Careers advice

8 crucial salary negotiation tips for your next job offer (with examples)

Game face on, it's negotiation time.

What you’ll learn:

  • Why negotiate your job offer?
  • Are there any situations where you shouldn’t negotiate?
  • 8 key tips for successful salary negotiation
  • What can you negotiate other than salary?

Few people like talking about money, even fewer like asking for more of it. 

However, as tempting as it is to accept a job once it’s offered, you need to be happy with the salary. You fought hard to secure this role, and selling yourself short to get over the finish line will end with resentment down the line.

To prevent this happening, and to make the process easier, we’ve drawn up eight must-read salary negotiation tips for your next job offer. 

Going equipped with this knowledge will help you put your best foot forward, and get the salary you deserve.

Salary negotiation is all about confidence and preparation.

Why should you negotiate a job offer?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of salary negotiation tactics., it's important to understand that negotiating salary is a normal, and even expected, part of the hiring process from an employer’s perspective.

There are a number of reasons why we highly recommend negotiating your salary when you’re offered a job:

You should feel valued

At the most fundamental level, an employer is paying for you to dedicate a significant portion of your week to their organisation through the unique blend of skills and experience you bring to the table.

While most of us hope to get more than just a salary out of our jobs, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is an integral part of the deal you make with your employer. If you feel like you’re being underpaid , you’ll end up resenting your employer as a result. This is bad for you because you’ll come to work every day with a chip on your shoulder, and it’s bad for the employer because you’re probably not working as hard as you would if you felt properly valued.

Your salary will follow you

If you undersell yourself with this job application, chances are you’ll keep doing so throughout your career.

One of the most common questions you’ll be asked when you apply for a job is what your salary expectation is for the role. If you’ve earnt less than you could have done in previous roles, you’ll probably lower your expectations for future jobs because otherwise you’d feel like you’re asking for an ‘unrealistic’ leap in income. This really is a step-by-step process of increasing your salary through your career, so start now.

You absolutely should seek to negotiate job offers.

It sets the tone for your relationship with your future manager

There are so many positives that will come from having an open, honest relationship with your future manager. Given that everyone can acknowledge that salary is a difficult subject to talk about, if you show that you can tackle it with professionalism, confidence and understanding, you’ll be putting yourself in a great position to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with this manager.

How to negotiate salary for a job offer

1. Know what you’re worth

You’ll probably have already answered the common job interview question, 'what are your salary expectations?’

If so, you’ll know the salary range for the role you’re going for. This knowledge is vital to have a strong bargaining position for wage negotiations.

You can research standard industry wages by looking at other job listings, using online salary tools or speaking to trusted contacts.

Note: we used the word ‘range’ for a reason. We’ll come back to the negotiating process itself later, but it’s important that your research gives you a range, not a single figure.

2. Approach the topic professionally

Most job offers in New Zealand are given over the phone. So, if you’re feeling good about an application, it’s a good idea to prepare how you’ll bring up salary negotiation beforehand.

This is especially important if the idea of talking money makes you nervous. It’s key you broach this subject professionally and confidently.

Of course, you should first thank the hiring manager or recruiter for the opportunity, and say how excited you are about the role. Keeping the conversation polite and positive is a huge part of getting where you want.

Here are a few ways to start negotiating salary:

  • “Can I negotiate this offer?” – before you start your best marketplace haggling, it’s crucial to establish there’s room to maneuver in the first place.
  • “What is the salary for this position based on?” – open questions like this help keep the conversation moving, and can indicate whether there’s flexibility.
  • “I was wondering if we could explore a slightly higher starting salary of $X?” – naming a figure early forms a basis for negotiation, and puts the ball back in their court.

Another option is to ask for time to consider the offer.

This is a totally reasonable request, and one that most employers will respect. You can then schedule a call (usually within 48 hours) to return with your response.

Research salary bands so you can enter the negotiation equipped with facts.

3. Make your case

In the same way that it’s perfectly reasonable for you to ask for more salary if you think you’re worth more than is currently being offered, it’s also perfectly reasonable for the company to ask for some good reasons. Why should they give you this salary boost?

Be ready for this and come to your negotiation equipped with a business case for why you think you deserve more. In practice, this is likely to combine your salary research (see Point One above) and details of how your unique combination of skills and experience warrants higher remuneration.

An example of how this salary negotiation could look in practice is as follows:

“I was wondering if we could explore a slightly higher starting salary of $65,000? Based on the average New Zealand salary for this position type I saw on Trade Me Jobs’ salary guide, this seems more in line with what’s being offered across the sector. Also, I think that my experience mentoring other team members, as well as constantly hitting my own targets, means that I bring a slightly more advanced skillset to the business. This would offer increased value to the company, which I think would be better reflected in this salary”.

Keep the focus on your professional contribution, not personal circumstances. Other employees will have children and mortgages to fund, so these considerations are unlikely to be useful for your negotiation.

Practise your pitch beforehand to make sure you get the message across clearly and concisely. Your Trade Me Job Profile is a great tool to have handy here, as you can quickly skim your experiences and qualifications to find your best bargaining chips.

Do your salary research before entering a job negotiation.

4. Be honest

While you’re building your case for negotiating salary, don’t get carried away and be tempted to embellish previous accomplishments, or inflate past salaries, to try and strengthen your position.

It’s very easy to trip yourself up by doing this – for example by accidentally contradicting something you’ve told the hiring manager earlier in the process. If you do lie, and the hiring manager finds out, you risk not only losing any chance of successful negotiation, but the employer could rescind their job offer altogether.

