Salary Negotiation Tips for C-Suite Leaders

Having the right – or wrong – executive leadership team in place makes the difference between success or failure for a business. So it makes sense that successful businesses pay their executives well.  Of course, there is a huge variance depending on the size and valuation of the company. But whether you’re looking to promote within your current organization or you’re advancing your career with a new company, you want to make sure you’re getting the best salary possible. And, you know you’ll be working hard to meet your responsibilities of growing the company to justify your salary.

C-suite executives often have very stressful jobs with a significant number of responsibilities. Even at smaller companies, each C-suite leader can expect to oversee dozens of employees and make organization-changing decisions. C-suite leaders deserve to be paid a fair salary that takes all their responsibilities into consideration. However, not every company understands how much a C-suite executive deserves to be paid. So, some negotiation may be required during the interviewing process.

If you are a candidate for a C-suite position, you will need to advocate for yourself and keep your skillset in mind when agreeing on your annual salary. This is much easier said than done, especially when considering a C-suite position, as the CEO of the company may be interviewing you, rather than the HR department or lower-level managers. On the other hand, if you are negotiating an increase in salary at your current company, it can be intimidating to bring it up to your supervisor. Thankfully, there are some proven salary negotiation tactics that can increase your salary, all while remaining respectful and courteous of the company’s budget.

Salary Negotiation Tips for C-suite Leaders

You will find there are dozens of negotiation tips available online. Many experts have differing opinions on how to get an HR department, a CEO, and a finance department to approve a higher salary for a C-suite executive role. The truth is, different tactics will work for different companies and industries. Your compensation will also depend on what you will be doing for the company, and how many employees you will oversee. You want to make sure you aren’t talked out of a fair salary.

For every type of employee, not just C-suite executives, it’s important to know a handful of negotiating tactics. With C-suite positions specifically, you may be working upwards of 45 to 60 hours per week. So, you need to work with your future company to increase your salary if you don’t like their original figure. Even if you do like the original figure, it doesn’t hurt to negotiate to get even more than what’s comfortable for your lifestyle. So, take note of the effective tactics below and try to use them inconspicuously during the hiring process.

Know Your Worth

Perhaps the most important thing to know before negotiating your salary is the value you offer any company. You may be a highly qualified candidate who has decades of experience. Or, you may want a raise because of your success in your current position. In either case, a company will likely work with you to find a salary you are comfortable with. The more value and experience you bring to the table, the more you are worth to a new company. Also, if you have a proven track record of making profitable decisions, the company will be more likely to negotiate with you. Remember, you made it to the salary negotiation stage for a reason, and it’s because you’re valuable to the company.

It’s best to show your worth to a company throughout the interview process and not just during salary negotiation. If you’re hoping for a raise, you will need to show your worth in your current position day-to-day, not just in your request. Not only will this increase the likelihood of you getting the job, but it will also let the company know you value your leadership skills. When leaders humbly value themselves and their skills, a company will feel more confident giving them the position. This confidence in your abilities may dictate how much you get paid, as the CEO or CFO know your skills are worth the higher salary. So, organize a list of quantifiable achievements, along with your monetary worth to your current company (for example, “Saved $6.8 million on contract work”) so you can show how much value you bring to the table. When you do this, you will be more likely to prove you deserve a higher salary.

Use Specific Keywords and Numbers in Your Resume

As mentioned in the last tip, showing your monetary worth can increase the chances of a higher salary. However, money isn’t the only number to include on your resume when applying for a c-suite position. It’s no secret numbers stand out during an interview process. Many recruiters and HR departments look for keywords in resumes– whether they realize it or not. Numbers subconsciously draw the eye when they’re surrounded by words. So, when the head of finance or human resources negotiates with you, they will be more inclined to offer you a better salary because of the numbers you include. For example, if the recruiter or hiring executive sees you have increased profits by 150% as a result of your decisions, they will be much more likely to negotiate with you.

It’s best to use numbers, as well as verbs in your resume whenever possible. Many resumes are filled with the same things– why the candidate deserves the job, their employment history, and their education information. While all of these resume factors are important, it’s difficult to stand out and show your value with them alone. So, you will want to include numbers and verbs in your resume, as they stick out and show your value to the company. Use examples like “Decreased employee turnover by 200 employees per year on average,” or, “Launched 25 new locations nationally.” Then, you can reference them in the negotiation process and there are quantifiable reasons to offer you a higher salary.

Do Research on Your Industry

Another important tactic is to know how much other C-suite executives in the same industry make. If you are transferring industries, you may not know how much you should request as a salary. The salaries of C-suite executives can drastically vary across industries. For example, a non-profit CEO makes a fraction of what they would at an analytical testing lab. So, you should do some research before negotiating your salary. Learn the median annual salaryof the C-suite position you’re interviewing for, as well as the average C-suite salary for the industry.

Websites like or Glassdoor are great resources for providing accurate salary information for specific industries. When you know how much others are earning for a similar set of duties, you will be confident you are asking for fair compensation. This can also be a strong point of negotiation, as you know what the low-end and high-end salaries are for the industry. Many hiring executives ask for the salary range their employees expect. C-suite executives aren’t off-limits to this question either, so know how much other people make in the same position as you.

Don’t Be the First to Bring Up Your Salary

Considering you are the one who is entering this new organization, it’s best to let them start the conversation about compensation. C-suite executives need to care deeply for their jobs, rather than just being focused on the money. You don’t want to look too eager to make a large paycheck. When the person interviewing you does bring up your salary, stay calm. It can be intimidating to negotiate for your salary, even for experienced C-suite executives. In fact, many executives have a difficult time with this, as they may be negotiating with someone they will likely be leading in the future. However, it will pay off in the long run to be calm and confident through this strange dynamic.

In addition to waiting for them to bring up your salary, allow them to make the first offer. This will give you a good idea of how much they pay their other C-suite leaders as they enter the company. You don’t want to propose the salary first, since they may be willing to pay you more than you were expecting. On the other hand, you don’t want to turn them away by proposing too large of a number. So, if possible, have them start the negotiating, then see if you can negotiate more money based on the value you bring to the table and your industry.

Think It Through

If a department won’t budge on how much they will pay you, consider asking them for time to think about it. Joining a C-suite board is a big decision and you have the right to think through the offer. This is also a great time for the department or board to think through their offer, to consider if it’s fair. Some leaders have received larger offers from a company just by playing the waiting game. If the company wants you on their C-suite board enough, they will counteroffer with something higher.

However, keep in mind you don’t want to play the waiting game for too long. This can make you seem flaky and uninterested. These aren’t positive qualities for a C-suite executive to have. So, if you are interested in the organization, you should only wait a few days to decide. Also, if an employee or executive reaches out to you, be sure to respond quickly so they know you’re reliable. Once a few days have passed, if they don’t want to increase their offer, then you can make your decision based on that. And remember, you can always say no if they aren’t willing to pay you a fair salary, according to industry reports.

Don’t Forget Benefits!

Many people often forget about negotiating benefits during the interview process. Although they don’t impact what goes in the bank each pay period, they do matter in the long run. Benefits such as 401(k) matching, great health insurance, relocation allowance, commuting reimbursement, and extended vacations are excellent rewards, despite not being money added to your salary. If the hiring executive or finance department is refusing to increase their salary proposal, consider asking them for more benefits to balance it out. Many organizations prefer to offer benefits over higher salaries and this may be the case for the organization you’re interviewing for.

Prepare For Your Negotiation!

With the tips above in mind, you are ready to prepare for your salary negotiation meeting. Whether this is the first C-suite position you’re applying for, or you have been in the same position for years with no raise, the tips above can help you achieve a greater outcome from your salary negotiations. And don’t hesitate to point out the reasons mentioned in the first tip to explain why you think you deserve a higher salary. Remember to advocate for yourself during the negotiation process, as stepping into a C-suite role is a big responsibility. You deserve to be compensated well, so don’t accept an offer you aren’t comfortable with. The best jobs are ones that feel fulfilling and show they value you. You can achieve both, but you may have to negotiate or be prepared to walk away from a company to achieve your salary goals.