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How to Negotiate Your Salary over the Phone in 2024: Job Offers 101

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Pick up the phone and get ready to negotiate! Champion your expertise for the salary you deserve.
Jul 5, 2024 12 min read
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Before answering the phone call for your salary negotiation, do your homework – explore the market value of your experience. Prepare your pitch, justifying why you deserve the higher number, based on your expertise. Remain flexible and consider additional benefits that your potential employer may offer.

You hesitate to negotiate your salary over the phone, as you're afraid you might lose an offer that is 10% below your expectations.

Did you know that it could take over two years to grow your salary up to the initial figure you wanted?

So, don't let your anxiety cripple your earning potential!

According to a recent Pew Research survey, about 66% of job candidates received higher starting salaries after negotiations.

Whether for a new job or an annual review, there's always a right time to negotiate your offer.

And while over-the-phone negotiations may seem intimidating and daunting, we'll show you how to harness their unique advantages:

  • What are the benefits of over-the-phone negotiations?
  • Why do candidates prefer over the phone negotiations over email ones?
  • 11 tips on negotiating your offer over the phone to get what you want (and deserve).
  • Real-life examples of mistakes you need to avoid in your salary negotiations, over the phone.

What are the benefits of negotiating your salary over the phone?

With the flexibility of work, remote negotiations have become the norm, instead of the exception.

Now, don't be discouraged if your employers want to discuss your potential salary over the phone.

Even though email negotiations may seem more convenient to you, you’d ultimately be missing out on plenty of chances to read the room and have your needs met.

I usually strongly prefer phone or in-person over email or writing because there’s a benefit to on-the-fly adjustments and questions — it makes for a more fluid conversation.

Olivia Chin, HubSpot technical recruiter

Here are the top three reasons why you should select phone negotiations over face-to-face or email ones:

  • Flexible schedule: Both you and the hiring managers can easily find a convenient time for the discussion, instead of aiming to meet in person. This would help speed up the process, leading quickly to a more favorable outcome for both parties.
  • Focused communication: The conversation would be solely concerned with the offer's terms. At the same time, you’d be able to build better rapport with the hiring managers and get a better understanding of your potential salary (and benefits).
  • Real-time feedback: Questions and concerns could be clarified on the spot. With email negotiations, you would be constantly going back and forth on a list of demands.
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Why should you negotiate your salary in the first place?

  • Avoid getting lowballed: The first offer you'll receive is often lower than what you deserve.
  • Employers expect negotiations: Their initial offer is a jumping-off point for the whole talk.
  • Shows you value your worth: By demonstrating specific market and salary knowledge and also that you are looking out for your best interests.
  • Potential gains: You never know what you can get, unless you ask.

What makes a good salary negotiation over the phone

Before we dive deep into the specifics of over-the-phone salary negotiations, consider these best practices.

What should you do if you receive your offer over the phone?

While it's common for companies to send an email detailing the full package—including job requirements, salary, and benefits—there are exceptions.

In some states, any written proposal can be considered a binding contract, which is why some hiring managers might prefer discussing your offer over the phone.

There are instances where a hiring manager may even want to get your salary expectations during the initial interview.

Whether you’re discussing an offer you’re seeing for the first time or being interviewed, avoid committing to a specific number.

  • Instead, express your enthusiasm for the opportunity while remaining non-committal about the exact figure.
  • Politely request to receive the offer, with all the benefits and a salary range for the role that considers your experience, via email and ask for at least 48 hours to consider their proposal.
  • If pressed, provide a broad salary range that you would be comfortable with.

This brings us to our second key point in salary negotiations over the phone.

Don't lock in a number until you've seen the entire offer (and, yes, includes benefits)

In some instances, your salary may be non-negotiable, but that doesn't mean the other benefits are too.

