How to Negotiate Salary (With Scripts and Templates)

Updated Mar 22, 202330 min
How to Negotiate Salary (With Scripts and Templates)

How to Negotiate Salary (With Scripts and Templates)

Elise GelwicksUpdated Mar 22, 202330 min
How to Negotiate Salary (With Scripts and Templates)

What is the first thing you'll do when you get the offer? Celebrate 🎉🎉🎉! Seriously, take some time to soak up your accomplishment. Getting a job offer is a big deal. A ton of work goes into a successful job search! Feel proud.

And after that? Take a breath 🧘🏻‍♀️. Don't be afraid and feel rushed to accept right away. Even if you are already fantasizing about your new job, it's to your advantage to slow down and craft a negotiation plan. You don't need to dive right into the salary negotiation right when you get the offer. By taking your time, you increase your chances of landing a higher salary.

We'll show you how with these salary negotiation tips.

How to Respond to the Offer

During a Phone Call

The potential employer may deliver the first offer and share the compensation information with you live over the phone.

When you get that call, assuming the offer is within your salary expectations, be mentally prepared to give a non-answer and get off the phone so that you can think properly.

If the Salary Offer is Pretty Good

First, take some time to express your gratitude, appreciation, and excitement for the role.

At this moment, the company will be getting a temperature check on you and looking to make sure that you're legitimately interested. Don't skimp here! Express to them:

  • Your gratitude and appreciation for the good news

  • Why you're excited about the opportunity

  • Why you see this is a great fit

Next, buy yourself some time. Let the offerer know in the nicest way possible that you're not going to say yes right away. You can just say, "Naturally, I'll want to take some time to digest the good news. While we're on the phone together, let me see what questions I have."

Then, take the rest of your call with them to ask any questions just to understand what they're offering. Sometimes, when they tell you all the numbers on the call, they won't tell you all the details right off the bat.

To properly evaluate the offer, you'll need to look at more than just the salary offer. To understand the entire benefits package, you can ask questions like:

  • Is there a bonus? How is it calculated?

  • Are there stock options or equity as part of the package?

  • What health benefits do you offer?

  • Do you sponsor 401K?

  • Is there health insurance, childcare, and parental leave?

  • What is the vacation time policy?

  • Are there other benefits I should be aware of?

So if you're on the phone with them, make sure you get the answers to these questions before you hang up. You'll need them to evaluate the offer properly.

If You Feel Lowballed

If their first number is more than 20% lower than you'd accept, you might feel hurt and lowballed. When that's the case, you'll need to indicate that during the phone call without conveying that the deal is off the table for you.

Your talking points in that situation will be:

  1. Thank you so much. I'm honored to be selected

  2. I feel the role, and the team is such a great fit

  3. Let me be upfront with you. The offer is decidedly lower than I was expecting based on all of the information that I have

  4. I am still really excited about this opportunity and would love to make this work with you

You might be surprised how the prospective employer responds to this. Smaller companies hiring a new position often don't have the best information about the job market and what you're market value is. You won't always get higher pay with this strategy but you should still go through the negotiation process.

Via an Email

This one is much easier! You'll celebrate, text your people, and let it feel good!

When this happens, you'll want to respond quickly to make sure that you express interest. Remember, the company representatives may feel a bit nervous, too – especially if you're negotiating with a hiring manager who's excited to get you on their team and working.

Evaluating the Offer 🧐

First, let's determine what your compensation package is worth. We recommend plugging all your inputs into this calculator to determine your package's actual value across all the components of your package. It also accounts for taxes, which can be important because bonuses are taxed higher than the base salary. You'll also want to compare it to your current salary and total compensation (which might be higher than you think!).

Once you calculate the offer's bottom line, you can adequately compare the proposal to the numbers you came up with earlier in your expectation setting.

Should I Negotiate via Phone or Email?

The next decision to make is whether you will make your first #askformore in a live call or over email.

How should you pick?

