7 Tips for Negotiating a Better Salary

See also: Negotiation Skills

It’s a natural progression of any job: your salary or hourly wage should increase over time.

You become more valuable as an employee once you have more experience and training, and your earnings should also be adjusted to reflect inflation. Your boss might initiate the process by giving you an annual raise, but there are times when the onus will be on you to begin that conversation or to direct it in your favor.

Talking about money makes some people uncomfortable. Most of us have been taught that it is impolite to ask about someone’s salary, and this cultural taboo can make it seem odd to even talk about your salary in a context that makes it not only appropriate, but necessary.

Or sometimes it’s the idea that we don’t want to appear greedy that holds us back. Or perhaps we’re just not totally sure how to negotiate in the first place and don’t want to be bamboozled in the process.

This page is designed to help overcome these concerns and get you the pay-rise you deserve.

Negotiating a Better Salary at Your Current Job

If you’re nervous about broaching the subject of your salary with your boss, take heart. You will become more comfortable with it the more you practice, and once you’ve had the first conversation with your boss, you’ll know exactly what to expect the next time you need to negotiate your salary.

The worst that can happen is that your boss simply refuses your request, in which case you may want to look for a new job. But unless your boss is a real tyrant, you’ll just sit down and have a conversation, meeting somewhere in the middle.

The negotiation process may be limited by the rigidity of the company’s compensation structure. There are several parameters that companies utilize to determine employee salary, and one compensation structure example is market-based salary structures. However, each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, so companies that want to remain competitive in terms of employee salary need to utilize data-based resources to keep existing and prospective employees interested. Nevertheless, each company is different, so you can test the waters during the review interview.

Here are 7 tips for negotiating a better salary, no matter what line of work you are in. Note that you don’t have to be a salaried employee to negotiate better pay. See if you can increase your hourly rate if you’re non-salaried.

1. Be Confident

You need to walk into the meeting with your boss knowing just how valuable you are as an employee.

You have some amazing skills, have contributed to the success of the company and embody the company’s core values; you are worth every penny, and maybe even a few more.

Of course, there’s a fine line between being confident and cocky. Don’t be demanding or rude. However, do be direct. Don’t skirt around the issue by trying to imply that you want a higher salary. Be direct and just ask.

Listen to a confidence-boosting playlist, practice self-affirmation, get your best friend to give you a pep talk, dress in your nicest clothes or do whatever else makes you feel confident and puts a pep into your step.

2. Don’t Ask Too Early

You need to prove how valuable you are to the company before you start asking about a raise.

Don’t go to your boss after three months and ask to be paid as much as someone who has been there three years. Try to wait at least a year, or until the major performance review comes around. Slow and steady wins the race.

On a related note, try not to be the first one to name a number. Your boss might suggest something even higher than what you were expecting. If not, use the other tips to convince him or her that you are worth a higher figure.

3. Do Your Research

Find out what other companies pay employees with your skillset and experience.

Are you being paid on the low end or the high end of the typical salary range? You can use this information as a benchmark to assure yourself that what you are asking for is reasonable.

Note that average salaries will also depend on where you live. There will be not only a national average for your profession, but also an average for your state or region. Your state’s average may be higher than the national average, but take into consideration your state’s cost of living as well. In other words, pinpoint the average salary for someone not only in your profession, but also in your state or possibly even your city.

4. Sell Your Skills

This is where being confident will really be an advantage.

You may need to remind your boss of everything that you bring to the table. If you’ve just had a great performance review, it will be very easy to segue into this topic. Remember that your interpersonal skills and organizational skills are just as important as your technical skills, too.

If needed, dust off your resume and remind yourself what qualities made you an attractive candidate in the first place, and then sell those skills.

5. Ask For Extras at the Same Time

Get all of your negotiating over in one fell swoop.

Not happy with your benefits package? Bring that up too.

Want more frequent salary increases or performance reviews? Mention it.

If your boss balks at your request for a higher salary, you can lower your asking price but still get some additional value by negotiating for some extras or perks at the same time.

6. Don’t Appear Overeager

This tip mainly applies when you are negotiating salary in a job interview.

It’s not a good idea to appear to overeager or desperate for the job, as employers will use this to their advantage. If you seem desperate for the job, unscrupulous employers will assume that you’ll settle for any kind of salary.

If you don’t appear too overeager (but be sure to remain confident!), your potential employer will worry about losing you to the competition. Thus, salary becomes a more powerful bargaining tool.

7. Practice Beforehand

If salary negotiations are on your mind, practice before you set up a time to meet with your boss.

Practicing with friends and family is good, especially if they have experience with negotiating salaries and can give you a few pointers.

However, you should also consider seeking the help of local job success centers or organizations. Any group that helps individuals practice mock job interviews should be able to help you practice this tricky meeting as well. If you are a college graduate, your alumni association may have some resources to help you, including the job center at your alma mater.

Professionals in this arena will be able to throw all kinds of scenarios your way and help you get through them. When it comes time to talk to your boss, nothing should surprise you.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills eBooks.

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills

Develop your interpersonal skills with our series of eBooks. Learn about and improve your communication skills, tackle conflict resolution, mediate in difficult situations, and develop your emotional intelligence.

Negotiating a Better Salary in a Job Interview

Start off on the right track in a new job by negotiating a salary, benefits package and severance package that you are comfortable with.

In a job interview, it’s especially important to follow all of the tips above, but be particularly careful to “not appear overeager” and to “sell your skills.” You want the company to view you as a valuable candidate, one that they would hate to lose. If you’re confident that the company wants you even more than you want them, use this to your advantage to ask for a higher salary.

The tricky part about negotiating a salary at a job interview is that you can’t be totally sure what the workload is like at this job. Therefore, it’s a good idea to ask for a three-month or six-month salary review with your boss. If you feel you are working too hard for too little money and the job is nothing like you expect, this is an appropriate time to “ask early.”

Talking about money may not be something that comes naturally to you, but it’s a skill that every employee should know. With a little practice and confidence, you’ll be a pro in no time.

About the Author

Cathy Habas is a professional writer, editor and Spanish-English translator based in Louisville, KY. She enjoys road trips and spending time outside with her six dogs.