Once you receive the full details in writing, you'll be able to evaluate the complete package you may be getting. And that could include the likes of:

  • Insurance: health, dental, vision, life insurance, 401k matching, retirement contributions, etc.
  • Paid time off policies (PTO): vacation days and sick leaves.
  • Financial bonuses: opportunities for raises and promotions; stock options.
  • Location: office or remote, relocation or commuting expenses, travel compensations.
  • Career-related benefits: professional development opportunities, tuition reimbursements, job title, and start date.
  • Work-life balance opportunities: flexible scheduling, daycare reimbursement.

Find out how much you should ask for?

We've highlighted that when entering negotiations, you're expected to have a specific number in mind.

So, the first thing you need to do when negotiating your salary over the phone is to research salary expectations in the industry.

Focus on attaining a range instead of a set number to eliminate the risk of getting underpaid or asking too much.

Some states have wage transparency laws, and you can use those to determine the amount you should ask for.

If the state you're applying for doesn't fall under the transparency legislation, the market average can be a good baseline and used as justification.

Find out the average salary on a national level, locally, or for similar companies in the same industry.

Otherwise, you could conduct more detailed research to assess your worth. Find the salary average based on:

  • Role-specifics: Consider your job title and industry. Optionally, you could review the annual profit margins of the company, to determine the sort of budget you could ask for.
  • Location: What is the cost of living in the company’s geographic location? We all know that it’s more expensive to live and work in New York than in Alabama.
  • Seniority and experience: Assess your years of expertise and leadership roles. The more relevant experience you have, the higher salary you can ask for.
  • Unique value and skills: And this includes any of your qualifications, achievements, or publications. As you know, having niche or technical skills or job-critical licenses and certifications, allows you to save the company a significant amount of money.
  • Education: Your relevant bachelor's, master's, PhD, or specialized degree should also impact your compensation.
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Don't just look at the salary as a number. Consider all the offered benefits, your career goals, and living situation to start thinking about the salary range you expect.

In the next part of this guide, we'll show you how to prove why you deserve the pay you want.

How to negotiate your salary over the phone

In the next part of this guide, we’ll show you how to prepare for your over-the-phone negotiations to determine your value.

We’ll also provide practical advice on what to do during the talk to get the salary you deserve.

Preparations before the over-the-phone negotiations

Congratulations on completing your basic research, before starting the negotiations! Now, let's revisit the range you'd need to provide to hiring managers.

Once you have your data, examine the high and low salary averages.

You should negotiate starting from the highest salary you believe you deserve or aspire to get. Keep in mind that your initial salary will influence future raises and bonuses.

By starting high, you give yourself room to negotiate down if necessary.

However, also consider your lowest acceptable range or goal salary. Reflect on the following, if:

  • The offer is at the bottom of your range, will you accept it?
  • Everything else in the offer is great, what is the lowest salary you'd accept?
  • Most aspects of the job are unsatisfactory, how much would they need to pay you to say yes?

During negotiations, aim to find a middle ground where you feel comfortable accepting the salary offer.

After you determine your range, also figure out a specific number, as they are better received than vague round figures.

For example, instead of asking for $90,000, propose $89,850 to demonstrate that you’ve thoroughly researched and determined a standardized salary.

How to determine your value

Sometimes, you might accept the first, minimal raise a hiring manager may offer.

Is there more, and how can you get to the ceiling in your negotiation?

Well, for starters, you need to demonstrate why you deserve more with valid, business-related reasons.

In addition to your market research and industry standards, prepare to negotiate based on your qualifications.

The best way to sell your value when negotiating your salary is to tell them how your being hired will save them money or resources.

Brittany Hayles, Career Coach

So, review your interview notes and highlight any experiences or skills that the hiring managers found impressive.

Choose one or two specific examples that clearly illustrate why the company should invest more in you.

Think about why you deserve more based on:

  • Years of experience – emphasize any additional years, beyond the role expectations, and the unique value they'd bring to the company
  • Unique skills, certifications, and accomplishments – aligned with the employer's needs, supported by success metrics (e.g. precise numbers and percent). You can include growth statistics in revenue or products, goals achieved, and awards earned.
  • Costs saving – demonstrate any relevant skills or expertise to streamline processes or save resources for the company.
  • Network and contacts – highlight the potential for generating new opportunities.
  • Soft skills – employers value leadership, management, and team-building skills.
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When preparing to highlight your value, craft your pitch or talking points ahead of time.