It depends on the situation, including:

  • How much the other party seems to want to negotiate live vs. on the phone. Read the tea leaves!

  • How much more are you hoping to get vs. their initial offer. It's unlikely somebody will say yes to 30% more in an email.

Nine times out of 10, we recommend getting on the phone to negotiate or doing it face-to-face if you can. People are biologically wired to be more giving when they think of you as a living, breathing human being!

Yes, it would be far less intimidating to negotiate over email, but it's also far less effective.

Remember to learn from the best and role-play to prepare. There is no substitute for role-playing to win in a high-pressure situation. Executives, Presidents, and the best people in the world all do it, and you should, too!

How to Ask For More Information 🖐️

Are you sure you have the full details of the package? If not, you won't be done evaluating the offer yet. In that case, you'll need to start with some initial clarifying questions to help you consider it, like this:

Sometimes, you might have fundamental questions about the company or the opportunity you want to start with. Or, you might need an excellent way to stall while you wait to hear back from other companies. (Don't say you heard it from us 😉)

In that scenario, say:

If you already have all the information needed, skip these two steps and go into actual negotiations.

The negotiation starts with our first move – most often, an email where you set up a call to negotiate.

How to Negotiate An Offer

Annnddd congratulations! We are now in negotiation territory. Woohoo! 🥳

First things first, you're going to focus your ask and get your head in the game.

You can think of your total compensation in terms of "steak" and "potatoes". The "steak" is the part of your offer that you feel is the most important. The "potatoes" are the parts that round things out for you but aren't mission-critical.

First, decide which aspect of your offer is the "steak" and optimize your plan around getting that. For most people, this ends up being the base salary or equity.

From there, plan for there to be two rounds of negotiation. Focus the entire first round of bargaining on getting the steak. Plan to ask for the potatoes in a second round. Trust that you'll have time between rounds to go through the whole flow again from start to finish.

Set Up a Call

As quickly as is comfortable, you'll want to respond to the offer and set up a call where you make several arguments for why you should be paid more. You'll then ask explicitly for more and discuss through the employers' objections in that same call. You'll want to send this email fairly shortly after receiving the offer so that the opportunity stays very warm on both sides.

If You Feel Pretty Good 

To set up the call, say something short and sweet. Express enthusiasm without giving too much away:

Once you've sent this email, you're good to go to move on to the next section! Hop down to "Draft Your Reasons" below.

If You Feel Lowballed 

If you get the offer over email and it is much lower than you expect, you might be tempted to emotionally give up on the opportunity. Don't! We've seen some crazy things happen in negotiation land. It isn't over until it's over. 

It's best in a situation like this to get them on the phone. But if you're willing to walk away and end up emailing the hiring manager, say something like:

 In this message, you're conveying that you're not satisfied with the status quo, and you're firm around that with reasons you'll reinforce during the call. This email won't make the employer feel good, but it's not likely to make them feel entirely turned off, either.

Preparing for the Negotiation Call

Alright! You've sent your email to set up the call and are getting ready for it.

It's an excellent time to revisit the work above on setting your expectations. They might have changed based on conversations you've had with the team in the interim.

Assuming you're ready to proceed, your next hurdle is to draft the reasons you will give in the call for why your compensation should be higher than initially offered.

Here are some prompts to help guide your thinking:

Ensure you are clear about why you're the right person for this role and what makes you so valuable for it. Your job is to demonstrate that you're not just any candidate, you're the PERFECT candidate, and they need you right now. 

Doing so will enable you to confidently convince the employer that what you're asking for is a perfectly reasonable accommodation. 

Once you've got your reasons, practice saying them out loud! Use the Placement Practice app, find a mirror, find a friend, use your Voice Memos. Your future self will thank you for practicing! 

How to Negotiate Over Email

We don't recommend negotiating over email, but we know some of you are going to do it anyway. So if you must, be sure to strike a tone that is both gracious and firm. Customize the following email template to fit the specific situation you are in.

