Many companies featured on Money advertise with us. Opinions are our own, but compensation and
in-depth research determine where and how companies may appear. Learn more about how we make money.

Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

By Susie Poppick
March 24, 2015

A new study finds that asking for a dollar amount during a negotiation is more successful if you put it at the bottom of a range instead of just asking for it outright.

So for example, if you’re targeting a salary of $52,000, you’re best off asking a prospective employer for something between, say, $52,000 and $56,000.

The finding, by Daniel Ames and Malia Mason of Columbia University, might seem obvious at first glance—but it actually contradicts existing schools of thought. Some experts have theorized that you should not open salary negotiations with a range because doing so could make you seem either uninformed or manipulative and might cause the person you’re negotiating with to consider only the lowest number in your offer.

Instead, the new research found, couching your request in a range can actually make you seem more cooperative and flexible—and make it harder for a prospective boss to counter with a much lower salary number without seeming impolite. The key is choosing the right high and low anchor numbers so you don’t accidentally low-ball yourself.

“The lowest number is the point offer you are aiming for, and the high number is more ambitious,” says Mason. “People who want $100,000 will often ask for $90,000 to $110,000, but it is going to be most effective to ask for $100,000 to $120,000.”

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and sometimes a different tactic might be more effective to gain the upper hand during a salary negotiation. Another study Mason conducted showed that that asking for specific, unrounded figures in negotiations can be better than asking for rounded ones, because it makes you seem more informed. So to use the same example from above, if you want about $52,000, you might want to ask for $52,500.

Those findings aren’t necessarily inconsistent, Mason points out.

“Context is important,” she says. You might be better off using a precise number if you want to send the message that “you have done your homework. But if it seems important for you to appear flexible, then you could signal that by offering a range.”

That’s one reason to pay close attention to the cues your interviewer is sending out. If he or she drops a lot of language about adaptability and cooperation, naming a range might cast you in a more positive light. Alternatively, a specific number might be appropriate if the job description seems to emphasize preparedness, knowledge, and thorough experience in the field.

But none of this is to say you should suggest a salary without being asked about it directly, says Mason. Top recruiters agree that—when you can help it—it’s best to let a potential boss be the one to bring up a number first.

Read next: The Secret Formula That Will Set you Apart in a Salary Negotiation

Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

EDIT POST