Salary negotiations

There's always room for negotiation, yet many students don't negotiate their salary. Learn how to do it right.

Overview

Negotiation is a normal and expected part of the hiring process. You typically have the most leverage when you are negotiating a job offer before accepting the role, rather than later in the job. 

Negotiation starts with research. Learn the norms of your industry and field, and think beyond salary. Vacation, benefits, moving expenses, flex time, and more, can all be negotiated.

Build your case

Factors that affect your offer

Do your research before approaching the negotiation and know what will influence the offer:

  • Supply & demand for your skills
    Think about which skills are common and which are not.
  • Type of employer
    Some employers pay more than others.
  • Geographic location
    Salaries vary regionally, nationally, and internationally.
  • Experience level required
    Your experience is your biggest advantage when added to your degree.
  • Industry or position salary range
    Know the lowest, average, and highest salary in your field.

Preparing for the negotiation

Being prepared will enable you to carry out a stronger negotiation.

  • Anticipate scenarios and questions
    Remember that most 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 your value. 
  • Be strategic
    Consider the timing of questions concerning salary expectations.

Responding to questions

Below are some common questions employers may ask and a scenario that you may encounter. Be ready to answer them by preparing a list of responses beforehand.

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?’)

If you're offered a salary below your expecations 

  • I was thinking closer to X. 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 (including the value of any benefits)
  • 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. It is important to review the offer first.

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! 

Online salary surveys

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