How to Negotiate a Salary Offer – 4 Steps to Getting the Salary You Deserve

Negotiating your salary can be one of the most stressful parts of the hiring process. What are your salary expectations? Do you know how to answer this without jeopardizing your chance at the job offer, yet be true to yourself and your value?

In this article, I am going to teach you 4 Steps to negotiating the salary you want and deserve!

Negotiation is an art and a science….and some would say it’s a skill because you can learn it. There are dozens of great books on negotiation, but I’m going to give you my crib notes version of how to negotiate your salary and overall compensation. Salary negotiation is a big deal and a big topic so I’m going to break it down into 4 steps, and give you some guidelines around accepting, rejecting, and confirming an offer.

Step 1: Understanding

The thought of negotiating may feel uncomfortable.  It does involve some risk.  And You may view it as a Win or Lose situation. Knowledge of the basic components of negotiation can help you avoid an attitude that could be counter-productive to the spirit of negotiating.Amazed young man in glasses reading a book comes up with an idea

Here are 5 things you need to know and be prepared for:

1: Communication – This begins with strategic thinking, presentation skills, confidence, and patience. Requesting a higher salary ‘because I am a fast learner’ is not a justifiable reason for an employer. Examples of outstanding workplace achievements, meaningful contributions, breadth of knowledge or unique skills that you bring to the role or team ARE appealing and what you want to focus on communicating

2: Information – Be prepared to research! (Any lawyer will tell you the key to presenting a strong case in the courtroom is in the hours of preparation!) And if you’ve watched some of my other videos you have no doubt heard my motto that Job Search and Interview Success is about 75% preparation and 25% execution! And the same goes for negotiating salary!

Networking with others is a great way to gather information. Research via websites may be informative but don’t rely on it exclusively (most salary surveys are gathered from very large organizations and urban cities, from employment agencies and government statistics so they don’t always relate closely enough to your personal situation).

3: Strategic Timing – I recommend you do not initiate the topic of salary/benefits at your first interview.  You need to determine the interviewer’s communication style and decision-making behaviour.  As the interview unfolds you may get a sense of whether your negotiating style should be straightforward – fact–for-fact-based on research – OR a more relaxed and ambiguous way of drawing out the figures.  Through doing this, you will be in a stronger negotiating position if you wait until you receive a job offer.

4: Genuine Interest – Demonstrate sincere interest in the job and the organization. An employer isn’t interested in discussions with you if you appear to be ‘job-shopping’.

5: Patience – Negotiations may require a series of meetings or communications and may involve you making a counteroffer (which I’ll talk more about in a few minutes).

Plan your strategy to cover as many positive outcomes as you can think of.


You must know what it is you want!  And if you don’t already know, there IS more to wages than the money!

Draw out a little grid like this and fill in the following:


Write down what $ you need to pay the bills. Then write the figure you want to earn.



Company-paid medical/health plans or cost-shared – generally represent $2 – $5 per hr in value. Paid/extended vacations.

RRSP matching. Stock Options

Indirect Benefits:

e.g.  flexi-hours, telecommuting, transport costs, free parking, paid personal days.


e.g. cell phone, fitness membership, professional dues, paid parking, company car

Personal Values:

What IS and IS NOT important to you. e.g. reputation, ethics, safe/ healthy workplace, extended overtime demands?


What do you need from an employer to do your best? Training? Professional development, current technology?


If you are a senior-level manager, executive, or specialist you may want to negotiate more than Employment Standards Act severance in the termination or downsizing within two years of being hired.


An employer may probe your salary expectations by asking a simple question: “What was your last salary?”  It’s your personal choice whether to disclose or not. You can be straightforward and give the amount as an hourly rate, a monthly rate, or an annual amount.

If your preference is not to disclose, you could respond with something like this: 

“In view of a signed confidentiality agreement (or Nondisclosure agreement) with my employer I’m not at liberty to disclose but what I can share is my 3-year (or 5-year) average which is $……….”


“I’m not at liberty to disclose specifics but what I can share based on my skills and experience is that my salary expectations for this role would be in the range of …..”

Midsection of businessman protecting Salary blocks on stacked coins at desk

Your last salary may not reflect the role or industry you are currently applying for so if you want my personal opinion, I wouldn’t disclose your last salary. You don’t want the potential employer to eliminate you because you made more in your past job than they can offer or offer you less than you deserve because you made less based on industry, role or geographic location. Not all employers are fair and ethical in their hiring practices.

The most common question you can expect during the hiring process is: “What are your salary expectations?”

  • Here’s how YOU see the picture: where the range is $80K to $96K you will expect to get $92 or even $96k.

