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Offers & Negotiations

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The topic of salary will inevitably be addressed by the employer at some point in the job search process. Before accepting an offer in a new geographic location, you should consider the cost of living, culture, and opportunities. Use these resources to research salary and housing options.

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Salary Negotiation

Why Negotiate?

Many employers expect negotiation when making a job offer. Most often, you will choose to negotiate the dollar amount of your salary. However, negotiation can also include other aspects of your job or benefits, such as your start date, vacation time, or a moving allowance. When done respectfully, negotiating can demonstrate your professionalism and assertiveness. Use the steps below to help you feel prepared and informed when negotiating an offer.


Consider Your Expectations

When you are beginning your job search, consider your minimum expectations, needs and priorities. Questions to think about:

  • What is the minimum salary you are willing to accept?
  • What is the cost of living where you want to live?
  • What is the standard of living you want?
  • How do healthcare benefits factor into your priorities? Location? Schedule?
  • Are any of the benefits above more important that salary?
Researching Salaries

Next, you’ll want to do some homework. Researching salary norms for certain industries and geographical locations can help you put your priorities in the proper context. Use the following resources to help you prepare:

  • Glassdoor has self-reported salaries from employees from many employers, jobs, and locations, which can help you identify an appropriate salary range for your position. 
  • provides free salary information and allows you to search salary by industry, or income level.
  • NACE’s salary calculator allows you to estimate salaries based on location, position, education level and years of experience.
  • The OPM General Schedule provides information for federal government salaries.
  • Network with friends, relatives, alumni or others in the industry. Don’t ask them to tell you their salary, but instead frame your question using generalizations. For example: “What could someone in (the position you are applying for) expect to start out making?”
  • Don’t have a personal connection with someone in your specific field? Talk with your Career & Internship Advisor, or utilize LinkedIn to make new connections. 
When to Negotiate

Negotiating with an employer requires the right timing and tact. Ensure you are ready to have the discussion when it arises by researching early in your job search process. Sometimes employers will ask for either a range or ballpark figure on job applications. Unless the employer initiates the discussion sooner, it is best to discuss salary once the employer has made you an offer. This is also the time when you have the most leverage. Employers expend time and energy in the hiring process. Once they have decided that you are the best person for the position, you have an advantage to professionally and respectfully reach your desired outcome.

If an employer asks you about your salary expectations at an earlier stage of their interviewing process, it is okay to respectfully let them know that you would rather wait to discuss salary. Consider using a response similar to the one below: “I would like to find out more about the position before deciding my salary requirements. This sounds like an excellent opportunity and I am sure that if everything else falls into place, salary won’t be an issue.”

If you have tried to postpone the discussion and the employer insists that you offer your salary requirements prior to receiving an offer, you will need to then discuss your expectations. When offering a number it is best to provide a range that you feel comfortable with and is based on what you know is realistic for the position, industry, and geographic location. Typically, this range is about $5-7K, for example, $45,000 to $50,000.

The Negotiation Process

All negotiation should happen live, either in person or over the phone. This will allow you to pick up on nonverbal behavioral cues from the person you are speaking with and minimize misunderstandings. Remember, you are working towards a mutual agreement that satisfies you and your employer. Many employers will offer a salary figure that is at the lower end of the position’s pay scale, allowing room for you to negotiate. 

Be sure to consider the complete package. Almost everything is negotiable. It’s not always about money. Think about other factors that might help you feel valued and improve your work experience:

  • Start date
  • Evaluation and review timing 
  • Parking or commuting expenses
  • Bonuses
  • Vacation and sick days
  • Child care, healthcare, and retirement benefits

As you present your requests, frame them in a way that highlights joint goals for you and the employer. Emphasize your skills and abilities and the match between what you bring and what the organization needs: “Based on my prior experience and familiarity with this (specific skill/program/etc.) and the requirements of this role to (perform task/reach a goal), I believe that an additional $X would be fair.”