How to Negotiate on the Phone

Alright, it's go-time, and you're about to get on a call to negotiate your offer. 

Review your key talking points, the numbers you're going to suggest, and the compelling explanation for why your proposed compensation increase is justified. Open your notes. 

It's normal to feel a little bit nervous. This is the moment. 😅

Remember that the outcome of the first round of negotiation isn't usually the final verbal agreement. It's an agreement for both sides to do some homework and regroup. Often, the call will end with them saying they need to discuss it internally and get back to you. 

Besides, you can always end the conversation yourself with a statement like the below:

  • Want to make an informed decision after thinking about it

  • Have to run the numbers after seeing the entire package

  • Need to talk to your partner/family as a next step

Finally, get your ears open to listen to their responses. It's easy to focus on the points you're trying to convey that you forget to listen carefully to what the other person is saying. Active listening communicates that you value their perspective. It also helps you respond in a way that directly addresses any of their questions or concerns. 

Good luck! We believe in you. ☘️

What to Say in the Negotiation Call

Let's take a look at what the negotiation phone call might sound like.

There are 1,000 ways this can play out, so this is just one example!

The key takeaway here is to see how to use best the reasons you generated in the exercise above.  

Recruiter: Hi, Ankur! I'm so excited that we're able to move forward! The team's feedback was very positive, and we're very much looking forward to getting you onboard our rocket ship. Did you have any questions you wanted to go over?

Ankur: Thanks, Jordan! I'm so excited about this role. Thank you, again, for offering me this opportunity. First and foremost, I want to share that I am thrilled as well. I was having coffee just this morning with the hiring manager again and had the opportunity to learn a lot more about your Q1 goals. 

Recruiter: Oh, that's fantastic! I'm so glad you were able to connect further.

Ankur: It was a great conversation. The more I talk with you and your team, the more clear how many parallels there are between my background and this role. It just seems like a fantastic fit. We were even talking about how my network could come to bear in helping scale your engineering team here in Denver.

Recruiter: That's great! I'd love to partner with you on that.

Ankur: Same here. I'm really excited about the potential. I did want to bring up with you that I feel that a higher compensation package is warranted especially given the strength of fit. Not only will I bring value as an engineer, but I also bring specific expertise in setting up distributed systems at a seed-stage startup. I bring a network of people I've worked with within the past who also know what it takes to build those types of systems in this stage – and avoid problems down the line.

Recruiter. Mmm. 

Ankur: Would you agree with that?

Recruiter: Well, we are absolutely excited about the total value that you bring. We are offering a competitive compensation package that's within the range for the role. Those reasons you're bringing up are precisely why we chose to pick you!

Ankur: And I thank you for that! I am honored to be chosen. Also, from my research, the market rate for this role is actually higher than offered - closer to the $100,000 mark. I invested quite a bit in triangulating across a few different sources. I'll also share that most of the opportunities I've been interviewing for have been closer to that number.

Recruiter: Hm. We work with compensation experts that set our ranges, and we're pretty confident in them. Is there another late-stage opportunity that you're pursuing?

Ankur: I understand that the market rate for this role has continued to climb over the last few years. To answer your questions, yes. I'm in mid-stage interviews with several other companies that I'm also interested in. I've had an initial compensation conversation with one in particular.

Recruiter: OK. We are pretty comfortable with the amount we're offering for this role.

Ankur: I appreciate that. Again, I'm really excited about this opportunity and really interested in finding a way to make it work. How much flexibility do you have in the offer?

Recruiter: Sure. So we don't have a ton of flexibility - we won't be able to hit the $100,000 number you mentioned. However, we do have some amount of flexibility. I would have to talk with my team internally and see what we might be able to do.

Ankur: I'd really appreciate your advocacy on my behalf! It seems there is such a unique fit here between what you're looking for and what I have to bring to the table. Plus, I'll bring added value with my network of experts in the specific domain. I'm really encouraged by this conversation and would be excited to join at a number closer to that $100,000 mark. 

