Secrets from a Hiring Manager: Salary Negotiations

Author: Alicia Westphal, 2010 Wisconsin Lutheran College Graduate

Well students, it’s about that time. You know, the time when you don’t want to hang around with family or older friends because you’re getting that dreadful question… “What are you doing after graduation/after the semester ends/with your life?” It’s okay; we’ve all been there. We’ve all felt it. If it makes you feel better, the year I graduated was 2010 – there were close to zero jobs available for new graduates. My boyfriend’s mom at the time was attempting to cheer my clearly-too-stressed self up at the end of April when she said,

“Well at least you only have 10 days of classes left!” 10 days, no job prospects, and 4 major projects left to finish…I went into a full-scale panic attack and broke down right there in her kitchen. Poor woman. How was she to know?

Anyway, I survived. I promise, you will, too. The job offer will come, and with it, a salary offer. Do you know what to do with it?


I’ve successfully negotiated my salary five times during my six-year career. I’ve also hired and trained fifteen team members in my career as a manager. As the person to whom my team members reported, that made me the hiring manager in the HR-hiring cycle. It’s the person you’ll be talking to once you make it past the initial screening, and the person with whom you’ll be negotiating your salary.

First, know this:

negotiation for what you’ll be paid is absolutely expected, and definitely should be done.

For you, it’s uncomfortable. After all, you’re asking someone to pay you (what feels like) vast sums of money for something you haven’t actually proven to them you can do – yet. From the hiring manager’s point of view, however, know that they’ve planned on hiring within a salary range. That means that they hope they can get you for the lowest budgeted number, but they can go up to the highest budgeted number.

Second, remember this: if you can negotiate anywhere up to $5000 more at the beginning of your career – even if you never negotiate again and just get raises in line with inflation for the next 40 years – it’s an extra half a million dollars by the end of your career, according to Lauren Lyons Cole, CFP (listen around the 0:31:30 mark for this advice). Consider the risk of not negotiating, with that in mind.

Here is what I recommend for a successful salary negotiation.

1. Do your research, and know your numbers.

Know what other people of the same (or close) title, responsibilities, geographic location, and experience level are making. Check out sites like,, and others (try googling “salary expectations for [job title] in [city name]” and rely on this research to guide the discussion.

2. Expect the question.

You will be asked for salary requirements as a range from the recruiter. It’s likely that during the first phone or in-person interview, you’ll also be asked for salary requirements, this time from the hiring manager. This second time is to test your preparedness; be prepared to answer when you’re asked and do your research ahead of time.

3. Be honest.

Talking about money and about how much your time is worth can be uncomfortable, especially if you’ve been raised to be humble, non-greedy, and not to love money. I want to be clear here: asking to make a good salary that is backed by research is in no way greedy. Caring about how much you’re making compared to others in the same career is not bragging. Setting yourself, and your future or current family, up for success through your salary is a smart way to be a good steward of both your time and your abilities.

Along the same lines, remember that no one else is looking out for your welfare except you. It’s the hiring manager’s job to look out for the welfare of their company – and their goal is to make the most money. Period. You need to be honest about the salary you require.

4. Be direct.

It’s important not to waffle about your desired salary when negotiating a price. That doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate – just don’t do it within the same sentence. If your answer sounds something like this, you’re doing it wrong: “Ummm, I mean, something around, I dunno, maybe, forty thousand? Would be nice? Yeah, um, yeah, I think that’d be nice.” Not only do you not sound sure of yourself, as the hiring manager, I’m now doubting your ability to do the job, as well. It carries over in my impression of you.

Instead, focus on clarity, eye contact, no fidgeting, and a strong statement: “You offered thirty-five for this position, but my research suggests that forty-five is more in line with industry and experience standards in this area.” No question marks, no hemming and hawing – just a straightforward answer. Leave the ball in their court, and resist the urge to fill the short silence that follows; that’s a test.

5. Practice asking.

My final advice is to practice the statement above in front of a mirror or with a friend to get used to what it sounds like out loud. The more you say it, the surer you’ll sound in-person. In addition, you can check for nonverbal cues this way to make sure your voice, posture, eye contact, and facial expressions are aligned.

Good luck, and happy negotiating!



Ms. Westphal is an inbound expert with 6 years’ experience in the field of digital strategy and marketing.  She works with the excellent team at Jul Creative.  A fan of all things nerdy, Alicia has a passion for reading all the things, loves dogs, Disney and lists.  Reach her at or on Twitter @otherwestphal.


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