looking for Much Higher Than the Salary Band

It’s important to be realistic when negotiating salary. While you should ask for what you want, if that number ends up being much higher than the company’s salary band or offer, it might not be worth negotiating for — because there’s a chance you might lose the offer entirely.

“If I already told the candidate the max range and had an open line of communication with them all along, and they continue to negotiate, I will have to rescind the offer,” Pineda says. “If a company cannot pay more and we already let you know that, we are not a right fit and we can cut our losses now.”

Why would a company rescind an offer for over-negotiating? From the company’s perspective, if you’re negotiating for higher than they’ve already told you they can offer, they assume you’re unsatisfied with the lower salary. So if you join the company at that lower salary, they’ll “spend all this time training you up only for you to ‘jump ship,’ look for other opportunities, or worse, destroy morale and team dynamics due to your unhappiness,” Pineda says.

Negotiating your salary offer is about balance. While you should negotiate, be reasonable and realistic with how much you’re asking for.

If the Employer Has Made It Clear the Salary Is Non-Negotiable

While many employers do expect candidates to negotiate salary, some employers — in industries like government, for example — have strict salary bands and they cannot offer you more money.

If the employer has made this clear, or you’ve asked if the salary is negotiable and they’ve said no, this is not a time to negotiate.

How to Negotiate a Salary Offer: The Bottom Line

When negotiating salary, research and early transparency are key. Before you even speak with anyone from the company, you should know a reasonable salary for you based on experience, market data, industry, location, and type of company. Then, during your first conversations with the company, be transparent and clear about this expectation — and ready to ask for what you deserve if it aligns with the company’s range. 

“Negotiations do come down to a science in some ways,” Pineda says. “You can and should push, but also ask the right questions, or you could be negotiating yourself out of an opportunity.”

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What is reasonable to negotiate for salary?

Typically, you can negotiate about 5-10% above a salary offer. 

How do you negotiate salary without losing the offer?

You can negotiate salary without losing an offer by ensuring you’re not over-negotiating beyond a range the recruiter has told you about and that your ask aligns with the market rate for the role.

Should you accept the first salary offer?

Typically, employers expect you to negotiate salary; however, if you’re happy with the salary offer and it’s in-line with the market rate for the role, you don’t have to negotiate. 

Do employers like when you negotiate salary?

About 73% of employers in the U.S. expect a salary negotiation on a first job offer. Your recruiter will likely be prepared to negotiate with you — as long as you’re not over-negotiating and asking for a number much higher than the range they’ve given you.

Zoe Kaplan is a Senior Writer at Forage. Prior to joining Forage, she wrote and edited career and workplace content for Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women.

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