Recruiter: Alright. Let me talk to my team internally and see what we can do. I'll try to get back to you before the end of the week.

Ankur: Let me just say I am so excited about the overall opportunity here. It seems like the company is on a fantastic trajectory, and the sky is the limit in terms of what you can achieve.

Recruiter: Thank you! I do have to run to another call, but let me reassure you that I'll work on this today, and we'll be in touch over email. Sounds good?

Ankur: Of course, I'll let you go! Thanks for all the investment in me so far. 

Notice in this dialogue how Ankur:

  • Focused his talking points on the specific benefits he can bring to the table in the role.

  • Asked how much flexibility they have

  • Justified why he deserved high compensation by incorporating research on salary ranges and his prior work experience

  • Got the recruiter to set an implicit expectation that she would make a better offer

  • Maintained a conversation with a positive tone

Since most companies want you to negotiate, and many recruiters won't say yes to an increase on the spot, this is a fairly typical outcome for a first negotiation call.

What to Say in the Second Negotiation Call

You've now gone through the first negotiation call. You may or may not have specific numbers that were talked about in the first round. Generally, though, you'll hold to your expectation that we worked on above for as long as you can without appearing impolite.

At some point, the company will usually come back with a different number, a counteroffer. You'll want to be prepared to react to this, depending on how good their counter is. If they seem shocked by your proposals, you'll want to make quite an adjustment to your second number. If they're more like on the fence and making it sound like it might be possible if you're fortunate, then you're doing it just right.

Since everyone gets a little nervous on the call (even the pros!), we recommend making a little cheatsheet in your notes, like this. That way, you can follow it when asked. Your cheatsheet can be simple, like this:

  • If they offer $85K+, I'll push for $95K more and accept if they go for it

  • If they can't move on the base, I'll fall back to asking for my "potatoes" in the negotiation.

Let's play that out! 

(After some pleasantries)

Recruiter: Thanks for bearing with me, Ankur. Good news! I was able to connect with my team, and we can offer you $85,000. This offer improves our original offer by $5,000. I was also able to negotiate a signing bonus for you of $5,000 if you sign by Friday. I'm delighted we were able to make this happen for you.

Ankur: Thank you! I really appreciate you advocating for me. I'll say that does sound like an improvement and that we're going in the right direction. (Takes a drink of water).

Recruiter: Mhmm!

Ankur: Let me say that in parallel, I've thought about it more over the last day and talked to a couple of mentors of mine. The number you're speaking about is better, but it's not quite in the range of the other opportunities that I'll have to walk away from by accepting this offer. 

Recruiter: I appreciate your thoughts, and thank you for sharing with me. Unfortunately, we just aren't able to hit the $100,000 number. The company is weathering through a difficult period right now as the economy is still uncertain in the wake of the pandemic. There's not much I can do about that.

Ankur: That's very understandable. At the same time, I see this as an investment with a strongly positive ROI. I'm confident I can deliver the same strong results here as I've done in the past, which would more than make up for the total compensation. The systems I contribute to will likely deliver millions of dollars in value. Per that value, would it be possible to offer $95,000 in base salary?

Recruiter: Thanks Ankur. So I did ask internally for that number, and the answer was no. The top of the range for this role is $90,000. If we could get your compensation up to $90,000, would you be willing to sign then?

Ankur: Thanks for sharing. Let's see, $90,000. That's definitely in the ballpark that I'm looking for, if not the exact number! Let me think for a second. I would be willing to sign at $90,000 if you could also increase the signing bonus by $3,000 to $8,000. Would that be possible?

Recruiter: I doubt we'll be able to make both of those accommodations at the same time. Which one would be more important to you?

Ankur: The total post-tax compensation is most important to me. If you and your team can swing the $90,000 and $8,000 signing bonus, I'd be willing to sign tonight and get started just as soon as your ready.