This would allow you to stay clear and focused, and, also, to avoid improvisations.

Practice makes perfect

Practice your talking points to build confidence. Be assertive in advocating why you deserve an increased compensation.

Having zero confidence leads to unnecessary explanations or apologies, which are counterproductive in negotiations. On the other hand, appearing overconfident or arrogant leaves a bad impression.

Present your key negotiation points succinctly in front of family, friends, or colleagues. Include data, your career history, and your vision for salary growth. Stay focused and confident throughout.

During the over-the-phone negotiations

While negotiating your salary over the phone, you can take notes. Also, have all of your research, documents, lists, and anything you may need laid out in front of you to support your claims.

Let's talk a little more about your conduct.

  • Start with gratitude. Thank the recruiters for the opportunity and let them know you're open to discussing and reaching a mutual agreement. Reaffirm your interest in the role, your commitment to the company, and your desire for fair compensation based on your expertise.
  • Through the negotiation, stay professional, understanding, and respectful. Focus on demonstrating the value you bring to the role using your resume, rather than personal financial needs (e.g. loans, childcare, etc.).
  • Be collaborative by adapting to the pace of the conversation. Listen carefully to what the recruiter is saying, and keep your tone positive and friendly.
  • Constructively frame your negotiations. Strive for fair compensation that satisfies both you and the employer. Identify your non-negotiable terms while remaining flexible on the final outcomes.
  • Keep emotions aside and approach the negotiation with gratitude and a business mindset.

Something more about the art of counter-offering

  • Once the negotiations begin, recruiters do expect to see your counteroffer, so prepare yours in advance.
  • It's common to go back and forth, and you can typically counter an offer once or twice at most.
  • To speed up the process, have a final acceptable number in mind.
  • Avoid revisiting a compensation package you've already agreed upon.

Deep listening and asking the right questions

When engaging deeply in the negotiations, you'd grasp nuances (like hesitation, agreement, or confusion) and gather all the pertinent details to determine your salary.

You'd be expected to ask clarifying questions along the way.

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Clarifying questions you can ask during over-the-phone negotiations

  • How was the salary range for this position determined?
  • What factors influence your decisions on salary?
  • How is performance measured and rewarded in this role?
  • Are there opportunities to negotiate beyond salary? Could you outline the other components of the compensation package?
  • What information would help you finalize your decision?

Also, recruiters may have challenging questions and potential objections for you. Rehearse your answers in advance.

Ultimately, be prepared to answer why you believe you deserve a higher salary than what's initially on the table.

Other, uncomfortable questions you can expect include:

  • Is our company your number-one choice?
  • Do you have other job offers currently?
  • If we adjust the salary, would you accept the offer immediately?

Always know when to close

One of the key rules for over-the-phone negotiations is knowing when to accept the offer or walk away. In the following paragraphs, we will explore three instances you may encounter at the end of your negotiations.

The first scenario is that you are satisfied with the outcomes of your negotiations.  Even if you're 100% sure of accepting the proposed salary, avoid saying an immediate "yes", at the end of the phone call.

Here is what you should do:

  • Thank your potential employers for their offer and time.
  • Ask them to confirm the details in writing and request an updated offer letter.
  • Request some additional time to think things through.

If, at the end of the negotiations, you are still undecided, don't feel rushed. It's important to consider or compare your options carefully:

  • Request a reasonable deadline - from 24 hours to a few business days - and follow up within that timeframe.
  • Don’t hesitate to return with a counter-offer, backed up with your talking points and a final figure.

If the employers cannot meet the minimum figure you have in mind, don’t feel pressured to accept. You can respectfully decline the company's proposal, express appreciation for the opportunity, and explain your reasons.

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Regardless of the conversation outcomes, thank your employer for taking the time to negotiate with you.

