Salary negotiations

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


  • Negotiation is a normal and expected part of the hiring process. 
  • You typically have the most leverage when you are negotiating a job offer. It can be much more difficult to negotiate once you are in a role, so it pays off to negotiate at the time of hiring.
  • Negotiation starts with research: know the norms of your industry and field. 
  • Think beyond salary: vacation, benefits, moving expenses, flex time, and more, can all be negotiated

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 regionally, nationally, and internationally
  • 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

Be prepared

  • 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

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! 

Online salary surveys

Skills to get a job

If you have questions

Career events