The art of the deal: How to negotiate a stellar salary in 2024

For months it felt like it may never happen. Then, suddenly, as if it had always been patiently biding its time waiting for the perfect moment to reveal itself, the long-awaited job offer finally arrives. The emotional rollercoaster is real as doubt and disbelief quickly fade and make way for excitement, anticipation, and probably a little bit of trepidation as the reality of following through on all those promises and proclamations made during the interview process dawn on you. 

Being offered a job can feel like a weight being lifted from one’s shoulders, but make no mistake, the work is just beginning. And we’re not talking about your first day on the job. 

Now that you’ve landed a great new position, it’s time to enter into salary negotiations. You know what you’re worth, and despite the fact you’ve already been hired and presumably recognized as an invaluable asset, your new employer still may need some convincing before what you expect to earn matches up with what they’re prepared to pay. 

What not to do when negotiating your salary

To start, never make the common mistake of attempting to talk numbers before you actually receive the job offer. You will have much more leverage during salary negotiations after accepting an offer. If the hiring manager asks you about your financial expectations for the role while interviewing, keep your response vague by going with a broad salary range as opposed to a specific figure.  

Additionally, it’s a good idea to avoid a “me vs. them” strategy. After all, you’re about to join the team! Fascinating research from the American Psychological Association published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that when entering into a series of negotiations the “financially vulnerable” (so, basically everyone looking for a job) tend to feel like their success in the exchange must come at the expense of the other party. Remember, negotiating a salary isn’t a zero-sum game; you’re not trying to “get one over” on your new employer. You and the hiring manager should be equally pleased with the terms of the final deal. 

On the opposite end of that perspective, it’s also key not to handle salary negotiations with kid gloves. A noteworthy piece of research recently published in Organization Science describes a new phenomenon among organizations that has seen many employers place a greater emphasis on the businesses’ altruistic or ecological efforts throughout the hiring process. Programs aimed at reducing the employer’s carbon footprint, for example. 

While there’s nothing wrong with calling attention to a company’s good deeds, and such programs are highly valued by modern jobseekers, researchers discovered hearing about all that altruism often makes job candidates hesitant to ask for more money. If the company is making sacrifices for the greater good, why shouldn’t my wallet? Don’t assume that more money for you means less money for these important programs. That’s simply not how profitable organizations are structured.

How to negotiate your salary

There’s no one strategy that will see you walk out of salary negotiations smiling from ear to ear, and the truth is, in many cases you may not have to do much negotiating at all. There’s a reason why you were offered the position in the first place, and assuming you keep your expectations reasonable and your manner respectable, there’s a high percentage chance the entire process will be quick, painless, and perhaps even pleasant. All that being said, it’s always best to prepare for all possibilities. Here are a few tips to help make your salary negotiation a success story.

Be prepared

You probably already answered a number of tough questions during the interview process, but it’s best to assume a few more are waiting for you during salary negotiations. Be prepared to back up your monetary requests with specific examples of why you’re worth it. Prepare a few bullet points you can touch on to validate your case. These talking points can range from past professional accomplishments such as revenue driven or awards won, to comparable average salaries being paid to professionals in similar roles at other companies.

One relevant research project published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology offers an unexpected piece of advice. Avoid rounded-off figures when making your initial salary request. So, for example, instead of asking for a starting salary of $85,000 annually go with $85,400 instead. Such a small change may seem inconsequential, but scientists say opting for a more precise figure helps give the impression that you’re well informed and know what you’re talking about. 

Take a Goldilocks approach

While we all want to earn as much as we can, the first salary figure you submit for consideration shouldn’t be skyhigh. Adopting such an aggressive approach almost always leads to resentment from the other side of the negotiating table, and in most cases, you’ll end up being forced to accept a low-ball counteroffer. Alternatively, there’s no good in selling yourself short and asking for less than your worth. 

So what’s the solution? The answer can be found in a children’s fairy tale. Just like Goldilocks preferred her porridge not too hot and not too cold, your first salary suggestion shouldn’t be exorbitantly high nor should it be too low. Scientific research published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior focusing on this topic concluded the best first offer one can make during salary negotiations is the highest reasonable figure typically seen in comparable positions.

In other words, aim for the highest possible salary, but remember to place an emphasis on possible. This strategy shows decisionmakers you’re well-informed on the average salary ranges within your area of expertise, confident you place within the top one percent of such professionals, yet still realistic when it comes to earning potential.