For job seekers in today’s competitive labor market, engaging in a salary negotiation can seem intimidating.

While it can be tempting to accept an employer’s initial offer to avoid a potentially uncomfortable situation, doing so can result in a missed opportunity for higher pay if the compensation isn’t quite in line with your expectations.

Research shows that salary is the primary piece of information people focus on when looking for a new opportunity, but, according to a recent survey, just 39 percent of workers tried to secure higher pay with their last offer.

If you want to break from that statistic and elevate your earning potential, keep these six tips in mind the next time you negotiate your salary.

Salary Negotiation Tips

1. Know Your Value


Before talking numbers, research the standard pay range for someone with your education, skills, and experience level. Extensive preparation is key before heading into any negotiation, and this information can help you justify why you’re seeking higher compensation.

To find this data, Harvard Business School’s MBA Career & Professional Development Office suggests using sites such as Salary.com and Paysa to search across companies and locations. By understanding where you fit in the job market, you can build a strong foundation for your bargaining position.

2. Set a Baseline, But Be Ambitious


Using the data gathered over the course of your research, establish a baseline deal you’d be willing to accept that meets your minimum salary requirements. From there, envision several modified versions of it so you can identify your priorities and consider where tradeoffs could be made, if necessary.

It’s equally important to set a stretch goal—a result that would be difficult to achieve but isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Head into the negotiation aiming for this outcome, but keep your baseline parameters in mind so you have a limit on how far you’re willing to compromise.

Negotiation Mastery - Get your free salary negotiation tool. Learn more.

3. Practice Your Talking Points


It’s one thing to craft your negotiation strategy, but it’s another to implement it. Prior to speaking with a potential employer, enlist a trusted friend or colleague to listen to your pitch and present counter-arguments. This act of role-playing will allow you to practice thinking on your feet and prepare for different scenarios you might encounter.

Rehearsing your talking points can also help you become more comfortable in your delivery, enabling you to enter negotiation talks with confidence and poise.

4. Take Time to Respond


Once an offer is made, don’t rush to accept it. Thank the hiring manager for the opportunity and request some time to consider the terms of the agreement. Ask if there’s a deadline for an answer so you know how long you have to respond.

In some situations, this period of inaction can substantially payoff. Take the case of former professional hockey player Derek Sanderson, who’s featured in a new online lesson taught by Negotiation Mastery Professor Mike Wheeler. While engaging in a contract negotiation in the early 1970s, Sanderson’s silence at the bargaining table enabled him to land a better deal than he initially thought possible, becoming the highest-paid athlete of his day.

Use the time granted to fully evaluate whether the salary on the table meets your expectations. If it doesn’t, draw from your research to construct a counteroffer that better suits your needs.

Related: 3 Ways to Add Value at the Negotiation Table

5. Don’t Bargain Against Yourself


One of the most important pitfalls to avoid in the negotiation process is bargaining against yourself. When asked for your salary requirements, it may seem like a good idea to propose a figure from the low-end of your range to avoid ruffling any feathers, but it could compromise your chance of getting a better deal.

Let the hiring manager know that you’re flexible and willing to work toward an agreement, but keep your stretch goal in mind so you can avoid landing in an unsatisfactory position.

6. Consider the Full Package


Money isn’t the only factor to take into account when weighing a job offer.

“Salary is important but there are other forms of compensation beyond just cold hard cash,” says Wheeler.

If there isn’t much wiggle room with pay, see if there are other ways the employer can sweeten the deal. A more flexible schedule, a signing bonus, and increased stock options are just some of the potential avenues for exploration to ensure that you attain the greatest value possible in the agreement at hand.

Boosting Your Earning Potential

Salaries don’t have to be taken at face value. With adequate preparation and a well-crafted strategy, you can advocate for higher pay at the negotiation table and secure a compensation package that aligns with your professional qualifications and goals.

Do you want to hone your bargaining skills? Take our new 15-minute salary negotiation lesson about former professional hockey player Derek Sanderson and find out how you can use his story to be a more effective dealmaker.

Matt Gavin

About the Author

Matt Gavin is a member of the marketing team at Harvard Business School Online. Prior to returning to his home state of Massachusetts and joining HBS Online, he lived in North Carolina, where he held roles in news and content marketing. He has a background in video production and previously worked on several documentary films for Boston’s PBS station, WGBH. In his spare time, he enjoys running, exploring New England, and spending time with his family.