Career Center & Student Employment

Salary Negotiation

Why negotiate?

  • You have something extra special to offer and you believe it warrants more money than what the employer has suggested.
  • You can't afford to live in the job location without more money and unless you get more money, you won't accept the job
  • You're gutsy and you just want to try to get more money (word of caution: keep the economy and unemployment rate in mind before negotiating for this reason; there are some times when we are lucky to have a job offer and negotiating is inappropriate for a new college grad).
  • Remember, it is more difficult to negotiate when you are an entry-level applicant vs. a seasoned professional

What can be negotiated?

  • starting salary
  • stock options (if applicable)
  • additional vacation time
  • "sign-on" bonus
  • relocation reimbursement
  • alternative start dates
  • alternative work arrangements (e.g. different start time, telecommuting full-time or part-time, etc.)
  • cell phone reimbursement
  • other—negotiable factors vary depending upon the job and/or industry

What to do/know before negotiating

  • Before you negotiate, know the market rate for the position. Check our salary statistics page for more information and/or the NACE Salary Calculator(opens in new window).
  • Find out the offered salary range as soon as possible in the process, but we don't recommend pressing the issue in the first interview.
  • Figure out exactly what you want/need before you start negotiating.
  • Drop hints that you are going to want to negotiate when you realize you are close to an offer; once upper management has approved the offer and the offer letter is written, it may be more difficult to change.
  • Know the entire package offering before negotiating. For example, if you negotiate a $4,000 sign-on bonus before you have a salary offer, the company might reduce the salary offering to compensate for the sign-on bonus.

Principles of salary negotiation

  • Control your emotions and don't take the negotiation personally
  • Don't give ultimatums unless you are sure you want to live by them
  • Take your time
  • Remember that no one is entitled to a certain salary
  • Consider the whole package, not just salary, but always take a higher salary instead of one-time bonus if the amounts are equal and you have a choice between one or the other. Salaries stay with you for the course of the employment and raises build on the starting salary; sign-on bonuses are one-time only!
  • Ideally the employer will provide the $ figure first, but don't get into a battle of wills
  • At first, avoid giving an exact number (see below on how to answer)

How to Answer the Salary Question

As mentioned above, it's ideal if the employer mentions the starting salary first, then you have a starting point for negotiation. If the interviewer asks you first, or you ask first and they respond, "what did you have in mind?" You can try to avoid the question at first by saying something like this:

Example: I'm looking for the most competitive total compensation package from the companies that interest me. What is your targeted starting salary?

If the employer presses you further, do not get into a battle of wills, instead provide a general idea with a lot of wiggle room.

Example: So many things are important to me in terms of a career position, salary being one of them. I'm looking somewhere in the mid-$40k range, but I'm flexible for the right opportunity. A company that offers closer to $50k or even over $50k obviously catches my attention. I am open to negotiation, and so many things about an offer are important to me, such as advancement potential, benefits, company culture, etc. so it's hard for me to give an exact number. I'd love to receive an offer from your organization.

Note that phrases like "looking somewhere...," "catches my attention," "closer to," and "flexible for" are not absolute phrases. The strategy behind this answer is to still get an offer from an employer who can't afford exactly what you mention (you still may want to take that offer at the end of the day), but not provide a ceiling if the company has more money in the budget. Essentially, the job seeker is hinting to the fact that there are other companies interested in him/her and that the best offer will win.

We're here to help!

We know that negotiating can be stressful. As advisors in the Career Center, we often work with students on how to handle a negotiation, especially because every job seeker’s situation is different. A great time to talk with an advisor about negotiation is during our drop-in hours. Just stop by the Career Center in SSC 270 from 1-4 p.m. daily (when school is in session), or call 898-5253 to schedule an appointment.

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