5. Don’t negotiate unnecessarily

We’ve already mentioned the importance of negotiating, but overplaying your hand can have exactly the opposite effect that you’re hoping for. As we’ll explain below, there are plenty of aspects of an employment agreement that you could hypothetically seek to negotiate. However, haggling every minute detail will quickly get annoying, and can send the wrong signal to the person on the other side of the table, meaning that you could reduce your chances of getting what you want on the major components of your contract.

You might be the world’s best negotiator, but, sometimes, less is more.

6. Ask for more than you want

While you should research a range, give a single figure – the uppermost end of your scale. The range is just to give you an idea of what is reasonable, and help you decide what you’d ultimately be happy with.

Sometimes the employer will simply agree to your figure. But, more probably, you’ll end up bargaining – it’s called a salary negotiation, after all.

This is why you name the top end of your spectrum, and not the whole thing. If you do the latter, you can almost guarantee the employer will begin the process from the lower end.

It’s also why you should give a figure greater than what you want. From here, you can still afford to lose some ground and be content with the result.

You need to have a strong case for why you think you deserve a higher salary.

7. Know when to walk away

If your prospective employer refuses to budge on their salary offer, it could be time to walk away.

This isn’t a decision to take lightly, but consider whether you’ll be happy in the role if you aren’t receiving the salary you deserve.

It’s tough to abandon an application when you’ve made it this far, but equally you’ve shown you’re a great candidate – and perhaps next time you’ll find an employer who understands the value you can bring to their operation.

8. Get your deal in writing

After the back and forth, you have a phone call with the hiring manager where you agree a contract that really works for both you and the organisation. Mission accomplished.

Then, two days later, you find out that the manager has resigned for an opportunity at another company. You have no paper trail of your negotiations, and you’re back to square one with the person who’s taken over recruiting for that position. Nightmare. So, you see why we’re suggesting that, as soon as an agreement is reached, you get it confirmed in writing. Of course, if your negotiations have taken place over an email, you’ll have some paper trail in case there is confusion further down the road. However, it’s still a good idea to get something more official sent to you. Ideally with the hiring manager’s signature on it.

Don't settle for a verbal deal, make sure you get it in writing.

What can I negotiate in a job offer apart from salary?

If you’re really keen on the role, but the salary negotiations didn’t go your way, you could try improving other parts of the offer. Lots of companies will also look to lure you in with exciting perks to sweeten the deal. So, what are the best employee benefits you could ask for, and why? Let’s have a look at some of the different options that might become available to you.

1. Paid time off

In New Zealand, all full-time and part-time employees are entitled to four weeks’ paid holiday, on top of sick leave and other types of leave. However, there’s nothing to say you can’t negotiate some extra paid time off.

Additional parental leave is one example of a smart bargaining idea, particularly if you know that your family’s soon going to be expanding. If you’re not at this stage, no-one’s ever complained about having a few extra days of annual leave up their sleeve.

2. Flexible working arrangements

Flexible working arrangements can mean either flexible hours, working outside the office, or both. The good news is that COVID showed employers that they can trust their staff to work outside of conventional settings and still get the job done. Of course, this one won’t work if your work can’t be done remotely, but if it can, there are now very few good reasons employers can give to say no.

3. Stocks or bonus options

It’s becoming increasingly common for employers to offer new starters shares in the company. This is a clever move as it means you have your own financial stake in the business, but it’s also something you can choose to sell if you want. You might also have the opportunity to negotiate how much you receive in bonuses in a year, on top of your salary.

4. Relocation costs

If you’re going to be relocating to start this new job, we’d highly recommend negotiating some assistance involved with the costs of moving. Depending on your seniority, and how far you'll be moving, your new employer may be open to paying costs like a removal company and putting you up in temporary accommodation while you get something more permanent sorted out.

An alternative to this is getting help with your commuting costs, if you’ll be covering a lot of ground when travelling to and from work.

5. Professional development opportunities

Even though you’re starting a new job, there’s no reason to take the foot off the pedal when it comes to developing your career. Not only is this good for you personally, it’s what your future employer wants to see – you’re showing your motivation to keep learning and increase your value to the company.

Examples of the ways your future company could invest in your career include purchasing access to online courses, or linking you up with a professional career coach who can help you plan your next steps.

6. A better title

You might love the job description, but have some concerns about the job title. This is particularly true if you’re going to be managing people, but your title doesn’t make this obvious.

Having words like ‘manager’ on your CV can be very useful for your future career development, so you shouldn’t feel shy about tackling this in the negotiation, just because you’re starting a new role right now. Make sure you’re clear with the employer why you think the job title needs changing, otherwise it might seem like an ego thing.

7. Health and wellbeing benefits

Good employers care about the mental and physical health of their workforce, and it’s becoming more common for companies to offer some form of health and wellbeing package to their staff.

As such, it would be perfectly normal for you to request some form of wellbeing perk as part of your contract. A common example could be a gym membership, or access to a physiotherapist.

8. Employee discounts and rewards

Depending on where you work, you might already be eyeing up some discounts on your company’s products, or those of its business partners.

Often, there will already be some form of discount included in the contract, so it may simply be a matter of asking for a little bit more. If not, your employer is likely to see this as a way of paying you more, without actually having to do so.

The other clever thing about asking for this perk is that you’re showing you admire the company’s product or service, which is bound to put you in their good books.

9. Tech perks

These may be less meaningful than some of the other great work perks on this list, but if you can get a free laptop, phone or tablet out of your new job, then why not? It may be that you're given a phone to use for work purposes at first, but after a while it’s likely to become something you can have for your personal use.