How To Negotiate a Higher Starting Salary

Let’s face it: salary arbitration is always the most awkward and angst-inducing dance in the job-seeking process. The conversation can be complicated by the stage of the company, your role and experience, and the stock options that may-- or may not-- be available to you. How do you navigate this dialogue with tact and be a proactive participant in the discussion about your financial future? We invited some experts on money matters from our community for a negotiation workshop in our New York space last week. Our contributors included:

  • Deep Gujral, VP, Strategy & Development at Nomad Financial, gave us an overview of what equity is and the different stock options on the market.
  • Nick Christman, Marketing Director at Namely, schooled us in what salary expectations for various roles and how to navigate AngelList--one of the top sites to check for startup health.
  • Dimitris Kouvaros, founding member of Venture Assembly and community organizer at Startup Weekend NYC community organizer, got us well-versed in startup vitality, including the warning signs and ways to see if a startup has passed the “quality test.”

Here are some key points, showing how to negotiate a higher starting salary:

Silence is a virtue.

Try not to be first person to name a number-- if it can be avoided. Sharing salary expectations is tricky-- lowball it and you’ve shot yourself in the foot-- forfeiting your chance to negotiate up. Aim too high and you could risk the offer.

If you must, state a range rather than a target; this gives you some room to be aspirational, and gives you additional leverage in negotiating equity and benefits once the offer is made. Beware that there is a good chance that you’ll be offered the number on the low-end of this range, so be sure it is a number you’re comfortable with.[bctt tweet="State a salary range in negotiations, rather than a target @alisonperrie"]

Do your due diligence.

“Your role and the stage of the company are the biggest salary influencers” -Nick Christman

If you do have to name a salary range, you’ll be glad to have done your research. Visit AngelList or Crunchbase to see when the company was last funded-- if they’ve recently come into a lot of money, they may be able to pay you more, but your share in equity will likely be less. Press releases on the company’s website and articles on outlets such as Fast Company, TechCrunch, PandoDaily are also important indicators of current and future success.

It’s important to note that startup salaries can vary greatly, but there are some free resources out there to see where you stack up, including’s salary wizard. For a more segmented view, Venture Assembly gives insights drawing from hundreds of venture-backed companies’ data and may be a useful investment during the negotiation period.[bctt tweet="Consider the stage of the co. when negotiating salary @nickxman"]

Know your value.

What do you bring to the table? How does this stack up with others in your field? The more you have to offer, the more you can leverage this in your favor. On average, web developers make almost twice as much as community managers (CM salary survey data), due to the nature of engineers’ technical specialities and market demand. However, if you are able to prove your impact in driving growth, there is inherent value in getting your product or service in front of eyeballs on a grand scale.[bctt tweet="Know your value and leverage it in your favor during negotiations @alisonperrie"]

Be confident, be warm.

This, above all. When you name your price or counteroffer, be confident and firm that the amount you’re asking for reflects your worth-- you did do your homework, after all. But also be warm.

Remember: this company is making you an offer because they think you are a great culture fit. Don’t put up stone-cold walls now just because money is on the table. Be positive-- not defensive-- assuring the hiring manager that you are excited about the role and hopeful that you can arrive at an outcome that everyone feels comfortable with. Show patience and persistence if there is push-back, but take note of social cues to know when to back down.[bctt tweet="When negotiating salary, be confident, but also be warm @alisonperrie"]

Photo credit: Keith Cooper via Flickr cc