Negotiating Your Salary 101


Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith is a Senior Director in our National Partner Group. She focuses her practice on representing individual partners and groups in connection with partner hiring and office openings on a nationwide basis. Lauren also recruits attorneys at all levels for the Washington D.C. market for placement in both law firms and corporations.

You’ve successfully navigated the interview process and your dream job is within your reach! But it’s not over yet because now it is time to negotiate the offer. This may seem like a Herculean task if you have never negotiated a salary. But, if you prepare, and take into consideration a few important factors when you enter “the room”, you can leave the negotiation knowing you represented yourself well.

Step 1: Be Prepared

Being prepared is as important here as anywhere else! Do your homework and go in with the ammunition you need to succeed. Realize what your priorities are BEFORE you enter the negotiation.

Ask yourself: What is non-negotiable? What will make you say, “no matter how good this job is, I can’t take this level of pay?” For some, it’s not about salary, it’s about time-off or flexibility. When it does come down to salary, determine two thresholds: Your ‘slam dunk’ offer, which would make you IMMEDIATELY say yes and your ‘basement’ offer, which is the bare minimum of what you need to make ends meet. Everything that exists between your ‘slam dunk’ and your ‘basement’ is negotiable.

Know your value and prepare to articulate it.

Be ready to discuss what makes you a fantastic fit for the position. Then be ready to back up your requests with justifications based on the value you can add.

Research the position and the employer to confirm that the compensation package is negotiable.

Make sure you understand the employer’s limitations. Not all employers have the flexibility to adjust base salary. If you know current employees, ask them. If you are working with a recruiter, ask the recruiter about the company’s ability to increase the base salary. If the salary is negotiable, research salary averages to justify a salary request. Ask for data about the existing pay range for the position in question and the maximum pay for the title. Check out sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, Payscale or Simply Hired. Parker + Lynch publishes a Salary Guide which is a great resource. Be on the lookout for the newest version, which will release in September.

Step 2: Enter the Negotiation

You’ve prepared, you know everything you can about the company and its limits and you are ready to negotiate! Now it’s time to seal the deal. Conduct as much of the negotiation as you can either in person or by phone rather than over email.

Never be the first to give a number.

Avoid being the first party to propose the initial number.

Consider the entire deal.

A “Total” Offer Includes: Hiring or Signing Bonus; Benefits (Medical Insurance, Maternity & Paternity Leave, etc.); Location Flexibility; Relocation Assistance; Remote Work Arrangements; Reduced Hour Arrangements; Cost of Living Adjustments; Commute Time (does the location save you significant time in commuting); Cost of Commuting/Parking Reimbursement; Opportunities for Professional Growth/Training/Tuition Reimbursement.

Be honest about your salary requirements.

The company or firm wants to hire you, so let them know what they need to know to get the job done!

Be flexible.

If the company won’t budge on salary, negotiate other compensation. More vacation days, a private office, a flexible schedule, transit passes, educational reimbursement, better health insurance or performance bonuses are other things to negotiate for.

Show how you can contribute to the bottom line.

Have specific examples ready to go. If you have written evaluations available, bring them with you. If you’ve won awards or rank among your peers, prepare to discuss your achievements.

Remain professional no matter what happens.

Negotiation is hard work and it can be difficult if you are not making progress. Convey the right message with your body language, e.g., use consistent eye contact. The negotiation of your salary should be a part of the interview process – the interview isn’t over yet. Remain calm, cool and collected. Don’t compare yourself to co-workers, put others down, or be greedy in your demands. Keep it professional.

Step 3: Don’t leave empty handed

Besides salary, you can focus on a preferred work schedule, vacation accrual and external and internal training opportunities. Do not leave without gaining something.

These simple guidelines will assist you in negotiating a salary for a new position, or even in negotiating a raise for your current position. Remember that if you are using a recruiter to assist you in your job search, your recruiter may be negotiating on your behalf. Your recruiter has every incentive to help you achieve the highest salary possible. Find a recruiter that you trust, whose opinion you value and work exclusively with that recruiter.

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With a rapidly changing industry, it's vital to offer the right compensation and set the right expectation. With our Salary Guide, get detailed job descriptions, industry insights and local salary data to equip your managers with hiring confidence and expertise.

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