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Dear Ask Alexis,

So, I'm pretty sure I'm going to get the job (wohoo!) but I need some negotiating advice. If I get an offer, how should I behave during salary and benefit negotiations? Help!


Cautiously Optimistic


Hi Cautiously Optimistic,

Loving the optimism (and your interest in going in prepared ... you're a reader after my own heart!). Whether your salary negotiation happens over the phone or in person, you'll want to be sure of a few things.

Have a number in mind

When you're going into a salary negotiation, the most important thing you should be armed with is a well-researched (and honest) number. Do some online exploring to determine comparable compensation for others in a similar position and combine that range with what you think you deserve.

Never enter a salary negotiation without a range in mind.

Pro Tip: Occasionally, a prospective employer will ask for your current salary. I do not recommend sharing that information. Here are more details about how to respond to a salary history question during an interview or negotiation process.

No room for negotiation?

If your future employer can't satisfy your salary requirements, are you still willing to work there? If the answer is a "yes," what, in your opinion, might make up for the lower salary? Vacation days? Flexible work options? Be sure you know exactly what you are willing to accept in lieu of your desired salary.

Brush up on your benefits negotiation skills.

Get it in writing

If a hiring manager or HR professional tells you something along the lines of "We can only offer you X at this point, but we're definitely willing to revisit that number in the future," you'll want to be sure to get certain details of that conversation in the form of a written agreement. Here are the most important details to keep on record:

  • When (after how many months of employment, or on what specific date) will you have an opportunity to review your salary and a potential raise?
  • What is the range of the potential raise? You wouldn't want to go through all of this trouble negotiating and accepting a position only to find out later that your employer was only planning to consider at 1% raise at the six month mark if that number is far below your desired range.
  • During that first review, what will be reviewed? It may be tricky to get the specifics on this, because you haven't even started the job yet, but of course it's helpful to know how success will be measured.

Present confidence

In the history of salary negotiation, there was probably one time where somebody shared their salary requirements and was immediately shown the door (because everything has happened at least once, right?).

But this is not something that you need to worry about. Remember that this organization went through the trouble of interviewing you (probably over the course of multiple rounds), debriefing with one another about your interview(s), and has even extended an offer for you to join the team. They haven't come this far only to say "Whoops, our mistake" because you're confidently asking for what you feel you deserve in terms of salary and/or benefits.


Want more intel on how to negotiate for salary and benefits? Check out some of our favorite posts on the subject:

Alexis Perrotta profile image

Alexis Perrotta

As the Associate Director of Marketing and Communications at Idealist and a lifelong nonprofit professional, Alexis offers job seekers, game changers, and do gooders actionable tips, career resources, and social-impact advice.

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