Recruiter: OK, Let me see what I can do.

(Reiterate enthusiasm; exchange pleasantries; plan next steps).

In the above conversation, notice how Ankur:

  • Expressed that he appreciated the recruiter and their work on his behalf

  • Stuck to his guns even when the recruiter initially pushed back

  • Took the words "top of the range" as a cue to ask for a signing bonus instead of a more base salary

  • Showed his willingness to make a deal by using the magic words "Willing to sign today."

  • Communicated his priorities in a friendly manner

This is an example of a negotiation gone super well! It doesn't always happen this well, however.

Example Where They Say No 🙅‍♀️

(After some pleasantries)

Recruiter: Thanks for bearing with me, Ankur. I appreciate your patience. I was able to connect with my team. I hate to be the bearer of different news than you were hoping for. But unfortunately, we cannot offer you $100,000. We are incredibly excited about you and what you can do at this company. We're already offering you the top of the range for the role, and we're in a position where we do have a strong pipeline of interested candidates. Let me share that this offer isn't meant to be the be-all, end-all of your compensation on our team. It's the best we can do for your salary.

Ankur: Thank you for the update and the feedback. OK. I understand where you're coming from in terms of the range and the pipeline. Is there any flexibility that you do have in the compensation package?

Recruiter: Thank you for your understanding. I appreciate it. What did you mean exactly?

Ankur: Well, we haven't discussed other aspects of total compensation. By that, I mean such as bonuses, equity, and so forth. Is now a good time for us to discuss those other elements of total compensation?

Recruiter: Sure, let's talk about that. So we're not currently offering equity for this team, and we don't typically provide bonuses, either.

Ankur: Ah, I see. Hm. Well, I'm currently in a position where my total compensation package, including bonuses and equity, is higher than the base salary that you're offering. I ran some numbers before we jumped on the call, and my current package is estimated at $90,000. To make up for that difference, would it be possible in my case to do a $10,000 signing bonus so that for the next year, it will work out even with my current compensation?

Recruiter: Hm. As I mentioned, we really don't do signing bonuses as a matter of course. I know the hiring manager really wants you on the team, though!

Ankur: Is there any way we might be able to get to a package that's equivalent to my current compensation? 

Recruiter: I might be able to ask the team one more time. Let's say I could have the team make an exception and make an offer at $85,000. Would you be willing to sign then?

Akur: Let's see. $85,000 would still be less than my current package. I would be willing to consider it strongly. It would be more compelling, I feel, if we could continue annual salary conversations after the hiring team has an opportunity to observe my performance on the job. It sounds like salary increases are discussed every year. Could we commit to having a six-month review cycle instead? With a $5K increase and a six-month review cycle, I'd feel like I was on track for getting where I'd need to be.

Recruiter: Alright. Let me talk to the team one more time and see if I can make this happen for you. No promises, but I will do my best!

Ankur: Fantastic. I'm really excited about the real opportunity here. If we can nudge up the compensation package to a place where we both feel good about it, then I'm on board. Let's do this!

Recruiter: Likewise! I will try to get back to you within 24 hours. Thanks for your time today!

What did Ankur do well here?

  • Maintained a collaborative approach to the conversation

  • Only brought up current compensation after it was clear other arguments wouldn't work

  • Asked the recruiter if it would be appropriate to discuss different components of total compensation, which signals respect to the recruiter 

  • Opened the conversation by asking what flexibility is possible

  • Made creative suggestions on how to get more money by bringing up signing bonuses and shorter review cycles

By the time you've gotten to the end of the second negotiation call, you're more or less out of goodwill to negotiate further. Some people will try to slip in one last thing at this point. It's really annoying for the person on the other end, so most people just stop here. Do with that what you will!

How to Handle Multiple Offers

So Many Companies, So Little Time!

Multiple Offers

The most effective job seekers find themselves with multiple job offers at one time - or at least numerous late-stage interview opportunities. 

