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How to negotiate a salary offer

A male holds up two dress shirts as his female partner points to which one he should wear.
May 29, 2020

By Claire Hegstrom

In a recent study by The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), an alarming finding stated that “over the course of a person’s career, anyone who did not negotiate for a higher salary every time they started a new job would earn $500,000 to $1,000,000 less in lifetime income than an individual who was savvy when handling their salary compensation package.” Suddenly, salary negotiation sounds like a mandatory course we should’ve all been offered in college!

Given that the largest salary increases most workers receive during their careers happen when they move to a new company, job seekers have a lot more to prepare than just their interview answers. Knowing your worth is key, and we’re offering you some advice on gaining the salary you deserve as you make your next career move.

These five secrets could help you win your salary negotiation:

  1. Don’t let your unemployment mindset bully you. If you’ve been facing months of unemployment, you may be feeling pegged into a corner. If you were given an offer, know that this company is serious about obtaining your talent! Typically an employer’s first offer isn’t their best, or even close to the maximum they are willing to pay for the talent they want. Approaching your counteroffer with a grateful manner and quantifiable reasons why you deserve to make more will help the conversation stay calm and respectful.
  2. The words you use matter. A friend in human resources once revealed to me the secret distinctions our negotiating language holds. While your future company may not be able to offer you a “relocation package,” they may be willing to draft up a “sign-on bonus.” Having the confidence to ask for one after being turned down for the other could be the key to comfortably affording a big move, or maybe a workplace wardrobe upgrade.
  3. Put numeric value on your contributions to previous employers. Whether you’re a corporate event planner who ran 16 seamless company events, or a Learning and Development Specialist who trained 240 new hires last year, you should be able to speak to your past accomplishments. If you’re able to put a dollar amount on your achievements, even better. While crushing our day-to-day tasks can seem uneventful, putting together a list of your accomplishments every year can be an eye-opener to the real value you bring to an organization. Pro tip: Use your annual performance reviews from previous years to help remember and document your accomplishments.
  4. Research your worth. The simplest tool to give you confidence is knowing what others in your same field and geographic location are making. While revealing salaries was taboo in the past, companies like LinkedIn and Glassdoor are making it their jobs to arm business people with the knowledge that was once kept a secret. Glassdoor keeps up-to-date numbers available to the public by requesting your anonymous salary, job, years of experience, and location to unlock the salaries of jobs you may be searching for.
  5. Stay honest with yourself, and your hiring manager. While exceptional benefits and a promising bonus program can be incredibly helpful, your base salary is what you’ll be budgeting out in the long run. Know the absolute bottom offer you are willing to accept, but never lie to a hiring manager with a fake ultimatum you know you’re willing to dip well below.

Once you’ve done your research, dig deep and channel your inner confidence knowing that what you’re bringing to the table got you the offer in the first place! Negotiating your salary is the perfect way to show your future employer that you are serious, committed, and that you’re able to communicate in a respectful and confident manner. Good luck, and go get ’em!


Claire Hegstrom is an advocate of the credit union movement through and through. Passionate about financial education, she approaches money conversations from a candid and inclusive space focused on growth and awareness. As our credit union founding father, Ed Filene, once said, “Progress is the constant replacing of the best there is with something still better.” Claire hopes reading Money Mentor will help transform your life from the best to even better. 

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