Negotiating a Salary Increase for a New Job: What to Expect and How to Ask

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Jun 2, 2023 6 min read

We live in interesting times. The cost of living has been steadily increasing, but at the same time, not all employers have decided to give their employees the pay raises they need.

That’s why the idea of looking for a new job to get that well-deserved pay increase seems like a great solution.

And even if you have other reasons to look for a new job beyond the purely financial bit… We know you’d still fancy a higher salary.

In fact, half of the workers who decided not to quit their jobs in 2021 faced at least a 1.7% decrease in their earnings due to inflation by 2022.

At the same time, people who decided to change their jobs faced an average of 9.7% salary increase.

The urge to want more is only human.

But there are several factors you need to take into account when negotiating a salary increase for a new job.

What is even considered ‘a normal salary increase’ for new jobs? Does that depend on the field, your skills, the level of seniority, or the location?

And even if you know exactly how much more you want to be making in your new job, is that realistic? What’s the best way to deal with a hiring manager who thinks you deserve less?

We’ll answer these and many other questions. By the end of this article, you’ll know:

  • Whether it’s okay to state your salary expectations in the first interview

  • How and when to negotiate a higher salary increase

  • Whether salary increases depend on skills and experience

  • What to do if faced with a lower counter-offer

Deciding on Your Salary Expectations

Surely there are plenty of factors you need to take into consideration when preparing for a job interview.

Some of these may include body language, having answers to common interview questions, and even making sure you know everything you need about the company.

But when it comes to the salary, you should base your expectations on several factors:

  • The level of your skills and whether they are required for the position you’re applying for
  • How many years of experience you have
  • The country and city you’re looking for work in
  • The level of the position you’re applying for

As a rule of thumb if you’re applying for a junior position, you shouldn’t expect a huge salary even if you have plenty of experience and are confident in your skills.

However, if you have the necessary experience for a mid-senior position but are much more skilled than you think other candidates are, then it’d be worth basing your salary expectations on that.

And if you’re applying for a job in a smaller or bigger town - you guessed it, the salary might respectively be smaller or bigger.

But still, most times it all comes down to the company budget.

Usually, companies try to fit in a designated range - say, if the average annual salary for a junior software engineer in New York is $98k, then a possible range might be $95-105k.

So even if you’re an ultra-hard-working junior software engineer with brilliant experience and crazy skills, chances of getting an offer above $105k might be low.

However, in addition to researching what the average salary for your job and location of choice is, you might also want to gather company-specific information.

Websites like Glassdoor, PayScale, and SalaryExpert can provide a bit more detail on the salary you could expect.

Getting in touch with industry experts could also help. And don’t worry if you don’t know any people that match this description yet.

You can reach out to them on LinkedIn or go to different industry-specific social events and discuss this matter in person.

What’s more, some other factors worth considering when thinking of your salary expectations are bonuses, benefits, and stock options.

For instance, many startups can’t afford to offer huge salaries and try to compensate their employees with stock options.

Other employers, on the other hand, have decided to offer out-of-the-ordinary benefits, such as birthday bonuses, office massages, longer holiday leave, or team events.

It really is a company-specific matter. And with the right amount of research and industry insight, you’ll be able to be prepared ahead of the interview.

But how do you negotiate once faced with an offer? Let’s see…

Planning your negotiation strategy

Once you’ve decided how much you want to make on your next job, it’s time to start preparing for the actual salary convo.

First and foremost, you have to remember that it’s the recruiter or hiring manager who needs to bring up the salary topic.

Don’t try discussing the salary on the first interview, Or the second. Wait until it comes up naturally in the conversation and you’re sure you want the job.

Otherwise, the recruiter might think you only want to join the company to get a pay raise.

Then, it’s time to set a salary range for yourself. Know what’s the lowest you would settle for.

And make sure to stick to a range that really meets your needs. It’s a bad idea to say you’d be happy with anything between $60k and $120k, if you really want to earn $75k, for instance.

Third, don’t share too much about your salary history too early in the application process. While applicants are able to conduct research about the average salary they could expect, most hiring managers want to know exactly how much you were making before.

If this topic comes up in the first interview, think of it as just a screening question. Answer politely, but don’t give too many details.

And if you’re faced with a lower counteroffer, don’t worry. That’s the best time to discuss bonuses, benefits, and stock options.

If the salary is non-negotiable, you could always ask for more paid vacation leave days or better benefits - such as meal vouchers or life insurance.

But in case this doesn’t satisfy your requirements, don’t start looking for a new offer straightaway!

Instead, think about the long term. What are the growth prospects? Is this offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?

Many times, really competitive jobs are competitive not because of their salary, but because of the opportunities that follow after.

For example - if you’re looking for an entry-level job in a venture capital fund, the offer you get might be disproportionate to the work you’ll be expected to do.

But since every hiring manager knows how competitive VC jobs are and how much it takes to get one, the chances of this one position skyrocketing your career are quite big.

So choose wisely! Sometimes, it’s worth accepting a lower salary offer - it all depends on the nature of the job, your preferences, and your career goals.

Finalizing the offer

Once you’ve received the actual offer, you need to know how to finalize it.

First and foremost, you should insist on getting the offer in writing. That’s the only format in which an offer is considered official.

Then, make sure that all compensation factors are included in the written offer you receive.

Unfortunately, some employers break their initial promises. So don’t sign anything you don’t agree with.

But what happens if you decide to decline the offer? What’s the best way to do this?

Well, you need to make sure you’re polite, even if the offer seems too low for your skills and experience. In addition, always express gratitude for the hiring manager’s time and consideration.

Find some more tips on how to decline a job offer in this article!

And if you’re still not certain of your approach, remember that talking to an expert can always help. Our professional career counselors can support you in building the right negotiation strategy and getting the offer you deserve!

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Volen Vulkov
Volen Vulkov is a resume expert and the co-founder of Enhancv. He applies his deep knowledge and experience to write about a career change, development, and how to stand out in the job application process.
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