Negotiating salary

Thinking about negotiating your salary? Below are some things to consider prior to the negotiation.

  • Know that employers determine salary based on many factors including market conditions, job level, cost of living, degree level and previous experience.
  • Consider that the salary you begin with in a position is the salary that all future raises/merits will be based upon.

What are some possible reasons to negotiate your salary?

  • The offer is not the current market rate for your major and degree level.
  • You might have received a comparable or strong offer. If this is the case, the employer could ask you to send a copy of the competing offer letter.
  • You have something unique and special to offer. Perhaps you have done significant research directly related to their industry or you have directly related previous experience.
  • Cost of living differential. Keep in mind the employer probably lives in the area and is aware of what it costs.

Maybe you received an offer already. Now what?

1.) Evaluate the offer. Before accepting the job, ask for some time to think about it so you have time to do more research.

2.) Consider the total compensation package. Read the fine print of your benefits package and consider the position’s bonus structure and how often you will be eligible for a pay raise. Benefits packages may include: insurance, flexible schedule, vacation time, tuition reimbursement, moving allowance, and more. It’s not typical for entry-level employees to be offered all of these, but it’s important to know if any are not included, as you may be able to negotiate these into your offer. Plus, moving bonuses are definitely worth bringing up if you’re moving to a new city.

3.) It is not always appropriate to negotiate. Before considering negotiation, think “What about this offer is unsatisfactory?”

4.) Research. As with almost all job search activities, research is especially important during salary negotiation. Know what you are worth, so that you are not undervalued. Utilize websites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Glassdoor, Payscale, and your Career Center’s database.

You did your research and are ready to negotiate – what do you do and what do you say?

Negotiate only if you are seriously interested in the opportunity. Once you have done your homework and have the facts:

  • Call the person who issued your offer well in advance of your deadline.
  • Lead with enthusiasm by reaffirming your interest and fit for the opportunity.
  • Bring up what you want to discuss and back it up with facts. Example: “I’d like to start on X instead of the Y as I would benefit from some extra moving time and then be able to start with all of my energy focused on learning the job.”
  • If you’re going to ask (do not demand) for a higher salary, don’t assume that saying their offer is lower than the average will work. Compliment your research with an explanation of what you want and why. Take the Job Offer survey on PayScale for detailed insight into how this offer compares to similar ones. This will allow you to justify your rationale for a higher salary. It is important to be data driven when negotiating.
  • Be thoughtful about what you ask. I’ve seen someone who was offered a $50,000 salary ask for $60,000. That’s a 20 percent increase. When you consider that a typical yearly increase is between two and three percent, and promotions are usually between 8 and 12 percent, that person essentially asked for the equivalent of two promotions. (Remember, be data driven!) Be ambitious, but realistic about what you ask for, and always back up your request with data about the company, the job title and the role’s responsibilities – not second-hand knowledge you’ve heard from friends or family.
  • Be prepared for both yes or no replies.

Accept or Declining the Offer.

At some point, you’re going to either have to accept or decline. Show either positive enthusiasm or that you’re grateful for the offer. If it’s not going to work for you, it’s not going to work for you. Bow out with grace. You don’t want to close off an opportunity for them to come back with another offer.

As always, if you are struggling with what to do or say contact a career counselor so you can practice and feel comfortable and confident in your delivery.


By Holly Longman
Holly Longman Career Coach, Career Center @ Engineering Holly Longman