Timing Your Salary Negotiation for Maximum Impact

Timing Your Salary Negotiation for Maximum Impact

By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Understanding When to Negotiate

Negotiate your salary only after receiving a tentative offer from someone with hiring authority or when after all your interviews, they are discussing a possible offer and what it will take for you to say “yes,” to an offer. This means that if you can agree on compensation, you will be hired. This is crucial for shaping your negotiation strategy.

Why Timing Matters

  1. Investment in You: By the time a company reaches an agreement in principle with you, they have already invested significant resources. Imagine you’ve gone through multiple interview rounds. Each round costs the company time and money. For example, one month of an engineer’s time can cost around $20k. If the company has spent thousands of dollars  to reach this point with you, walking away from the negotiation means they lose that investment. They are motivated to finalize the deal with you.
  2. Leverage and Confidence: The fear that negotiating might cost you the job is unfounded. By the time they’ve made you an offer, they want you. The worst outcome of negotiating in good faith is that you receive the original offer. Negotiating never makes worthwhile offers worse. Hence, adopt a policy of always negotiating offers.

Practical Steps for Effective Negotiation

  1. Wait for a Tentative Offer or For the Final Salary Conversation: Do not start negotiating until you have a Yes-If offer (Yes-If we agree on terms). Avoid negotiating from a No-But position (No-But we might hire you if you’re very cheap). Working for a No-But company means you may compromise excessively, which defeats the purpose of negotiation.
  2. Avoid Premature Discussions: Any discussion of compensation before a Yes-If offer is premature. During the job interview, focus on showcasing your skills and fit for the role. If compensation is brought up too early, you might appear desperate or unprofessional. The goal is to end the interview on a positive note, expressing optimism about the role, and then discuss compensation separately.
  3. Optimize Negotiation Channels: Ideally, conduct your salary negotiation over email. This allows you to take your time to prepare thoughtful responses and reduces the pressure of real-time negotiation. Email can level the playing field, especially if you are less experienced in negotiation compared to the hiring manager.

Leveraging Your Position

By waiting for a tentative offer or for that final salary conversation, you ensure that the company is invested in you and motivated to finalize the deal. This leverage can help you secure a better compensation package. Remember, negotiating is not about being difficult; it’s about ensuring you are fairly compensated for your skills and contributions.


  • Negotiate only after a conditional offer: Ensure you have a Yes-If offer before discussing compensation.
  • Understand the company’s investment: Recognize the resources the company has already spent on you, which gives you leverage.
  • Always negotiate offers: Adopt a strategy of always negotiating, as this is key to achieving better compensation.
  • Avoid premature compensation discussions: Focus on your fit for the role during interviews and discuss compensation separately.
  • Use email for negotiations: Leverage email to prepare better and reduce the pressure of real-time discussions where possible. This will help you hide any anxiety or fear that may come out in your voice.

By following these guidelines, you can negotiate confidently and get a compensation package that reflects your true value.

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2024 



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