Case Study: Her First Salary Negotiations

A recent post on is a great recount of a woman’s recent job search and how she tried negotiating her salary for the first time.   I recommend reading the post because it illustrates two key aspects of negotiating:

  1. Research is the foundation to establish a target salary
  2. You don’t need to make a specific counter-offer to be successful

Spoiler Alert

You’ll be encouraged to know that in the end she gets a bigger salary than she set as her goal.  That’s a great success!  The process to get there had a couple of missteps but we all have to crawl, walk, and then run when we are learning a new skill.    Let’s examine and learn from her negotiations.

Improving Negotiation Tactics

Her first job offer came with a salary offer that was 8% lower than her target salary.  She then  “…told the human resources person with whom I was communicating that I’d like to make my target number, but that I’d consider additional benefits (i.e. more paid vacation days) in lieu of salary if the salary number was non-negotiable.”

The positive is that she opened her mouth.  The areas that have room for improvement are:

  1. She told her target number
  2. She stated that she was open to additional benefits in lieu of salary

Why are these areas for improvement?  First, you should name a salary greater than what you want because the negotiations could go 2 or 3 rounds.  If the first salary you name is your true desired salary then there is no place for you to go but below your desired salary.  Not a fun place to go.  Second, stating what you would consider in lieu of salary is negotiating against yourself.  All that does is weaken your initial negotiation.   The hiring manager or recruiter will come back with or without a counter offer.  You don’t need to do their work for them.

She was unable to come to an agreement with the first company.  Then she received a second job offer and the salary was 17% below her target salary.  She repeated the same process from the first negotiation and  was again unable to come to agreement.

Confidence and Negotiations

And then she received her third and fourth job offers.  Both were above her target salary.  One was 117% and the other 141%.   This is when she was brilliant.  “After I told each of the companies about the other, (without making any requests, save a request for a few days in which to make my decision) each presented me with another offer.”

Truly the confidence she gained from having two offers helped her negotiate with each company.   But notice she never stated that she needed another offer she just let them know that she needed to consider the offer and she let them know why.  They did the work to sweeten the offer.  She was able to get both companies to make two additional offers by just letting them know each time that she needed to consider the offers

I believe there are three great takeaways from this first-person account that any beginner salary negotiator can use.

  1. Research salaries to set a target salary
  2. Act with confidence
  3. Explain why you need to consider an offer

Combined these three tactics should help you receive a better salary and benefits package.


@ Copyright 2011, Katie Donovan. All rights reserved. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited