Negotiating salary over the phone is a chance to get a higher offer with little to no risk… if you approach the salary negotiation correctly.
But there are also some critical mistakes to avoid when negotiating salary and key tips you want to take advantage of before and during your salary phone call.
Coming up, I’ll share exactly how to negotiate salary on the phone to get the highest job offer possible from hiring managers.
It can be tempting to skip market research, but you’re going to have a harder time negotiating if you aren’t familiar with current salaries in the market.
Without doing this research, how will you know if the salary offered is too low, above average, or fair?
So before you negotiate starting salary, prepare ahead by seeing what other companies are paying people for this type of role in your city.
You can research the average starting salary for your role on the following sites:
Note that if your job title is common in many industries, focus your salary research on your industry.
Look for competitors or industry peers of your future employer.
The general idea here is that you want to make an “apples to apples” comparison: same/similar job title, same city, same industry, etc.
That way, employers can’t discount your research in the negotiation process. They can’t say, “Well sure, those salaries are a bit higher, but that’s because they’re in New York where the cost of living is higher.”
Or, “Yes, those companies pay a bit more money for this position but that’s because they’re in the finance industry, which pays more.”
As you do your salary research in the step above, take notes to help you negotiate your new job offer.
What averages are you finding? What numbers seem to be on the high and low end of the range?
This will help you quickly understand the salary offered to you, and you will have the knowledge and leverage you need to argue for more pay if you feel you deserve more (I’ll discuss this in detail coming up).
Write down key talking points you want to address.
In the phone salary negotiation, you can mention:
All of these talking points can help you get the highest salary possible.
Coming up, we’ll look into all of these ideas in more detail.
First, there’s one more important piece of info to include in your notes before you negotiate salary on the phone…
Any time an employer extends an offer, you should make sure you understand all of the details of the position and job offer before you try to negotiate.
Have you reviewed the benefits package? Did you read the job description and understand what’s expected of you? Do you understand the breakdown in the pay they’ve offered, in terms of base salary vs. bonus, etc.?
Once you fully understand the role, the salary, and other benefits, then you can begin a successful negotiation.
Now that we’ve covered a few tips on how to prepare for your phone salary negotiation, let’s talk about specific negotiation tactics/steps to use to get your desired salary.
One quick step to take, verbally, before you negotiate salary: Show that you appreciate the employer’s job offer.
Even if the salary feels a bit low, or you’d like to ask for more, the hiring manager likely put serious thought into the decision to offer you the position, and it’s always best to show appreciation for that.
So start your response to their job offer with a phrase like:
“Thanks so much for the offer. I’m thrilled that you think I’m the right person for the role.”
“Thank you so much for the offer. I’m excited that you think I’m the right fit for the position.”
Then you can move on to asking directly for more compensation.
Any time you make a counter offer or ask a potential employer to increase their offer, you’re best off using professional, work-related reasons.
Many young professionals make the mistake of relying on personal reasons, such as the price of gas, the length of their commute, the fact that they have student loans, etc.
Employers are going to be more eager to pay higher salaries when they hear arguments related to:
Those are logical, business-related reasons, and are your best shot at getting a great salary in your new job.
An HR manager or hiring manager isn’t looking to compensate you for a personal factor like student loans; they’re looking to compensate you for the work you’ll be doing once hired. So make an argument based on the value of that work!
One key rule to follow when making a salary request in any negotiation: Ask for a specific number.
Don’t ask for a range in your salary negotiations.
If you tell an employer on the phone, “I was hoping for more like $55,000 to $60,000,” they’re only going to hear the lower number.
They’ll be thinking, “Okay, we can get this person to accept for $55,000 or maybe a bit lower.”
Job seekers are shooting themselves in the foot and wasting their time by asking for a salary range. This won’t get you a higher salary.
So figure out your salary expectations, come up with a salary target that’s realistic in your job search, and ask for that one number.
One of the best tactics in a salary negotiation is to ask open-ended questions to put pressure on the employer and gather new info, too.
If you don’t want to name an exact number when negotiating salary on the phone, you could ask an open-ended question like, “Is there any flexibility in the base salary of your offer?”
Examples of other useful open-ended questions to use in the interview process and negotiation process:
Along with open-ended questions, you can also utilize silence when negotiating salary on the phone.
If there’s a gap in the conversation, don’t rush to fill the space and speak before you’re ready.
Take a deep breath and relax, which will ensure that you respond only when you’ve thought through your options.
When you’re thinking hard and feeling the pressure, the employer probably is, too!
For example, if you use an open-ended question like mentioned above, such as, “Is there any flexibility in the base salary of this offer?” you should state your question, pause, and wait for a response.
