Salary Negotiation Tactics – 6 Practical Tips

Perhaps it’s because I am Chinese or because I loved my negotiations class in business school, I firmly believe no matter what the circumstance is for your initial job offer, you should negotiate for more (as long as you do it right!).

It does not matter whether the economy is booming or not, once you get a job offer – negotiate. Just two months ago, a friend got an 20% increase in his contractor rate after he negotiated. In this case, his client low-balled him as many would do during the recession because it’s an employer’s market. Many people are so thankful that they were offered anything that they forget to ask for a fair compensation. It’s still smart and okay to negotiate even in a tough market.

Here are four salary negotiation tactics that have worked for me and my clients over and over again.  There are also two tips on what not to do during salary negotiation.   Being tactful is key.   You do not want to end up with the results like this cartoon.

Four salary negotiation tactics 

  1. Be creative with what you negotiate. Your compensation is much more than just salary. There is also signing bonus, performance bonus, moving expenses, car stipend (if you have to drive far for work), 401K matching, title, vacation time, or pay grade. For example, even if the company can’t pay you a good salary now because of caps set in place due to the economy, if you have a higher pay grade setting, then your future salary and increase could be higher.
  2. Be specific and reasonable – tell the company what you actually want (a 10% increase, a guaranteed 5% bonus based on performance, a VP title, etc…) and make sure it’s not ridiculous. I was hiring someone who actually asked for 30% more in her salary when I know she was already getting a 15% increase from her last salary. We almost rescinded her offer.
  3. Tell them at least one and preferable two plausible reasons why you are negotiating for more. It’s no good and could even be offensive if you just said you want more money and can’t say why. Some good reasons are: 1. you have a better offer (whether you want to bluff about this is up to you as just like Poker, there is a chance they won’t call you on it); 2. your market rate is higher (meaning the average paying rate right now for this level is X% higher than your offer); 3. your current offer is a big step down from past compensation; 4. sometimes the sympathy card could even work and say “I have a new baby and I am just trying to make sure I can get by and 10% more could really help!” You would be surprised at what you can leave on the table if you don’t ask
  4. Express your enthusiasm to work for the company when negotiating. No employers wants to give you more unless they know that you are almost certain to take it if they agreed. Also, it doesn’t hurt to convey that you have very good reasons (other than compensation) why you want to work for the company.

Two things to avoid during salary negotiation

  1. Don’t ever give an ultimatum – or anything that could be construed as an ultimatum. Salary negotiation is an art form and takes practice. Don’t ever back yourself into a corner because you most likely still want to take the job if they said no.
  2. Don’t be arrogant or an A__ when negotiating: Remember the person you are negotiating with is mostly likely your future boss or someone who can influence your future boss’ opinion of you. This salary negotiation should be a good experience for both sides.

More people have been surprised at what they can get when they used the right salary negotiation tactics.  It doesn’t hurt to ask if you do it right. With that said, there is no guarantee anything will change with your offer. If the company declines your proposal, be sure to thank them for their consideration and make your decision on whether to join based on existing offer. Either way, you would have gained more experience on how to approach negotiation in the future.  We will change jobs many times in our careers.  The experience you gain in mastering these salary negotiation tactics will pay off again and again in the future.

Good luck out there!  I am always in your corner

– Lei

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Very nice article!
currently i stuck with same situation on how should i negotiate my pay raise, i have searched for many tips on internet but finally came to this great article with best possible tips and guide to negotiate salary hike. Thanks a lot for sharing with us, will be so helpful with this!


Hi Lei,

My professor told me that, usually when you propose a number, that most times it tends to be on average $5,000 less than the number they were thinking about.

With that said, I’ve always been the type to try to negotiate. Do you have any qualms with deflecting the question to say, “Salary is important, but what is more important to me is being apart of a winning team, that is committed to excellence like you all. At the moment I just want to join your team, the salary is secondary factor to me” ?



Hi Lei,

I read your blog on negotiations, which is great timing. My question is, what if the other party refuses to negotiate? If one side is rigid, and does not move, what should the other party do?

Eg in some countries (unlike US where folks are more creative and flexible), most people do not deviate from the “set” rules, and so would not budge in any front, nor offer alternatives. How would you advise handling these situations?