If this happens, you know you're doing a lot of things right! And, it's essential to handle this situation expertly to position yourself for the best possible offer.

How to Tell Another Company That You Have an Offer

As soon as you receive your first job offer, you'll want to immediately send a note to the other companies you're interviewing with and find a way to create a competitive process. There is simply no way to make a company more interested in you than you honestly having another offer. Everyone wants to hire a candidate that is seen as valuable to another company.

Start drafting as quickly as you can without stressing out. The purpose of this note is to inform the company of your new circumstance. This way, they still have the opportunity to make you an offer before you accept another one. Recruiters know that most offers have a timeline attached to them, anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks.

Your note to the other companies you're interviewing at should say something like:

You'll want to send a message like this to any companies that you've at least had a phone screen with but haven't received a "no" from yet. 

You never know exactly what you'll get back. The only thing you can be sure about is that you may well be surprised by what happens!

How to Leverage Multiple Offers ⚖️

The only thing better than an offer and late-stage opportunities are multiple offers. When you have multiple offers, you have options. You know. The companies know it.

Your lack of desperation will be palpable.

No two multiple offer situations are alike, but here are some things to consider:

In a scenario like this, you'll want to inform both companies in a classy way that you have another offer on the table. You'll want to use this as momentum for the search. It's best to convey this information live over the phone to the recruiter because it makes them feel like they've discovered something important and glad they got on the phone with you.

The best phrasing to use is something like:

  • [By phone] "I do want to let you know that I've received an offer from a company that I'm also excited about. I do have some questions about {Company Name} and the offer here that I wanted to talk through in our call today."

  • [Over email] "I wanted to share that my timeline to make a decision has escalated, as I've received another offer in parallel. Are you available for a call today after 3:30 pm?"

Some quick dos and don'ts:

  • Do share the numbers of any meaningfully more significant offers or meaningfully better titles, etc., with companies offering meaningfully less. Of course!

  • Do mention who the offer is from if the recruiter has a casual attitude, and there's an opportunity to do so without turning them off. (If you can make it sound almost accidental, that's even better.)

  • Do pit the companies against each other and get them to bid you up. And do it without feeling bad about it at all! Remember, you'll deliver more value to them than they'll ever pay you for. 

  • Don't say the company's name to a recruiter with a formal attitude unless they ask you for it.

  • Don't lie about your other offers. The chances of it biting you are very, very small, yes. But integrity is karma, and it comes back eventually.

Since multiple offer situations are bespoke, there's not a whole lot else of generally applicable advice that we can give here. Onwards!

How to Decide Between Companies 🤷‍♂️

If you've received offers from more than one organization, gather all of the compensation package details from each company and compare them. Don't just look at salary – consider all of the other compensation elements to see how they stack up. 

Candidates who struggle to take have found many benefits in making a table to weigh out the most essential variables. 

Try making a table with the companies you've received an offer from listed vertically. Across the top, make the column titles the parameters you need to consider (e.g., compensation, culture, people, location, growth opportunities, flexibility). Then, put a number in each box that ranges from 1 through 5, letting 5 represent the company, very strong in that category. Once you go through and assign a quantitative value in each box, you can tally up the score to see how the opportunities stack up. Here's an example:

Negotiation Table

Deciding between multiple offers can sometimes feel overwhelming and even confusing as you compare the different packages. 

You Got This 💪

Negotiation is a rich topic and a skill that takes a lifetime to master!

Having read this guide, you now know quite a bit more than the average jobseeker out there. And, well, quite a bit less than people with solid experience in this arena.

There's no one specific recipe or formula you can follow to ensure you extract the employer's maximum value. It's part art, part science.

If there's one key takeaway, it's actually: Get advice from mentors and your Career Coach on your specific situation! No two negotiations are alike, and conversations, where you're negotiating salary, have some of the highest ROI of any conversations out there.

Elise Gelwicks
Elise is a communications and emotional intelligence training consultant for companies and law firms

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