Salary negotiation

You’ve received a job offer, along with an offer of compensation. First of all, congratulations! Now the big decision: do you accept the offer, or do you negotiate? Only you can decide whether an offer is acceptable. If you believe your qualifications and experience merit more than what you’ve been offered, ask whether the compensation package is negotiable. You might be able to negotiate benefits.

Confidence goes a long way

Your confidence that you are worth more than the employer is initially offering will likely spill over onto the employer. When you decide to negotiate, be sure you know ahead of time how low a salary you are willing to accept and what risks you are willing to take. Be realistic and positive rather than strident or demanding. Employers may rescind offers to inflexible candidates.

If you are a recent graduate, you may feel that you should accept any offer, but it is acceptable to ask whether there is room for negotiation — if you have the skills and experience to back up a higher offer. 

Weigh all the options according to what is most important to you both now and in the long term. Seek advice from family members and mentors, but in the end you may need to go with your gut feeling.

Negotiation tips

  • Negotiate based on your skills, experience, and knowledge of the salary standards for the specific field and location. 
  • Be aware of, but never mention, personal budgetary needs as part of the negotiation. 
  • Give a range rather than an exact figure.

Here is an example of what you could say:

I am really excited at the prospect of working for your organization and using my skills in this position. As you know, I have direct experience in this area, and I believe I bring significant skills to the position. Based on my background, I’d like to negotiate the salary, and am hoping that something more in the $ __ to $__ range is possible. Is there any room for negotiation?

Sometimes organizations have room to negotiate, sometimes not, especially with entry-level positions. Also, if the employer is not willing to budge on salary, you may want to negotiate for additional benefits, such as a signing bonus, stock or stock options, extra vacation time, a gym membership, tuition reimbursement, or an early salary review.

Ask for your final offer in writing, including any promise of raises or bonuses down the line — those have a way of not materializing if they’re not in writing.

In the end, you may want to be prepared to decide whether to accept less than what you had hoped for:

I appreciate your considering my request, and I understand. I am still interested, and would welcome the opportunity to join the organization.

But declining an offer is also acceptable. Do so gracefully and professionally, and in a timely fashion.You don’t want to burn any bridges.

Why professional associations matter

Professional associations are an excellent resource for career exploration when you are starting out, and for networking as you grow in your new profession.

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