negotiating a salary increase

Wish you could add avocado to that burrito? Wish you could get an HBO subscription? As human beings, we’re victim to a cognitive bias called the Denomination effect, in which we tend to pay more attention to small amounts of money than large amounts of money. 

For example, when planning a vacation we’ll debate whether we should book the cheaper hotel or the more expensive hotel for hours. We’ll cross-reference with other hotels, search for deals, and even sign up for discount email lists, all in the hopes of saving $50.

But, when it comes to possibly gaining $4,000 or even $10,000 in a salary negotiation, we’ll shy away and just take whatever is offered to us.

Over the last 5 years I’ve negotiated my salary 4 times and, through trial and error, discovered a few techniques that eventually earned me a $40,000+ increase in salary. In this post I’ll show you how you can negotiate a higher salary without going through a stressful experience and without “selling yourself.”

Let’s jump right in!

1. Ask them for the salary range of the position

Surprisingly, most job candidates never do the simple step of asking what the salary range is for a given position.

This is understandable.

After all, job interviews can be incredibly stressful so it’s easy to forget these simple questions.

The best time to ask about salary expectations is during the phone screen with the recruiter. Keep in mind that a recruiter is evaluated based on how many quality candidates they bring in and how many of those candidates get offers. So, it’s in a recruiter’s best interest to make sure you’re qualified (not only based on your experience, but also based on your salary needs).

In my experience, about 70% of the time the recruiter will gladly share the salary range they have to work with for a position. For the times that they don’t share this information, you can provide them with a range instead.

Let’s go over how to choose the best salary range for a negotiation.

2. Give them a salary range instead of a number

A common mistake that job candidates make when negotiating a higher salary is that they don’t give the hiring manager any wiggle room. Imagine that they offer you $70,000 and you demand $20,000 more. You might disqualify yourself as a candidate simply because they think they can’t afford you.

The last thing you want is for your manager to think, “well we really like her, but maybe she’ll be disappointed with the salary we can give her and quit after just a year. Maybe we should choose a different candidate instead?”

A better approach to negotiate a higher salary is to provide a range that you’re comfortable with. There are two ways you can phrase this:

“My range would generally be between $80,000-$95,000, depending on benefits, bonuses, stock options, etc.”


“I’m looking for somewhere in the low to mid six figures.”

The way you should pick your range is based on the salary you’re targeting. Namely, your range should place your target salary in the middle. 

Human beings have a cognitive bias called “anchoring” in which we use the first piece of information given to us to adjust the value we set to something. When given a range, we tend to never want to be on the extremes of that range (no one wants to be “too short” or “too tall”).

For example, if someone says they’re looking for a salary of $50,000–$60,000, they’ll likely be offered $55,000. 

But, if they say they’re looking for $50,000–$70,000, they’ll likely be offered $60,000. 

By giving the hiring manager a range, you’ll not only give them more wiggle room, but you can also safely ask for a higher salary without eliminating yourself from the hiring pool.

3. Discuss the entire hiring package so you have a backup plan

Let’s be honest, in today’s market where there are over 20 million unemployed workers in the U.S. alone, the chances that you’re irreplaceable are pretty slim. That’s why when you’re negotiating your job offer, it’s really important to create a backup plan in your negotiation.

A “backup” is like an emergency exit that you can use if the negotiation isn’t going your direction. If you ask for a higher salary and they say no, you can use your “backup” to move the negotiation to a positive place and still accept the job offer.

One of the easiest ways to create a backup is to start off by discussing more than just the salary.

In most cases, it costs companies a lot more to hire you than just your salary, including:

  • Your job title
  • Performance bonuses
  • Stock or stock options
  • Health insurance
  • Vacation time
  • Work from home time
  • 401K
  • Commuter/wellness benefits

If your salary negotiation is causing you and the company to have a roadblock, the most common way you can move the negotiation forward is by negotiating your job title.

This is a good backup because it doesn’t cost the company any money to bump up your job title. Although at first you might be thinking, “how does a better job title help me pay the bills?” 

Well, it doesn’t…yet.

Increasing your job title doesn’t have a monetary value in the moment, but it does set you up for a big salary raise in the future. When you decide to leave the company, you can apply to more senior level positions, which will naturally carry senior-level pay along with them.

Conclusion and Takeaways

Those are 3 easy ways that you can negotiate your next salary and do so without stressing out. It’s important to remember that negotiating a job offer is a very standard practice and recruiters often expect you to negotiate a little, which is why they may give you a lower offer to begin with.

In 4 out of my last 5 jobs I’ve been able to negotiate successfully. And, the one time that my negotiation didn’t work, nothing bad happened as a result. I simply accepted the job offer and we moved on to a great working relationship.

Since then I’ve helped dozens of friends, coworkers, and students negotiate their own salaries. If you want to learn more tactics and strategies like these, I recommend reading some of these blog posts or signing up for one of my accelerated online courses, which condense all my best lessons into less than 60 minutes of video tutorials.

And if this article does anything, I hope that it helps you secure that extra scoop of guacamole.