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Negotiate Your Way to a Better Compensation Package

Congratulations, you got the job offer that you were waiting for! But, the employer offered a lower salary than you expected. The offer doesn’t reflect the value you will bring your new employer, but you may lack the nerve to negotiate for a better compensation package or worry how you’ll appear if you try. Arm yourself ahead of time with the right information and strategies to negotiate with confidence. Negotiation is a skill, and like any other, you can improve your game with practice.

Salary and Compensation Package Research

Research the new position’s salary range, taking into account market conditions, geography, competitors and the company itself. Find out the salary norms, benefits and perks that the company offers others in the same or similar position. Several salary websites (e.g., and can provide some of this information as a start.

After researching online, leverage people in your network who work (or have worked) for the company to get an inside perspective on the flexibility (or lack thereof) the company has regarding the compensation package. You’ll need this information to plan effectively how to approach the conversation with your new employer. You want to aim high, but not impossible. Asking for something you know to be out of reach may put the employer in an awkward situation and raise concerns that you won’t take the job if your requests aren’t met.

Know Your Value

In every negotiation, each party will have items they must have and things they’re willing to concede to reach an agreement. As you plan the terms you will ask for, clearly define how the salary you want reflects the value that you bring to the job. Keep in mind the minimum salary you can accept for this job and determine how the other elements of compensation package will complement it.

When negotiating a salary and compensation package, demonstrate your value through the contributions you’ve made throughout your career, especially in your most recent role. Discuss your experience driving revenue, business growth, cost savings, efficiency and productivity, using specific examples and results that relate to the current issues facing the organization or role, and the areas where you can help. The new employer may find it harder to ignore tangible evidence or quantifiable business growth.

Take Action: Negotiate a Better Compensation Package

Be Yourself

This negotiation is one of your first collaborations with your new employer, so remain the person that they like and want to hire. Identify who in the organization is the correct person to have the conversation with (each organization is different). Start out proposing the full salary you want, and back it up confidently with a rational explanation as to why you deserve it. Indicate clearly and calmly that you are serious about taking the offer. If you must discuss changes in the offer with HR or senior management, they’ll want assurance that you are still interested in the job and are not wasting their time.

Work Together

The employer may ask challenging questions to better understand your request. Don’t take it personally if they push back, or let tough questions ruin a positive attitude. Look at the negotiation as a collaborative discussion to attain a mutual agreement. Just as you want fair compensation for your value, the employer wants to make the right investment in a new employee (not to mention, stay within budget or salary limits).

Listen Carefully

Above all else, pay attention to the employer’s response, which will show the degree of willingness to accommodate your request and the possible reasons behind it. You may uncover areas of flexibility you hadn’t considered. For example, while the base salary may be non-negotiable, perhaps the employer can modify other areas of the compensation package to make up for it. By listening carefully, you can confirm your prior research or discover new information that may help you alter your request in the moment, if necessary, to reach an agreement.

Think Outside the Box

Even if your new employer understands your reasons for asking for a higher salary, they’re sometimes unable to meet your request. If this occurs, don’t give up –- negotiate for other benefits, such as a merit or signing bonus, increased commission, incentives, additional vacation, early 401K matching, professional development opportunities or tuition reimbursement. Additionally, consider asking for an interim performance appraisal with clearly defined goals and a salary adjustment before the formal annual review. This could help you to reach the desired salary faster after having the opportunity to demonstrate your abilities to the company.

Move Forward (Or If Necessary, Move On)

No one leaves a negotiation with everything they want, so making concessions shouldn’t discourage you. However, don’t concede an item from your list without getting something in return, as that will set a precedent to give more without reciprocity. Additionally, don’t divulge your minimums or concessions at the outset of the talk. Discuss them only when you are engaged in a true give and take. Both parties should feel they’ve gained something in the end.

Finally, prepare yourself to hear “no.” If the company is unable or unwilling to negotiate, know when to walk away. Accepting a sub-optimal offer, even if the job is great, could engender resentment if you feel under-compensated. Furthermore, it may take a long time to reach the salary level where you believe you should have started.

You may feel overwhelmed by the idea of negotiating, but it’s worthwhile and sometimes necessary when accepting a new job. Prepare yourself with well-research information, effective strategies and a positive mindset to foster a productive conversation and yield a compensation package you’re happy to accept.

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