Ask for what you’re worth

Career advisor Greg Lewis answers 10 questions about negotiating your salary, whether it’s your first job or later in your career

Greg Lewis

There is a difference between hourly and salaried employees. Are the guidelines for negotiations the same for both or are there different considerations that should be accounted for?

The guidelines are generally the same. In either instance, the applicant should always negotiate. To do this effectively, know your value related to the job, including your relevant experience, skills, education.
Do your homework on pay ranges for the role you seek and feel confident in asking for a specific number to start the negotiation. Finally, don’t be afraid of no…employers expect some form of negotiation.

It is worth it. Where you start with salary has an impact on your long-term income and negotiating lets a new employer know you are confident about your abilities.

Reflecting on your first years as a working adult, what are some tips you wish you knew/followed when going for a job?

In my early twenties, I did not know that one should always negotiate and that it is an expected aspect of the hiring process. Given that increased salaries will impact your long-term financial future, I always advise negotiating salary or other benefits.

Be prepared to counter offer through proper research on the role and an honest assessment of your value for the position. There are more resources available today to help an applicant determine appropriate salary numbers/ranges (see #3 below).

In addition, use your personal network, platforms like LinkedIn or join a professional association to connect with professionals in your field. You can learn more about pay ranges and hiring practices for certain jobs through these conversations.

Bottom line: use a variety of resources to research your range that will establish for yourself a bottom salary number you won’t go below and a high number that would be ideal.

What are some of the biggest or most common blunders people make negotiating a salary?

I think failure to negotiate is still at the top of the list. A fear of losing the job opportunity or lack of a strategy keep people from negotiating much (if at all). Some other areas that may cause challenges include:

Timing: Defer salary conversations until later in the interview process, preferably when some official offer has been made. Focus on the job and your fit vs. discussing compensation earlier in the interview process. If you bring it up too early, it might be a red flag for an interviewer.

Doing your homework: Make sure you have an accurate picture of what the job pays in your area and know your value for that role. Consider your relevant experience, skills and training for the role when developing a number you are comfortable requesting.
A few websites that can help start the research process include:
Occupational Outlook Handbook
Please note: Use two or more resources to validate the range you identify. Do not go with one person’s perspective or one website when deciding on your range or counteroffer. Utilizing multiple sources is just good business.

When a job announcement asks for a “salary history” or “salary expectations” what is the best way to address this in your initial query showing you’re interested in the job?

When at all possible, defer the salary topic by listing “negotiable or “open to negotiation” on an application. You want to learn more about the job, your fit and their salary range before offering an expectation. If you must provide a number/range on the application, do your research to determine a fair number or range to provide.

After landing an interview, how soon should one expect the topic of salaries to be brought up? If salary isn’t brought up during a second interview, how should the topic be approached without making it look as if you’re in it “only for the money”?

Good question. It depends on the employer/hiring manager on how and when the salary topic may arise. Some interviews involve many stages while others may be only one interview before hiring decisions are made. Most employers will bring up the salary topic when there is definitive interest in offering a job. An employer may ask the question to see if compensation will be an issue in the final decision.
Be prepared with a number or range as you start the interview process.
As mentioned, its always best to allow the employer to bring up the salary topic and defer until you feel strong about an offer. However, if you have not discussed salary yet in the interview process and want to know what the salary might be, you can tactfully ask the interviewer if they have a range in mind for the role. See an example below:
I’m excited to learn more about the position and the duties, and what the team’s like, before discussing salary. If possible, can you share what salary range you’re considering for this position?”
This will give you an idea and keep in mind that they will likely offer on the low end of range provided, so research and identify a higher, more fair number to counter the employer offer.

How would you respond to this question in an interview for a job you really want?: “Before we go any further I want to emphasize the salary is (XXX) and there is no room in the budget for more. Are you good with that?”

There is almost always room to negotiate, so it is worth a try. This is where the research comes in. If you believe you deserve a higher number than be prepared to make your case. Highlight your match to the job and the specific qualifications that make you the top candidate for the job.
If there truly is no room to negotiate on salary, consider alternatives like an incentive plan to increase salary with strong performance or other benefits like vacation time, a signing bonus or even stock options that might excite you about the new job beyond salary.

You’ve accepted a job offer only to discover that relative to others in the same position you are going to be underpaid. Is it too late to renegotiate?

If you have only offered a verbal acceptance, you can certainly ask to renegotiate job offer terms. Do it quickly and be prepared with your research to prove why you deserve an increased salary.
If you signed a written offer, it gets a little more complicated. You must decide whether renegotiating salary after the fact is worth it as you start with a new employer. It can be done but it has some risks as a hiring manager or company may have concerns if you revisit a written agreement.

You’ve landed a job after taking the first offer they make you. When is the right time to ask for raise and how do you bring up that you want more money even though you indicated you were happy with the budgeted salary?

While you may not be able to recoup the money lost in the initial salary negotiation, you can make a case for a salary increase more in line with your worth/ value during annual performance reviews. Track your successes and quantify your impact on the team (money made/saved, contribution to growth of team).

Are there different salary negotiation tactics and strategies for people just starting in their career (20s and 30s) versus those who are older (40s and older)?

I’m not sure the strategies for those two populations vary as much as priorities for workers in these age groups might.
Younger workers may be more concerned with salary while a mid-career professional may care more about work-life balance items like vacation or long-term financial programs like retirement accounts. Regardless of age group, it is important to identify what matters to you and research what are key benefits included beyond salary.

What else do we need to know about negotiating a salary during an interview and acceptance process?

The more prepared you are the better your chances of managing a successful salary negotiation that meets the need of employer and employee. Professional communication when negotiating salary is critical. Always keep in mind that the negotiation isn’t personal, it’s part of the hiring process. A professional approach will be one of appreciation for the job offer and a polite but confident stance regarding your value. The negotiation should always be respectful and more of a conversation with the employer. Remember, your goal is to work for the company, so the negotiation should be conducted with the goal of both sides winning and feeling good about the new relationship.
3 takeaways:
Do your homework.
Communicate professionally.
Don’t be afraid of no!

Greg Lewis, a Career Advisor with University of Phoenix (, has a passion for helping students throughout the career development process with the goal of preparing individuals to successfully manage their careers. He has over 10 years of career development experience, including direct support of transitioning military and spouses. He received a Bachelor of Arts in History from Santa Clara University and a Master of Arts in Postsecondary Educational Leadership from San Diego State University. Greg’s career started as a middle school teacher, coach and athletic director and included many years as a consultant in the educational publishing industry.
In his spare time, Greg enjoys spending time with family, attending sporting events, and fishing in the mountains.