Salary Negotiation: Earn What You’re Worth

Receiving a job offer is thrilling, but negotiating the salary can be daunting. According to Fidelity Investments, 58 percent of young professionals do not negotiate their job offers; however, 87 percent of those who do negotiate receive additional compensation. Those who negotiate increase their starting salaries by an average of $5,000.

Charlotte Westerhaus-Renfrow, JD’91, clinical assistant professor of business law and management at the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, says to keep emotions in check when negotiating.

“Negotiation is an emotive sport. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you when you hear the word ‘no,’” she says. “Know what you want and be able to articulate and negotiate the why, what, how, and when.”

According to Westerhaus-Renfrow, the three biggest mistakes that people make when negotiating salary are accepting the first offer, not being prepared with relevant information, and neglecting to negotiate things beyond the four corners—the terms explicitly stated—of the contract.

Here are Westerhaus-Renfrow’s tips for salary negotiation:


Gather salary information from people in the industry

Knowing the industry-standard salary range before an interview is critical. Westerhaus-Renfrow suggests networking with people who are at or above your pay grade is the best way to gather figures.

“I recommend insider information and spreading your network out among not only your peers but folks who may be one or two levels above you,” she says. “If you are involved in working with a search firm or headhunter, they do have some solid information, but I don’t recommend [gathering from] Google.”

When discussing salary ranges with peers, consider starting the conversation like this:

I am interviewing for a position like yours with {insert name of company}. Other companies in the industry are offering a salary of $100,000. Is that on par with compensation at {insert name of company}?

Quantify your worth

Westerhaus-Renfrow says that you need to quantify your skills before you begin negotiations. Understanding which skills the employer considers valuable to the organization is useful in this process.

Websites such as Salary Expert can help you calculate your estimated market salary based on your education, skills, and work history.

Choose to collaborate

When choosing a negotiation strategy, Westerhaus-Renfrow endorses collaborating—problem-solving to reach the best outcome for both sides. This is a win-win strategy because the potential employee and employer each understand the other party’s “why.”

“When both parties want to collaborate, you’ll get better quantifiable and qualifiable results,” she says.

When proposing a collaborative negotiation, consider starting the conversation like this:

Thank you for the offer. I am thrilled that my skills match what you are looking for and I hope that we can come to an agreement that is in the best interest of both parties.

Prepare a BATNA to create leverage

BATNA stands for “best alternative to a negotiated agreement.” Essentially, it’s your leverage in a salary negotiation. When crafting your BATNA, ask yourself if you’re willing to walk away from an offer if it doesn’t meet your expectations. Then, determine if there’s room to negotiate salary at your current company.

“If you don’t have an alternative, you don’t have leverage,” says Westerhaus-Renfrow.

She likens having a BATNA to purchasing a vehicle. If you walk into one dealership and don’t get the price you want, you have the option to take your business elsewhere.

“The same thing can go for a job,” Westerhaus-Renfrow explains. “Many of us go into [negotiations with] no alternative. When you have a BATNA, you can tell the employer, ‘I have a better offer.’”

When using your leverage, consider starting the conversation like this:

I appreciate your offer of three weeks of PTO per year. My current employer offers four weeks of PTO per year, and it is important to my family that I do not lose any vacation time. Can you match my current PTO?

Negotiate more than money

Westerhaus-Renfrow says that fear of rejection should not stop you from discussing health care, retirement, time off, and professional-development benefits. Nothing is off the table in a negotiation, including the freedom to work remotely.

“The market trends are allowing more and more people to work at least one day from home … or to have a four-day work week,” she says.

When asking for something beyond the four corners of the contract, consider starting the conversation like this:

It would be beneficial for the organization and me if I continue to attend the annual industry conference. Can you cover expenses related to attending the event?

Always counter

When a job offer is received, prepare to negotiate, even if the figure is within the salary range you were provided.

If negotiation attempts are rejected, determine when the conversation can be revisited—and have the hiring manager outline ways in which promotions or raises are attained.

“Be ready to hear ‘no’ and inquire about what it will take to get you out of that range and when,” says Westerhaus-Renfrow.

When facing negotiation rejection, consider continuing the conversation like this:

I understand that $40,000 is the best that you can offer at this time. What will it take for me to make $50,000? What is a realistic timeline for me to reach my desired salary?”

Written By
Autumn Simone Monaghan
Autumn Monaghan, MA'14, is a graduate of IUPUI’s Sports Capital Journalism Program and a content specialist at the IU Alumni Association.