Before the negotiation begins, be sure that you have your minimum or bottom line in mind. Negotiations can happen quickly so you will feel more assured if you know what is an acceptable offer for you. If you are unsure whether to accept an offer or would like assistance to prepare for a negotiation, consider discussing it with your Career & Internship Advisor.

Tips for Negotiating
  • Do your research and know what your priorities and deal breakers are before you begin negotiation.
  • All negotiations should happen live in person or over the phone. This allows you to pick up on tone and body language cues.
  • It’s important to manage emotional responses in order to negotiate effectively — strong emotions prevent memory and recall.
  • Don’t be afraid of silence and use it well. A slow yes is better than a quick no, so give the other person and yourself time to think.
  • Try to avoid bringing up a number first, but if you have to, leave wiggle room by offering a range.
  • “Think I, talk we” – know what you want, but frame it in a way that acknowledges the employer’s perspective and benefits your relationship with them.
  • Avoid negative framing (“You probably won’t agree to this but…”)  – this sets up the other person to react defensively to your request.
  • Get it in writing — initial offers as well as final negotiated offer.
Things to Say When Negotiating

These are just ideas to help get you started. Adjust the phrasing to fit your personal style and the specific thing you are negotiating.

 Avoiding the direct salary question:

  • “I’d like to learn more about the position and the responsibilities before I give you a firm answer about salary.”
  • “It’s too early in the process for me to estimate salary.”
  • “What is the salary range for this position or similar positions with this workload at this organization?”

 Starting the negotiation process:

  • “Can you give me some background on how you put this offer together?”
  • “Do you have any flexibility on the salary number?”
  • “On the salary figure, is that the maximum you can offer?”
  • “Based on the requirements of this job and my specific skill set, I would consider a salary between $X and $Y.”


  • “Based on my research of similar positions in this area, I was thinking of $X.”
  • “In order for me to be most effective, I would need these resources…”
  • “Based on my prior experience and familiarity with this role, I believe that an additional $X would be fair.”
  • “Since this position would require additional time/more work in order to meet company goals, I think that these resources… would be important for me to have.”
  • “I’m sure that I could contribute more to company goal if I had…”

Your offer is too high or you get stuck:

  • “I can see that what I’ve said has surprised/upset/frustrated you and that wasn’t my intention. Can you help me understand your reaction?”
  • “It looks like I’ve taken you by surprise. Do you mind if I give some more background information?”
  • “I know we haven’t figured this out yet but let’s keep talking. I’m sure we can find something that will work for both of us.”
  • “It seems like we’re headed in the wrong direction. What can we do to get back on track?”
  • “I can see you’re not pleased with my offer. What do you think would be fair?”
  • “We are really far apart. Perhaps we can meet somewhere in the middle?

Accepting & Rejecting Offers

The best way to do this is to first call the company since that will allow them to know of your answer in a timely manner, and then to follow up with a written letter of acceptance or rejection.

Accepting an Offer

When you accept a job, be certain that your official letter of acceptance confirms all terms that were decided upon for the job, including start date and any negotiated benefits. If you have applications currently under review at other companies, it is courteous to notify the human resources manager and withdraw your name from candidacy. If you have other pending job offers, you should certainly also notify those companies and reject them as soon as you accept your offer. You should begin to familiarize yourself with your new company, and it is never too early to start building relationships. This can be done by contacting some of your new colleagues and introducing yourself and learning as much about the new company as possible. Try to stay in touch with the company between the time of acceptance and your start date.

Rejecting an Offer

Sometimes you will end up rejecting a job offer. This may occur for multiple reasons:

  • You receive and accept another more attractive job offer.
  • You realize that the position will not be a good fit for your skills, personality, and/or family.
  • You cannot accept the terms of the offer.
  • You are confident that you will receive an offer from a company that is more attractive to you.

When you reject a job offer, be extremely polite and courteous. Notify them of your alternative plans and focus on the aspects of their company that were positive to you. It is important to conduct yourself professionally and leave a positive impression on the company; the human resource community is relatively small, and you will likely encounter these human resource managers again.

Last updated: 12/18/2012