Salary Negotiation

Student Researching on Laptop

So you’ve gotten a job offer—congratulations! Your leverage has improved. As tempting as it may be to zip past the topic of negotiation by simply accepting whatever is offered, this is your opportunity to demonstrate assertive communication, collaboration skills, and self-advocacy, and reap the rewards of a more attractive offer.

Managers routinely report that they make an initial offer based on the expectation that candidates will negotiate. Even if you are content with the offer, you may be underestimating your value. In our experience coaching thousands of diverse clients, no one regretted negotiating a higher salary! Nor have any candidates had an offer rescinded due to negotiation attempts. It is part of the culture of the US labor market.

Salary Research

Prior to the offer, research what is a reasonable salary for your qualifications, noting that salaries will vary based on the job sector, size of employer, and location. Check out career outcomes for your major for salary and employment stats. Better yet, talk to professionals already working in that world, as they often have the best information about salary ranges. Professional associations also conduct salary surveys, which may be published online. Note organizations hiring remote employees may base salaries on home office location.

Research Tools & Resources

Know Your Value

Once you receive an offer, it’s completely reasonable—and recommended!—to take some time to consider the terms and formulate your negotiation strategy. Negotiation on the spot can be unsettling and may cause folks to hurry through the process simply to put an end to the discomfort.

Sample Script

"I’m delighted to receive the offer and thrilled by the prospect of joining the team! I’d like to take a couple days to review the details and discuss it those who are important to me. Does X (3-4 days from today) work for a response timeline?"

As you prepare for the negotiation discussion, list a few key talking points that help to support your position. Prior experience, salary research, key skills, certifications, or educational qualifications are all elements to consider. Research tells us that Thursdays may be a strategic day to have this conversation, as professionals are relaxing into weekend mode.

Having the Talk

Decide How to Communicate

Some candidates who are working with large organizations conduct every element of negotiation via email with their recruiter. Others prefer phone conversation as an opportunity for real-time exchange and relationship development. If you’re not sure what to do, ask your contact “I’d appreciate the opportunity to discuss the offer terms in greater detail. Would a phone call or virtual meeting be possible or would you prefer we connect via email?” 

Why Negotiate

On average, folks who negotiate end up a 5-15 % gain on the original offer, depending on work history. Candidates can present salary goals as 10% to 15% higher than what is offered, with the anticipation of compromise. Women especially benefit from negotiation knowledge and practice as research indicates that female job seekers negotiate less than their male counterparts, especially when it comes to a first full-time job. Check out The Women's Center online module on salary negotiation.

Not negotiating can have significant long-term disadvantages for anyone in terms of earning potential, retirement match, and future raises. Adapting a collaborative, win-win mindset can help bolster the confidence and comfort of candidates in the negotiation process. And take note that research indicates providing odd numbers is effective.

Sample Script

“I was thrilled to be asked to join the team at X. I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss some of the details you shared. I’m sure we can figure out something that works well for both of us. I’m wondering first, what flexibility do you have with the offer?”

Redirecting Salary Negotiation Before Offer

If the topic of salary comes up before the job offer, you have options. Redirect the question back to the recruiter with something like, “I’m sure you have a salary range for the position, could you tell me about the pay structure?” or “I’m confident that we can find a salary that works for both of us; right now I would like to focus on making sure I am the best fit for the position.”

In general, you have a stronger position if you are knowledgeable about the salary range and you have an offer on the table. You can find plenty of tips and resources online such as the LinkedIn Learning salary negotiation modules to help you prepare.

Negotiating Benefits Beyond Salary

Beyond salary negotiations, sometimes other benefits are an option. If you were rebuffed in your efforts to raise your compensation, a salary review at six months may be a reasonable next step. Other benefits and perks candidates have successfully negotiated include an extra week of vacation, flexible work schedule, reduced hours, remote work options, waived healthcare benefits in lieu of greater annual compensation, stipends for parking, education/professional development, and even the opportunity to select your own computer equipment and office set-up (desk, chair, etc.). It’s important to consider the whole offer package.

Managing Multiple Offers

If you receive an offer but are waiting to hear from another, ask for time to consider the offer (several days to a week). Contact the second organization, explain you’ve received an offer and ask if they are able to notify you of their decision more quickly. Many organizations will speed up the interview process and/or their decision to hire a competitive candidate.

If you receive two job offers but one has offered less money, you can negotiate by mentioning you’ve received a higher offer from another organization. Some organizations will match the competitor’s salary, but you may need proof of the other offer in writing.

Sample Script - Speeding Up a Decision

"Thank you again for interviewing me for this position. I'm excited by the potential to join this team as this is my first choice. I just received another offer and am wondering if there's any way you can share where I stand in the interview process?"

Sample Script - Leveraging a Higher Offer

"Thank you again for offering me for this position. I'm excited by the potential to work at this company and can see myself joining the team. I just received another offer and am wondering if you can match their salary?"

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