How to Negotiate Salary

Whether you are applying for your first job or seeking a new one, you should always be prepared to negotiate your salary. Kara Primrose, director of career services and John Petosa L’95, professor of practice, at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, lend their expertise to help professionals learn the best negotiating practices.

When to Negotiate

New job hunters and experienced professionals should both be prepared to negotiate their salary. Primrose states, “Sometimes salary questions can be asked on an application or in an interview, so you want to be ready, but don’t bring up salary until the employer does. Most commonly, salary will become part of the conversation when you have received a job offer.”

Petosa discusses other situations that you may be able to negotiate a salary. “When being promoted is another good time to negotiate and lastly, if you have another offer to leave, you may wish to discuss it with your present employer and negotiate a new salary,” he advises.

It is not appropriate to negotiate if you have already accepted a position or lack evidence to support why you deserve a higher wage.

“Never ask for pay increases because your life’s situation needs more money.  Negotiate based on the service you have provided, the value to the organization that you have delivered or will deliver,” Petosa explains. “In other words, you should be prepared to defend to your employer why you deserve more money because of what you have done for the organization.”

Do Your Research

Before you accept a position, you should have researched the job you are applying for and the market pay rates for the location you will be working in. This information can help you determine what a fair wage is like for other professionals in similar situations as you. It also gives you leverage when the time to negotiate arises.

Primrose explains, “When applying, you should have a sense of your value and your worth based on your skills, experience, and education, along with the typical salary for the role. To know your value and worth, you must do your research. You need to know the job opportunity, industry, economic climate, geographic location and other information. All factors will contribute to the offer you receive. Some resources for this research are:, LinkedIn and Glassdoor.”

How Do I Negotiate?

Discussing money can be awkward and uncomfortable, especially if it is your first time negotiating. It’s natural to be concerned about making a bad impression, but self-advocacy is necessary and important. It may also assuage your anxiety to remind yourself that the people negotiating with you want you at their company.

“Most companies will respect a candidate who discusses negotiation as long as they are informed and thoughtful in approaching the conversation,” says Primrose.

Primrose advises students to be mindful of their tone as they discuss salary and to not be too rigid in their expectations. She states, “You should work on knowing a range of salary that you would be open to taking, with the lower end of the range being the least you are willing to take. Talking in ranges as opposed to one concrete number will give you more flexibility in the conversation and shows you are willing to work on coming to a mutual agreement.”

In real life, not all salary negotiations go as planned. Sometimes you may be offered a higher wage than you were expecting, but other times your employer may not budge and offer you one less than is optimal.

Primrose tells students to practice what they want to say before entering the negotiation conversation and be prepared if the employer is not able to accommodate your wishes. “Have in your mind what you will do if they say no, but carefully and actively listen in the conversation. Get any amendments to your offer in writing. It is important to make sure everyone is clear on what is being agreed to. The worst thing that can happen is they say no to negotiating,” she says.

It is all right to take time to review your offer, plan with family and think away from the negotiating table. Just be sure to respond to your employer in a timely manner and always with gratitude.

Wage Gap Negotiation

Although women make up half of the workforce and have entered roles that prove they can excel in male dominant positions, there is still a lack of equity in the workforce. As of 2018, women only made approximately 82 cents for every $1 a man made and this discrepancy is even larger for women of color.

Primrose confirms, “Many sources, including Harvard Law School, demonstrate that men tend to come away from negotiations more favorably than women.” Even seemingly small differences in wage can impact a woman’s quality of living, the amount she is able to save each year and future wages.

Women have been socialized to be less confrontational and society sometimes stereotypes assertive women as bossy, which could be a reason fewer women attempt to negotiate than men according to the Harvard Business Review.

“I would advise women to find out what the pay for the position is at present and negotiate until she gets the same pay as her male counterpart.  There is no reason for a disparity when two people are doing the same job and generating the same output,” states Petosa.

Primrose reminds applicants, “Knowing your value and your worth as a candidate from a research perspective allows all candidates to negotiate from that standpoint instead of gender weighing as a major factor. Using your research, having information, and referring to the industry standards are some of the most powerful tools you can use in negotiating.”

Negotiating is Not All About Money

Although a good salary can lessen your financial burdens and provide you with additional spending money, wages are one of many items you may negotiate. Whether you are going to be an intern or rising senior leader, remembering what you value may make negotiating easier.

“For some people a higher salary is more important than flexibility and time off. For others, they may seek a different balance and may be willing to consider a more moderate salary if it means a quality of life they would like,” comments Primrose.

Salary is important to consider, but it is also only one part of an entire job offer. She explains, “Salary is just one component of negotiating. The whole offer considered should be inclusive of insurance, vacation and sick time, retirement contributions, and other benefits. These aspects of the offer have value as well and should be considered in the evaluation of offers. Location, travel, flexibility, work hours and opportunities for growth are a few other areas that contribute to the overall experience in the job.”

Primrose also reminds us that we must look at the big picture when negotiating a job offer. Just because an employer can’t provide exactly what you want now does not mean that you cannot open a discussion for negotiations later.

Negotiating takes research and time. Differentiating what you reasonably deserve compared to what you want is key. Primrose explains, “You are likely to have more leverage the deeper into your career you are though because you will have the experience to back up the request.”

She reminds us, “If Whitman students have questions about offers, would like to review details, and/or discuss negotiating, they can reach out to the Whitman Career Center team.”

Reach out to your Whitman Career Center advisor for any questions about negotiation.

Maya Bingaman
Latest posts by Maya Bingaman (see all)