$80K           82K           84K           86K           $88K           90K          92K           94K           $96K

  • Here’s how the employer sees it:   $88K is the mid-point in the range and they are immediately doing the ‘mental math’ to get you for $80K or maybe have to go up to $84K.
  • Wherever the middle of the range sits the employer wants to negotiate ‘left of center’, and you’d prefer to hear figures ‘right of center’.

In order to develop your presentation skills on the issue of discussing salary, you need to be confident. By going through steps 1, 2, and 3 you are now able to take a business-like approach. Never approach salary negotiation from your personal need.  Approach from ‘what’s in it for the employer to hire me?’ and speak to those needs and values.

Business team hiding their faces behind question mark signs at office

Create a ‘solid answer’ to the interviewer’s probing or direct question, such as:

  • “As you can see from the research I’ve done using similar job postings, some website analysis and considering my degree of experience in this field I place the range between $62,000 and $70,000. Would this be in line with your thoughts?”
  • “I am new to this area – my salary history is based on cities where the range would be $68,000 to $80,000. My local labour market research tells me the range here would likely be $48,500 to $52,400.  In view of my 6 years of experience, I’d place myself at the midpoint of this range, which is around $50,000 to start”.
  • “As I am entering this field for the first time (University Graduate) I am happy to start at an entry-level rate that you suggest and after I have proved my value as an employee, perhaps there would be an opportunity to discuss an increase to that starting rate.”

If you sense there’s no more money or improvement on a benefit or perks package, you could respond with: 

“I am willing to accept what you are currently offering in anticipation that after 6 months we can review my performance and look at a 2-3% increase.” There could be other negotiable issues if the salary is ‘fixed’. Some benefit packages involve flexible options.  Try asking for an extra week of paid vacation, or a week without pay.  Companies whose cash flow is not steady enough to offer large benefits may be able to offer flexible work hours, time off, annual bonuses, or some work-from-home options.

Some occasions may require a Counter Proposal Letter.  If this is the case, structure your letter like this:

First Paragraph – Begin with a statement of interest – this is critical in setting up the tone and direction of the negotiation. Next, thank the employer for the job offer. Include some key benefit statements of how you intend to make a direct and immediate (or longer-term) positive impact on the organization.

Second Paragraph – State the items offered and either indicate agreement or your counteroffer.

Concluding Paragraph – For your concluding paragraph, you can answer something like this… “I would be happy to meet with you to discuss any of the above items in more detail and I offer this letter with a sincere willingness to negotiate. ABC Company remains my employer of choice and one in which I plan to build my future and contribute to the highest possible level.”

Guidelines in Accepting or Rejecting an Offer:
  • If you have questions on any aspect of the offer or the job, clarify. Ask for time to review and indicate when you expect to make your decision.
  • If your offer is from Company A and you prefer Company B, you can advise B that an offer has been extended to you but your interest is with them and you would like to know the current status.
  • If your offer is in writing, review the important facts (salary, hours of work, title, vacation allowance, expenses, etc.) and accept in writing.
Confirming the Offer:

Business people shaking handsIf you accept on offer by telephone ask for written confirmation. The letter should contain the job title, start date, salary & benefits information, vacation allowance, and any other details agreed to. This can be a legally binding document and protects you should the person who hired you leave the organization, avoiding any ‘verbal agreements.’

If you do not receive anything in writing you can send the employer a ‘letter of understanding’ in which you take the initiative to itemize what was agreed upon. Unless the employer contradicts any points this is a legally binding document. Whether a letter or contract, keep a signed copy for your records. I hope these tips and strategies help you when negotiating your next job offer.


What you’ve learned here is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to salary negotiation and interview strategies. To learn more, check out my YouTube channel (VirtualJobSearchCoach), where I post new content to help job seekers like you, determine, pursue, and land their dream job!

If you would like one-to-one coaching to equip you with the confidence, necessary tools, critical knowledge, and strategies to find and land your ideal job  – then let’s talk! You can book a complimentary 15 minute discover call directly in my calendar at and let’s chat about how I can help you fast-track your job search success.

Written by Stacey Davidson

Hi, I’m Stacey Davidson, after 18 years mostly in recruitment, HR, and management roles, I left the corporate world, became certified as a Professional in Career Management and started my own business in 2008 as a Career Coach, Job Search Strategist, Resume Writer, Contract Recruiter and I’m an expert in Behavioural-based interviewing. (I know, It’s a lot of hats!) For the past 12 years I’ve been teaching and empowering people just like you to define their dream job, power up their Job Search, and land in a career they love. My goal is to positively impact the lives of 1 million job seekers over the next 20 years. Subscribe to my YouTube channel for more great info and resources.

May 3, 2021

Related Posts