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Salary negotiations

There's always room for negotiation, yet only 30% - 40% of graduate students negotiate salary. Learn how to do it right.

Overview and statistics

  • Only 30%-40% of graduate students negotiate salary

  • Stats show that identical positions at a company are paid the same only if a student negotiates

  • Men are eight times more likely than women to negotiate for salary – studies show a $500,000 shortfall for women over their lifetime

  • Negotiators (of both genders) earn 7.4% more

  • There is always room for negotiation in every situation – we just have to ask!

Think “Calm”

Be aware of your mental framework as you approach the negotiation. 

  • What attitude are you approaching your negotiation with? With fear, with aggression? Your goal is not to “win” at all costs but to be thoughtful, strategic and fair. Remember, this could be your future employer. 
  • Salary negotiations require you to be prepared and remain calm. While it can be an uncomfortable experience, learn to befriend discomfort or you may end the process prematurely. 

Build your case

Being prepared will enable you to conduct a stronger negotiation. Know the variables that will influence the offer:

  • Supply & demand for your skills – what’s hot; what’s not?
  • Type of Employer – some pay more; some pay less
  • Geographic Location – salaries vary across the country
  • Experience Level Required – this is your biggest card when added to your degree
  • Industry/Position Salary Range – know the lowest, average, and highest 

Build your case

  • Know the salary “bandwidth” for your target employment (salary sites, professional associations).
  • Sell your degree! Your knowledge, involvements, innovations, results and performance matter. Know and quantify these experiences – they make you unique!
  • Identify your priorities. Salary, specific benefits, hours, vacation, telecommuting, etc. You probably can’t have it all, so know your top 3 most important priorities.

Avoid Showing Your Hand

Have the employer name the salary first. 

  • Anticipate scenarios and questions – remember that employers expect you to negotiate.
  • Practice responses – practice will increase your confidence and calmness. 
  • Strive for mutual agreement versus confrontation – remember you are advocating, and when done well, you will gain respect from this prospective employer. Stay calm, stay focused and demonstrate value. 
  • Be strategic – consider the timing of questions concerning salary expectations, is it a screening tactic to find out if you are too expensive, or is it because they are seriously considering making an offer?

What do I say?

What salary are you looking for?

  • Salary is really not my first concern. I am really more interested in the people, the opportunity, and the job itself. I’m sure this will not be a problem for us. Can we come back to this later?
  • I want to learn more about the job before we discuss salary expectations.
  • I would be happy to discuss a salary at a competitive rate for my skills, knowledge and education and track record.
  • Let’s see if there is a fit before we discuss salary. 

What did you earn in your last position?

  • My last position isn’t comparable as it was in such a different industry and was a summer internship. I know my value and it is in the range you are recruiting in.
  • My salary was in the appropriate range for the industry at my level of experience. (You also add: ‘What salary range did you have in mind for the position?’)

When offered a salary below your expectations.

  • How can we bring these numbers closer together?
  • I really feel that someone with my experience and background should be in the upper level of the range we have been discussing – what can we do to make this happen together?
  • Based on my [amount of industry experience, degree, etc.], and proven ability to [raise funds, build teams, etc.], I feel the base rate offered is low. Is there any flexibility here?

Once the offer is made

Before agreeing to an offer you should request:

  • To see the total compensation package and offer details
  • To have adequate time to review the offer, make your decision and get back to them. (1-3 days is standard) 
  • Never agree on the spot, and certainly not before reviewing the total offer

Keep in mind, when considering the offer:

  • Identify negotiable and ambiguous items
  • Evaluate your total package and decide if aligns with your goals, expectations, etc.
  • Know and define your walk away points – you can always say no! 

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