Idealist logoidealist
Land Your Dream Job
Careers that help you move from intention to action
Subscribe to Career Advice

How To Research And Prepare For A Salary Negotiation

A close up of the F1 Help Key.

Negotiating a starting salary or a raise is one of the tougher aspects of job-seeking and career advancement (at least for me! Who else?). It’s important to go into these types of discussions prepared, and that means researching what a reasonable salary range would be.

How to Prepare:

  • Go online. There are several online salary calculators from companies like Monster.comGlassdoorSalary.comIndeed, and Fast Company, that can get you started with your research, and some may even have salary ranges for the organization where you are working or interviewing, or for direct competitors.
  • Research your field. Next, try specific websites and blogs related to your field or career, to see what they say about salaries. At Idealist Careers, we’re working to include more content like this to help. Be sure to note if your industry is going through a tough financial time, if the organization has dealt with layoffs or recent financial woes, or, conversely, if they are on a hiring spree or just got a round of funding.
  • Look at your experience. Do take into consideration what you made at your last position and how much of a step up this new job might be. Be sure you will be making enough to cover your day-to-day needs, and factor in any planned changes you expect in the near future. If you and your partner are trying to buy a house, for example, it may not be the right time to take a pay cut.
  • Ask others. While straight up asking people what they make may not be the best tactic, if you know someone who has been in the field for a while, you can ask about starting salaries or offer a suggestion: “I’ve found that $40,000 is about average for this position I’m interviewing for. Does that sound right to you?”

What to Say:

  • Put the ball in their court. This is a step that can be done earlier in the process, perhaps during your initial interviews with the company. Ask how the company determines the salary for new hires, as Virginia Tech University’s Career Services suggests, or get a salary range in an earlier interview, so you have a base to start from. “Can you tell me the salary range for previous employees in this position?”
  • Justify your request. Yes, all of our Idealist Careers readers are worth a million bucks! But in salary negotiations, but be sure you can back up your ask. What will you bring to the job that is unique? How have you proven your worth in the past? Self-reflection can be an important part of your salary research and you can include this in what to say during your salary meeting. “At my previous position, I was able to continuously bring in new donors, which led the organization to give me a $X raise each year. I hope to continue that success here and I am asking for a $X salary.”
  • Know your response. Prepare some questions or what to say if the company offers a lower salary than expected. Canadian career site Vestiigo encourages employees not be shy in asking why there are discrepancies between what is being offered and what you unearthed in your research. “In my research for this interview, I found the average salary to be $X. Can you explain the difference?”
  • Have other options. If the company isn’t able to negotiate your ideal salary, consider other ways you can feel properly compensated. Instead of a higher salary, ask about flexible vacation days or summer Fridays. Perhaps there is benefit or perk they offer to higher-level employees that you can take advantage of in lieu of the extra cash. “Hm, that salary is a bit lower than I expected. Is there a way to negotiate summer Fridays or two more vacation days to make up for the difference?”

Explore Jobs on Idealist