How Do I Negotiate My Salary?

Probably the worst part of the interview process (if you’re lucky enough to get this far), is the negotiation stage. As a college student or recent graduate, entering this stage is known to produce large amounts of sweat, anxiety, hives, you name it.

When an employer makes you an offer, instead of agreeing to the initial amount right off the bat, there are a few things you can do in order to increase your chances of getting the best possible salary.

First, before any salary conversation happens, figure out what the average salary is for the role and make sure it applies to the city you’ll be working in. A salary for an accounting job in New York City can be vastly different from an accountant’s salary in Omaha, Nebraska. Use sites like Payscale and Glassdoor for this information.

Next, figure out what you need to earn in order to live. Consider health and car insurance, phone bills, food expenses and anything else that plays into your daily or monthly living expense. Once you tally up your bills and know how much you’ll need to pay on top of commuting expenses or rent, negotiating is going to be something you’ll need and want to do for your own good.

After figuring out a fair salary amount, plan to aim a little higher when talking to a potential employer. This will give you the best chance of getting offered the salary you are comfortable making.

All this preparation will help you get into the right frame of mind for the actual salary discussion that usually sounds like this:

Employer: “We are prepared to offer you X amount per year.”

Job Candidate: “Oh, okay. That sounds good to me. I accept.”

Do NOT be this job candidate. Sure it feels great to be offered a salary at all, especially when it’s your first job out of college, but keep in mind that there’s always room to negotiate. Most employers expect it.

So here’s the alternative route to take using your research and the awkward pause strategy:

Employer: “We are prepared to offer you X amount per year.”

Job Candidate: Initiate awkward pause and reply, “I’m really excited about this opportunity and working at this company, but I was hoping the salary would be higher. The amount I have in mind is X.” (Remember, this is the higher amount, not the actual amount you’re aiming to get. You’re hoping the employer will come back with an amount closer to your goal number.)

Here’s where a longer, 30-second awkward pause comes into play and it’s going to feel like a Mexican standoff because neither you or your potential employer will want to be the first to speak. As painful as it is, bite your tongue, embrace the silence, and let the employer come back with the first response.

Typically, the employer will say something like this:

Employer: “I’m not sure if we can do this but I’ll talk to my superiors and get back to you.”

This is a good thing. It means your number is going to be considered. Even if the employer comes back and says they can’t do it, remember that there are other things aside from salary that can be negotiated, like work flexibility and time off.

Lets be honest, no one enjoys the awkward pause but it has been known to work in the job candidate’s favor more often than not. It shows an employer you know what you want, you know what you’re worth, and you’ve done the research. Stay strong in your negotiation talk and prove to an employer that you’re worth every penny!

For this post, Doostang thanks our friends at WetFeet.


  1. John says

    For older workers, say, 40 or more, here’s something I’ve done successfully on two occasions coming into a new company. I ask for one week’s worth of PTO or vacation time be granted to me immediately when coming on board. As a mature person, it’s pretty demeaning to be forced to work 5-6 months before taking some paid time off, even for necessaries or medical reasons. I’ve been pleasantly surprised the times I’ve asked for it. Try it!

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