How to lead your over-the-phone negotiations: good vs bad examples

And now for the part you’ve been waiting for – we’ll provide you with real-life examples of how to conduct (and how not to lead) your over-the-phone salary negotiations.

Leading the first interview with numbers: a big NO

Imagine how a candidate walks in and the first thing they ask the recruiters is:

"How much money will you pay me?"

Instead, be patient and wait for the recruiter to ask about your salary expectations.

The later the stage you get into this discussion, the better it'll be for both parties. You'd have proved your worth to the company and can negotiate a higher salary.

Stay non-committed with salary for as long as possible

Never start your negotiations with:

 "I want $100K and full benefits."

Instead, aim for something along the lines of:

 "I'm looking for a salary in the range between $85K and $97K, but I'm flexible to negotiate based on additional benefits. Would this range suit you?"

Always be prepared

Imagine if the recruiters ask you something along the lines of:

"Okay, we're willing to pay you $65,000, but why should we do so? What is the additional value you'd bring to our team?"

You’d completely freeze in your tracks if you hadn't done your homework, on the:

  • market trends – this figure may seem too high or low for you.
  • job requirements – you may not be able to align your experience with the value it'd have for the company.

Accepting or rejecting the first offer

So you think the figure you've received is fantastic (or deplorable). Don't accept (or reject) it straight away.

If you deem the number might suit you, tell the recruiters:

"Thank you for your kind offer. Could you please forward it to me via email, listing all the benefits it includes, so that I could consider it further in the next 24 hours?"

If you deem that the number is too low, here's how you can respond:

"Thank you for your kind offer. While this number is very generous, the salary range I was aiming for is somewhere between $35K and $55K, based on the last year, working as a junior accountant and my recent certification. Would there be any flexibility upon your offer? Are there any additional perks or benefits that it comes with?"

Avoid the pressure getting to you

During the over-the-phone salary negotiations, you know that this conversation will shape your future, and it might seem too much.

But don't fall into the bad habit of threatening or presenting any ultimatums, because this will do nothing for you:

"If I don't get $120K and a company car and phone, I'm leaving!"

Respect the time and effort the hiring managers have put into the process and listen in detail to their full offer.

"While I was expecting remuneration in the range of $120K, I'm more than willing to find out what else you could potentially offer."

Finding your perfect balance

Some candidates think that when they walk into the room, they are the ones who solely need to get the job.

"You won't find anyone better than me, that's why I deserve the big money!"

Others, tend to apologize for the slightest inconveniences they might bring into the process.

"Apologies, could you possibly increase the amount by $100? I know it's too much to ask, but..."

Don't fall into the trap of either behavior, but stay calm and collected and assess your abilities as to the value they'd bring to the company.

Get your offer in writing

At the end of your call, always ask for your offer in writing – we can't stress this enough.

Key takeaways

While some candidates may be afraid of over-the-phone salary negotiations, you needn't be, as they offer you a unique chance to get what you deserve.

Consider these key strategies:

  • If you receive an offer during an interview, don't accept it immediately. Instead, express your gratitude and ask to have it sent in writing so you can think it over.
  • Consider everything included in the offer, including perks and additional benefits like location and paid time off policies.
  • Research market standards and determine what your expertise is worth to set a specific range. You can refer to all this data during the phone interview itself to frame your negotiations constructively.
  • When negotiating, always start with the higher number in your range. This allows room for the amount to be negotiated down to something you’d be comfortable with.
  • Always be grateful for the opportunity and aim to stay calm under pressure. Prepare questions and answers in advance, and don't feel pressured to accept an offer if it doesn't meet your expectations.

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Volen Vulkov
Volen Vulkov is a resume expert and the co-founder of Enhancv. He has written more than 500 resume guides and deep-dive articles on how to create your resume and cover letter, that inspire job applicants to make a resume to be proud of. His work has been featured in Forbes, Zendesk, HubSpot, and Business Insider, and cited by top universities and educational institutions, like Thunderbird School of Management, Rochester University, University of Miami, and Udemy. Volen applies his deep knowledge and practical experience to write about career changes, development, and how to stand out in the job application process.
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