Almost everyone gets nervous thinking about job offer negotiation. After all, you're excited to get the position and worried about what your new employer might think. Salary negotiation isn’t something to overlook just because it’s uncomfortable, though; even a small increase can mean an overall lifetime gain in the six-figure range.
Before broaching the topic with the potential employer, you need to prepare a pretty strong case for yourself. Having this conversation via email is fine if that’s the only way you’ve communicated with the hiring manager in the past, but it’s easier to negotiate over the phone or in person. Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information together with the negotiation prep worksheet and determined your relative power, you can start planning what to say. Use the sample salary negotiation scripts below to craft your own persuasive spiel.
The opener: Be clear that you’re interested in the position and the company. You want to make it worth the employer’s time to keep working with you toward a mutually beneficial compromise.
Example: “Thank you so much for the offer! I’m very excited for this opportunity. However, I would like to discuss compensation if you’re available to talk.”
Your proposal: The best way to introduce your salary negotiation depends on the reason you deserve a higher wage. *Note: When you give your proposed salary, suggest a better rate than your true goal. This gives you some wiggle room for a counter offer.
For a below-average offer: “I’ve done some research, and I found that [offered salary] is actually below average for similar positions in the [work location] area. Would you consider [proposed salary]?”
For an offer below your expectations: “I know I can bring a lot of value to [company name] with my [2–3 of your unique skills or achievements]. I was really looking for a base salary of [proposed salary].”
If you’ve received a higher offer: “I’m highly interested in working with [company name], but do have an offer for [competitor’s offered salary] from another organization. If you can match this figure, I’ll be on board!”
Response to indecision: If the hiring manager tries to put you off by saying something like they already gained approval for the offer you received, but don’t explicitly say the salary is fixed or nonnegotiable, you still have the chance to assert your case.
Example: “I completely understand, and I’m still very excited. My [2–3 competencies or qualities] are a perfect fit for [company name], and I would like to discuss a salary closer to [proposed salary].”
Counter offer: Sometimes, you need to focus on overall job offer negotiation rather than focusing specifically on salary negotiation. If the employer tells you there isn’t any flexibility in your starting wage, try asking for additional benefits.
Time 1: “I understand the best you can offer is [original salary]. If you can also give me [benefit #1] to help make up the difference, I’ll be delighted to join the team.”
If refused: “OK, [benefit #1] is not an option. Are you open to [benefit #2] instead?”
If refused again: “We’re at [original salary] and you’re unable to do [benefit #2]. But if you can extend [benefit #3], I’ll be excited to accept!”
If the employer again declines to upgrade your package, it’s time to stop negotiating and make some hard choices.
Decision: No matter what you decide, be gracious and professional. You never know how negative dealings with employers in your industry could affect your career in the future. Don’t burn bridges that might be useful in later job searches.
Acceptance: “Thank you for all your help and understanding. I’m excited to accept your offer of [decided salary] and [negotiated benefits], and look forward to joining the team!”
Decline: “I’m sorry we were unable to come to an agreement. Unfortunately, I have chosen not to accept this offer because of [reason for rejection]. Thank you for your interest in me, and I wish you all the best.”
Need more time: “Thank you for this offer; I’m thrilled to have been given the opportunity to work at [company]. When do you need my answer by?”
Make sure to send an official letter of acceptance or refusal after you’ve replied with a verbal answer. This is the time to lay out the final terms of your compensation in writing.
While these sample salary negotiation scripts are a great start, the true key to negotiating salary is to stay cool and collected. Don’t let anxiety push you to make a decision you’ll regret later. If you need a moment to think about a new offer or to gather your thoughts, allow a brief pause in the conversation. With a well-prepared and practiced script at your disposal and a calm attitude, you’re well on your way to conquering your next salary negotiation.
Harvard Law School – Negotiating Your Offer
Josh Doody – Salary Negotiation Script Example
Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service – Salary Negotiation Guide