Not sure where to start? Follow the 5-minute salary negotiation checklist below👇.
If you want something really simple, just follow the one minute ⏲️ version my friend used to increase their offer by $30,000.
1-Minute salary negotiation checklist
Time needed: 1 minute
Use this five step salary negotiation checklist to increase your compensation significantly (my friend did these and increased their offer by $30,000).
- Research market compensation.
- Get multiple offers.
You want to put pressure on the company hiring you, so make sure to get all your applications in at the same time. Try to slow down the ones moving fast and tell the slow movers where you are in the process to encourage them to move along.
- Always act disappointed at an offer.
When you hear a job offer, always pause and say, “Thank you so much, I love your product and team and would love to work with you – but this is lower than I expected.”
- Use a soft counter-offer.
Instead of naming a price, say, “I’ve spoken with some friends in similar roles, and was really expecting an offer around $XX.”
- When you’re near the limit, ask.
After getting a response, you can always ask if there’s more room. Say, “I appreciate your help with this, but this is still lower than I was expecting. Do you have any more room?”
5-minutealary negotiation checklist
Since you’ve gotten this far, please: read the whole salary negotiation checklist below. These steps are simple to follow, and doing them for every job will make you millions of dollars by the end of your career.
Salary negotiation before applying
- Research market compensation. Know what you’re worth up-front by asking friends, and by searching Glassdoor, Hiring Plan, and Angel List.
- Get multiple offers. Do all your applications in parallel to get multiple offers.
- Coordinate your applications. Ask about hiring process and timeline up-front so you can accelerate or slow-walk multiple offers in parallel.
Negotiating salary while interviewing
- Don’t accede to an early comp range. If they share a range up front, don’t accept it — furrow your brow and say, “that’s a bit lower than I was expecting, but but we can discuss once you an offer.”
- Assume negotiability. If they don’t emphasize a comp policy or that a job is negotiable, know that it almost certainly is (the big exception here is if it’s a low-skill job where employees are fungible).
- It’s their responsibility to offer. If they ask how much you’re paid, need, or are expecting, don’t name the first number (unless you’re very confident that you know what the market rate is; in that case name the very highest number in a “reasonable” range) — they’re the ones hiring, so it’s their job to know what they want to offer and any questioning like this is just a negotiation tactic. you can respond, “I’m not sure; I know I’m really good at the job so think I should be paid at the top of the salary range, but I haven’t taken time yet to research what that is — what are you planning?”
- Compensation policies set the rules. Most smaller companies don’t have or won’t share a compensation policy — that means their compensation is more susceptible to negotiation. If they do share a policy, it shares the rules of the game, and try to negotiate within that framework. Your big levers are:
- (1) cherry picking comparables that push the compensation higher,
- (2) arguing for the top of their ranges,
- (3) arguing for your skill and why you should be considered to have slightly more experience / seniority according to their policy, and
- (4) arguing for bonuses or comp that falls outside the policy (like signing, relocation, annual bonus, or benefits).
Responding to a job offer
- Don’t respond immediately. Always take time before accepting an offer — ask for time to think it through or to discuss it with your partner to make sure you make the most of the situation.
- Always act disappointed. No matter what the offer, always act a little disappoint. Say, “Thank you so much for the offer — I love your product and team and would be so excited to work with you. But this is lower than I expected.” Make sure your tone and body language also convey disappointment.
- Use a soft counter-offer. One simple tactic that often works to push an offer higher (but has almost no risk of alienating people) is to pick a number at the high end of reasonable and respond (after acting disappointed, as described below), “After doing some research and talking to friends, I was expecting an offer of at least, XXX.”
- Always say “because.” Whenever you propose a salary or reject their offer, always say “because” and then add a rationale — your family, your student loans, taking care of your parents. Research shows that just saying “because” is effective, plus providing a real reason you need the money can help bolster your resolve and deflect social norms of appearing “selfish” — you need more for someone else, not just for yourself.
Ending the negotiation like a boss
- Don’t split the difference. If they respond by “splitting the difference” they’re probably not following a principled negotiation and are likely to have more room.
- Pay attention. Throughout the negotiation, pay attention to what they’re telling you — most people don’t want to lie to someone they like and hope to be working with. If they say, “This is the best we can offer — we’re happy to move things around if you’d like more salary or equity, but we’ve already gone beyond our policy,” you’re probably at the limit. But if they say, “We’ve broken our policy for you, and you’re already paid the most on the team — it’d be really hard for us to offer more,” — notice that they don’t say this is their best offer.
- When you’re near the limit, ask. Once you’re uncomfortable asking for more, you can always ask if they have any more room to negotiate. Say, “I’m really excited to join, and I really appreciate your willingness to discuss comp with me. We’re still a bit less than I was expecting — I have $100K in student loans plus I need to help out my younger sister as well. Do you have any more room?”
- Know how you can lose someone. Most of the time, we’re much too worried about asking for too much, and instead we negotiate against ourselves when an employer would willingly pay more. The one time in my experience hiring someone when I was turned off by their negotiating was when I’d researched and offered $90K for a role our policy said should have been closer to $80K. The candidate (who had two years of work experience) implied they needed $140K, when earlier they’d implied they needed $100K. I was upset by (1) an ask that seemed, to me, ludicrously high, and (2) what seemed like an inconsistency in their communication. We eventually did offer more money, but I was glad when they didn’t accept because of how the conversation had gone. This is why it’s important to do the research and make sure your ask isn’t outside the realm of possibility — just at the 95th percentile of the market.