The very thought of salary negotiation makes many job seekers nervous. In fact, so many people find negotiating their salary intimidating that they don’t bother doing it all. 

Only 31% of Canadians say they’ve never negotiated their salary. For women, the number was even bigger. 68% of women said they’ve never negotiated compensation. That’s a lot of money left on the table. 

How do you negotiate salary? Once you get the hang of salary negotiation and gain some practice, it isn’t nearly as intimidating as you might think. 

Two woman sitting in restaurant having a converstation, looking at laptop, smiling.
Two woman sitting in restaurant having a converstation, looking at laptop, smiling.

Here are some salary negotiation tips and tricks of the trade to help you become a master salary negotiator.

put the first number on the table.

A great salary negotiation tip is that candidates often need to learn to speak first and ask for more or more. But there are many advantages to doing so: 

  • The person who puts up the first number holds a lot of power. 
  • The first number sets the baseline for all subsequent negotiations. 
  • When you start high, hiring managers cannot offer a low-ball offer. Job seekers often fear speaking up first and asking for too much or too little. 

If the hiring manager puts forth the first number and it’s lower than you expected, it’s more challenging to negotiate than to defend your ask when you speak up first.

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start at the top of your salary range.

If you’re looking for a salary range of around $60,000 to $75,000 range, the salary negotiation number you put on the table should be close to $75,000 or maybe even a little above. 

If you start high, you’ll hopefully be comfortably within your acceptable range by the time your salary negotiations are finished. 

It may be tempting to share your entire range, based on your skills and experience, to show that you’re flexible, but that can backfire if they come back with an offer at the bottom. 

The bottom line is that you indicated that was an acceptable offer, so backtracking and asking for more can seem wishy-washy.

pick a slightly unusual number.

A fantastic salary negotiation tip is asking for an unusual number. Increase the salary that you’re looking for to $51,200 rather than $50,000. 

It’s a psychological trick and a great way to get a higher salary. In this job market, when you ask for a neat, round salary, the person on the other side is more likely to assume you pulled the number out of a hat and don’t have an objective justification for it. 

However, when you pick a very specific salary, it’s assumed that you have a reason for choosing such a precise number. 

It makes the hiring manager on the other side of the table approach negotiation less aggressively because they assume you know what you’re talking about.

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always counteroffer.

If the hiring manager puts the first offer on the table, always negotiate, even if you really like the offer. 

Employers build room into their compensation packages for counter-offers—they rarely come out of the gate with their best and final offers. 

Hiring managers assume that new hires will propose a counteroffer before accepting. So go ahead and negotiate the salary. Hiring managers expect you to. 

You don’t have anything to lose but have something to gain, such as a higher salary, better benefits packages, or more vacation time. 

The original offer will likely remain on the table if they say no. In this job market, job offers will rarely disappear because you tried to negotiate.

don’t be afraid of hearing ‘no.’

Fear is a driving factor in job negotiations. So how to negotiate salary without fear? Job seekers tend to make conservative offers and counteroffers, hoping to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of being shot down. 

It’s important to remember that rejection is a standard part of negotiating and not the end of the conversation. 

Negotiating a higher salary is essentially the art of saying, ‘No, but…’ Hearing ‘no’ during negotiations isn’t necessarily bad. Don’t let it scare you from asking for what you want.

negotiate other benefits, too.

There’s more to a job offer than the money. Monetary compensation is important, yes. But don’t forget to look at other benefits like :

  • more paid vacation
  • dental and health insurance 
  • RRSP matching and pensions
  • stock and investment plans
  • wellness and convenience perks

There’s often room to negotiate these things, even if your salary increase is capped, so don’t forget about them! 

With additional benefits packages, you could gain an extra week of vacation, a higher retirement match, or a free gym membership that is just as valuable to you as a minor increase in your base salary.

talk to a recruiter.

Recruiters are specialists in their field—they tend to work in a specific industry and know it inside out. They also hire people and negotiate salaries every day and will have excellent salary negotiation tips. 

So they have a firm grasp on your market value and can help you assess your skills in a much more precise way than an online salary checker.

be willing to walk away.

A salary negotiating tip is that most of the time, it requires compromise. However, both parties will have lines they can’t cross. 

Determining your hard limits before entering a negotiation is important. You must also be willing to walk away if the compensation package doesn’t meet them. 

If you think meeting in the middle is possible, go ahead and counter. However, if the gap is too large and you don’t see an offer you’ll be happy with materializing, be willing to throw in the towel. 

Don’t accept an offer that doesn’t make you feel good. Your skills and experience are your worth, and you shouldn’t settle.

salary negotiation tip: schedule negotiation on thursday or friday.

Hiring managers are more stressed early and mid-week, making salary negotiating at these times more challenging.

Thursdays and Fridays are the best days of the week to negotiate for a higher salary. When everyone’s winding down, ready for the weekend, and in the best mood, the end of the week is the ideal time to approach a negotiation. Happy hiring managers are easier to negotiate with. 

be firm and confident.

When negotiating salary or benefits packages, take a firm, confident stance. A hiring manager is more likely to respect someone firm in their convictions. 

If you say you need four weeks of vacation or a different benefits package to feel comfortable accepting an offer, stick to your guns. 

Waffling and changing your mind midway through negotiations about an acceptable offer is a surefire way to walk away with an offer you’re less than happy with. 

There’s a difference between compromising and settling for whatever you can get.

demonstrate your value.

When negotiating salary, frame your ask regarding the value, skills, and experience you bring to the organization. 

There’s no shame in highlighting your skills and experience that make you worth the investment or comparing and contrasting other offers you’ve received to negotiate a higher salary. 

Context matters. If you’re asking for more than another candidate—but you also have additional certifications they don’t, that means something. Have your elevator pitch ready. 

Just because you’ve reached the job offer stage doesn’t mean it’s no longer helpful—you deserve a higher salary!

look to the future.

When negotiating salary, it’s easy to get mired in discussing your past experiences and how they justify your future salary. 

However, it’s a good idea to frame your salary negotiations in terms of what you’ll do for the company hiring you.

How will the skills you’ve learned add value going forward? What will you work on when they bring you aboard that will justify their investment in you?

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