Salary negotiation doesn’t have to be intimidating. Fearless Salary Negotiation is a deep dive into the strategy and tactics of successful salary negotiation, but what if you don’t have time for a deep dive?

Here is a short summary of five salary negotiation tactics that everyone can use to negotiate starting salary. I’ll just share each tactic and a quick description so you can use these tactics right away if you need them.

1. Don’t disclose your current or desired salary

The Dreaded Salary Question usually comes up early in the job interview process, and it’s a salary negotiation tactic disguised as an interview question.

Here’s The Dreaded Salary Question:

“So where are you right now in terms of salary, and what are you looking for if you make this move?”

When The Dreaded Salary Question comes up, you’re usually focused on simply getting to the next stage of your interview. It seems like an interview question, and since the point of a job interview is to answer questions, you might as well answer this one, right?

Nope. Don’t disclose your current or desired salary in your job interview or salary negotiation. You want the company to focus on what they need to offer to convince you to take the job, not on the minimum they need to offer to approximate your current salary.

So what should you say when asked for your current or desired salary? Here is an answer you can give to continue progressing in your job interview without costing yourself money later on:

“I’m not comfortable sharing my current salary. I would prefer to focus on the value I can add to this company rather than what I’m paid at my current job. I don’t have a specific number in mind for a desired salary, and you know better than I do what value my skillset and experience could bring to your company. I want this move to be a big step forward for me in terms of both responsibility and compensation.”

2. Set your minimum acceptable salary before you get a job offer

Job hunting and interviewing are a lot of work, and often take many hours of your time over many weeks. So once you finally get a job offer, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to negotiate.

That’s why it’s best to set your minimum acceptable salary before you get a job offer. This is your “walk away” number—your line in the sand for the minimum salary you will accept if you take the job, and it’s critical to your salary negotiation.

With this number in your back pocket, you can confidently negotiate starting salary knowing you will either exceed this number and take the job, or you will walk away from the opportunity satisfied that it wasn’t a good fit.

3. Always negotiate starting salary by counter offering

You should always counteroffer, even if you really like the offer. You won’t know if there’s room to negotiate unless you try. Best case, you’ll find that the company is willing to pay a little more than they offered. Worst case, you find out they already made their best offer. Both of those are good results!

You should counter between 10% and 20% above the base salary in the job offer. Counter closer to 10% if you need the job pretty badly and you don’t sense that the company is desperate to hire you. Counter closer to 20% above the job offer if you have other options and you sense the company specifically needs you to do the job.

Use the salary negotiation script generator and counteroffer calculator to get started.

4. Deliver your counter offer via email if possible

Ask for a couple of days to consider the job offer so that you can calculate your counter offer and build your case to justify it. Once you’ve determined your counter offer, deliver it via email if you can.

Countering in an email has two great benefits:

  1. You can take your time writing and editing the email so that you articulate your complete case to justify your counter very clearly.
  2. Your email will also act as a document that can be circulated internally at the company as they discuss your counter offer. You’ll make your case better than anyone, and this gives you an opportunity to indirectly present your case to whoever reads the email.

Here’s a salary negotiation email sample you can use as a template to help you get started.

5. Keep negotiating until you’ve maximized your base salary and benefits

Once you deliver your counter offer, the company will likely come back to you with a response somewhere between their initial job offer and your counter offer. Their response will usually be higher than their initial offer, which means your counter improved your salary!

But don’t stop negotiating just yet!

Prepare a script so you know exactly how you’ll respond to each increment in their range of possible responses so you can increase your base salary or add more benefits to your total compensation package.

Here’s a salary negotiation script example you can use to help get you started.

With these five salary negotiation tactics that everyone can use to negotiate starting salary, you can significantly increase your starting salary when you start a new job.

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