Salary Negotiation Dos and Don'ts

How to Get a Better Offer or Raise

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Salary negotiation is probably not high on anyone's list of enjoyable activities. However, if you ever want to earn what you deserve, it is essential to learn how to do it the right way. These dos and don'ts of negotiating job offers and raises will help you get the best salary possible.

  • Don't Look at How Much Money Your Friends Are Making: You may be envious of your friends and acquaintances who have higher salaries, but many factors make it hard to compare. Most importantly, do they work in your field? Earnings vary by occupation—some pay more and others pay less. Where they live and work may make a difference too. If your friends live in a large metropolitan area with a higher cost of living and you do not, they may earn more money. More experience, greater responsibilities, or less desirable hours may also account for higher earnings. Benefits packages and paid vacation time or sick leave come into play too. Look at your entire compensation package when comparing salaries.
  • Do Research Salaries in Your Field: Because salaries vary so much by occupation, find out what the median earnings are for yours before beginning salary negotiations. Look at recent salary surveys, talk to people who work in your field, and contact your trade or professional association to find out how much others are earning for doing the same job. Remember to go local when looking at those numbers. Salaries vary by region. Use the Occupation Profile tool on CareerOneStop.org, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, to search by keyword and location.
  • Do Consider Your Work Experience: Are you a novice or have you been working in your field for a while? Experience counts! In most cases, your salary will increase the longer you work in an occupation. During your salary negotiation, don't neglect to discuss the amount of time you have been working. Be realistic, though. Your bargaining power will be limited until you become more experienced in your field.
  • Don't Talk About How Much Money You Need: When you are going through salary negotiations, don't tell your boss (or future boss) that you need to make more money because your bills are high, your house was expensive, or your child is starting college. While these concerns are all valid reasons for needing more money and may have even been the motivation for trying to negotiate your salary in the first place, it is irrelevant to your boss. The only time to bring up your expenses is when your employer is relocating your job to a region that has a higher cost of living and is not offering a salary that takes that into account.
  • Do Talk About the Salary You Deserve: Your salary is based on what you have done or will do to benefit your employer. That includes increasing profits, keeping costs down, or building a customer base. When presenting your case for getting a raise from your current boss, highlight any accomplishments that contributed to growing your employer's bottom line. If you are negotiating a job offer with a potential employer, discuss what you will do to earn the salary you are asking for, using examples of accomplishments in prior jobs.
  • Do Be Flexible: When negotiating your salary, it is essential to realize going in, that the final number your boss gives you may be less than what you initially desired. Before beginning, decide how much you are willing to compromise and what you will do if your boss or potential boss doesn't offer a salary that is acceptable to you. Will you start looking for a new job? Will you turn down the job offer? Would you be less disappointed if the employer gave you something other than more money? If so, ask for something to sweeten the deal, like additional vacation time or other fringe benefits. Even if you didn't achieve your original goal of a higher salary, at least you won't feel defeated. And remember, you can always try again.