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Negotiating Salary

When Is It Appropriate?

Let's face it. Most of us would rather face a Survivor tribunal than negotiate salary. The temptation is to accept or reject the offer as it is presented rather than to negotiate terms. But what if you are given an offer by an organization that has truly impressed you, that meets all of your needs except salary or benefits? If you accept it, will you do it with no regrets or hard feelings, especially if it means you have to share living quarters while your friends are working a similar job in a similar location for more money? If you cannot answer that question with a strong "yes," then it is probably time to negotiate.  Negotiation is easier if you remember that its purpose is to reach an agreement. Consider it as a method to reach a situation that both you and the employer feel good about.

Before You Negotiate

You need several pieces of information before you can negotiate successfully.

  • How much does this position usually pay?  To find out, you can consult several sources.
    • Our office's annual report information is available online and provides salary information by major.
    • We have salary information by major and job type available in our office. This is published by the National Association of Colleges and Employers and is compiled from information furnished by colleges and universities across the nation.
  • How much do you need to make?
    • Start by considering costs in various locations which interest you.
      • A good online site for this information is homefair.com. You can use your present salary and budget to discover how much you would need to make in another location to live in a similar fashion. Another way to research this is by looking at
    • consult the classifieds of the city newspapers you are considering at
    • Develop a budget that includes reasonable living costs in the new location, along with student loan payments, car payments, reasonable clothing and entertainment expenses, and money for savings.
    • As a separate item, add moving costs. Information is available at the above sites.
  • What kind of benefits are important to you? Most people do not receive all of these, so make a ranked list of those that are essential and those you would like.
    • Health, dental, optical, and life insurance?
    • Paid vacation, sick leave, and holidays?
    • Maternity/parental leave?
    • Retirement plan?
    • Profit-sharing plan or stock options?
    • Performance bonuses?
    • Annual salary review or cost-of-living increases?
    • Child-care services or assistance?
    • Company car or travel reimbursement?
    • Education reimbursement?
    • Fitness center availability or wellness program?
    • Relocation expenses?
    • Flex-time or unpaid leave time?
    • Input into relocation decisions?
    • Severance pay?
  • What do you offer that will persuade an employer to negotiate? These are points you should have made in your interview, but be able to provide a summary in the negotiation process also.

The Job Offer

  • When you receive an offer, express your interest in the company and enthusiasm for the job.  If the company representative does not offer the information, ask about their benefit package. Take notes. It is easier to have a written offer in hand, but that is not always possible.
  • Ask for at least 24 hours after receiving the offer to make a decision, although you can ask for more if you are interviewing with other organizations.  Tell the recruiter your career means a lot to you and you want to be very sure you are making the right decision.
  • After you have reviewed the offer carefully, decide which points you would like to negotiate.
  • Anticipate objections such as
    • "You don't have enough experience."
    • "The budget won't permit it."
    • "That is the maximum we pay for this position."
    • "That is what we pay new hires."

The Negotiation

  • Start with a positive statement about your appreciation of the offer and interest in the position, then indicate that you were hoping to receive at least (name your figure) in salary, or whatever you are negotiating.
  • If you have other offers at a higher figure, you can mention them at this point, or use information from your research to back up your request.
  • Ask if your figure is a possibility.
  • If the representative says it is not, ask if there are other ways you can achieve your goal, such as company assistance with housing or a car, an earlier salary review, a signing bonus, or different options on benefits so you can take home more.
  • Hopefully, the representative will be able to offer something you can accept.
  • Sometimes, the company policy is set and negotiation will not work. Your answer should be ready because you have already anticipated this. Either thank the representative for considering you and express regret that you cannot accept the offer, or accept the offer because of other things offered.
  • Even if your negotiations do not succeed, you have learned an important skill that will help you in the future.

More: Salary Information & Negotiation

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