This new employer is going to be thinking about how to respond. Let them think and reply. Don’t jump in and speak again!
This is also true if you ask for a specific desired salary. Ask for the salary offer you want, and then go silent until they respond.
If you ask for more money, most hiring managers will pause and think. They’ll be considering the average salaries of their current team, their budget in the hiring process, and more.
Many job candidates will feel pressure during any silence and will jump in to fill the silence, or even begin negotiating against themselves by bringing their request down to a lower salary.
Don’t do that.
Remain confident and use silence to your advantage.
Before entering your salary negotiation on the phone, think about the lowest salary you’d accept. Consider factors such as your cost of living but also what you’ll be learning in this job, whether it’s the perfect step in your career, etc.
Don’t tell the employer your salary “floor” but know it yourself.
This will eliminate some on-the-spot decisions during the salary negotiation call, allowing you to focus more on being persuasive and negotiating well.
For example, let’s say the employer offered a base salary of $50,000. You get on the phone call after deciding to negotiate salary and ask for more.
You plan to ask, “Is there any flexibility to raise the base salary to $60,000?” and then point to some of the salary research you’ve conducted.
However, let’s imagine this position is your dream job, and you’d gladly accept an offer for $50,000 if they can’t raise the salary over the phone.
Then, imagine they respond and say, “Sorry, but each new employee in this role starts at $50,000. We know you’ll be a valuable employee and are happy to schedule the first performance review six months after you start, but we can’t change the salary now.”
In that case, you know what to do: Accept anyway.
Whereas, if this wasn’t a dream job, or if you felt $50,000 was a lowball offer that you just couldn’t accept, then you’d want to choose a higher “floor” before the negotiation.
In this case, you could say:
“I’d happily accept $55,000, but unfortunately, I can’t take a new role for less than that amount.”
Those are just a few examples of why you should know the lowest number you’d accept before starting a salary discussion.
As you negotiate salary over the phone, remember to consider the full salary package including bonuses and other benefits.
If you reach an impasse and the conversation seems stuck, consider negotiating for a different type of compensation, such as bonuses.
Many aspects of the job offer are negotiable, not just base salary.
Still, it’s helpful to consider all aspects of an offer as you negotiate salary over the phone.
This is also useful when comparing two job offers. Maybe one offer fell a bit short of your salary expectations but has a higher bonus, more vacation days, or will allow you to work remotely.
Those additional benefits are valuable, so consider everything an employer offers, not just base pay.
If another company has offered you a position with higher pay, you can mention that when negotiating.
Even if you’re close to another offer with a company, you can say, “I’m nearing the offer stage with another firm in our industry, and based on salary discussions so far, I’m expecting an offer of approximately $X.”
You can also mention what you’re paid in your current position if you’re employed right now and well paid.
Most employers and recruiters know that they’re not going to get potential new hires to change companies without offering a nice boost in salary (usually at least 10%).
So don’t be afraid to mention your current pay and/or other high-paying offers to the company you’re negotiating with.
This won’t negatively affect the negotiation; it will make a company more eager to impress you with a high-salary offer.
As we discuss how to negotiate salary over the phone, it’s important to point out: You don’t need to finalize anything on this phone call.
If you have a back-and-forth negotiation, share your salary expectations, and find out the best number an employer can offer, that’s a great outcome.
You can ask for time to consider everything after that.
For example, you can say:
“I’m excited about this new offer. I appreciate the thought and time you put into this discussion with me. Would it be alright if I take 24 hours to give you a response? I always like to discuss important decisions like this with my family.”
You can use a similar script any time you receive an initial offer.
However, if you have one single request, such as an increase in base salary from $110,000 to $120,000, it can be a powerful negotiation tactic to say:
“I’m prepared to accept this offer right now if we can agree on a base salary of $120,000.”
This shows the company that they’re one tangible step away from getting you on-board, which can incentivize them to act swiftly and perhaps even stretch their hiring budget.
For more word-for-word scripts and strategies, read this article on the best answers for salary negotiation.
If you’ve read the tips above, you know how to negotiate salary over the phone to get a higher offer.
Research ahead, make logical, business-oriented arguments, and stay calm if the employer can’t quite offer what you want.
Your goal is simply to get a fair offer that’s at the top of an employer’s range.
Find out what the employer can offer and get what’s fair.
You’re not trying to strong-arm an employer into paying far more than the role should earn. I’d argue that you don’t even want to work for a company that’s wildly overpaying people.
However, you don’t want to start with a new company and find out that other employees are earning $10,000 more. So this is why you should research salary data and be prepared to negotiate with a company.
Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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