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Job Offer Negotiation

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If your interview goes well and you outperform the other candidates for the position, you will receive an offer. 

Congratulations!

But now what? Just when you’ve gotten the very result you’ve been looking for, you have another set of questions to consider. 

Here’s how you can proceed, methodically and wisely—knowing that a CLA career counselor is always available to help you navigate this sometimes complicated process.

Tips on Negotiation and Acceptance

  • Don’t respond to a job/internship offer on the spot. Instead, thank the interviewer and express your gratitude. Then ask about a timeline for getting back to them with your decision.
  • When you’re reviewing an offer—particularly one for a full-time, permanent job—look at it holistically: your fit with the organization, your fit with the position, the salary, and the various benefits (health insurance, 401[k], life insurance, vacation days, etc.).
  • If you’re still interviewing with other organizations you’d like to work for, contact them and let them know you’ve received an offer. Then inquire about their timelines so you can make an informed decision.
  • Once you accept a position, contact any organizations you’ve interviewed with to withdraw from their hiring processes.

It’s OK to Negotiate

People from underrepresented populations, as well as women, are less likely to negotiate their salary. Although it can be intimidating for you to ask, U.S. employers are generally prepared for these conversations. In fact, they often expect it.

Negotiating a Job Offer—Particularly the Salary

Job offers are frequently negotiable. Salary is the most commonly negotiated part of an offer, though other aspects may be negotiable too—for example, your starting date or the number of vacation days you receive. 

You may be uncomfortable with the idea of salary negotiation; you might fear you’ll come across as rude or greedy. Or perhaps you grew up in a culture where salary negotiation just isn’t done. 

You’re not alone. 

But salary negotiation is a standard part of the hiring process in the United States. In fact, many employers expect it, even at the entry level. And few, if any, will fault you for it. 

That’s because salary negotiation isn’t about demanding more money. It’s just a conversation; you are asking for something.

Here are some tips to help you succeed.

Do Your Research—Thoroughly

To negotiate your proposed salary effectively, you need to know what a realistic salary range is for someone in the type of position you’ve been offered, with your qualifications/skills, in a similar geographic location. 

You also need to consider the type of organization making the offer; there are often considerable differences among the salaries in for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.

You can uncover all of this essential knowledge about salaries by doing thorough research. Here are a few ways to go about it:

  • Talk with a career counselor in CLA Career Services. And while you’re at it, ask for help accessing data-based publications such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook, Occupational Outlook Quarterly, and the NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) Salary Survey.
  • Ask any contacts you have in the industry what the salary range is for someone in a similar position.
  • Do informational interviews with professionals in your chosen field and include salary concerns on your list of questions.
  • Use an online salary website such as Salary.com, Payscale.com, and/or Glassdoor.com

Consider Your Limits Before You Begin

Decide how low you’re willing to go on salary. The job may offer other benefits, too, so factor these into your thinking and decision making. Are you willing, for example, to accept a lower salary if the position could lead to other opportunities?

Be prepared, too, for the possibility that you won’t come to an agreement on salary. If this happens, politely stop negotiating and neither accept nor decline the offer at that moment. Instead, ask for additional time to think about it. 

Handling the Salary Negotiation Conversation

Open the salary negotiation dialogue by saying something like this:

To help me understand the salary structure, could you tell me how you arrived at this compensation figure? My goal is to find a number that works for both of us.

Then listen to the response.

Next, let the interviewer know that you understand the reason(s) behind the salary being offered, then explain why you feel you deserve a higher figure. 

You can focus, for example, on the essential Core Career Competencies and related skills you'd bring to the job. You could thus say something like:

I'm really glad you're interested in me, and I'm excited about this position. I understand that you typically pay recent graduates $35,000 a year because they often lack the background for higher compensation. I do feel, though, that my technology skills and my year of related experience bring me in at above the typical level for a new graduate.

Alternatively, you could negotiate by bringing up the salary range that is typical for the position. In this case, you could say something like:

I’ve done some research about the typical salary range for this position, and I've found that the standard range starts a few thousand dollars higher. I'm hoping we can adapt the offer to more closely reflect the market average.

Once you’ve said what you have to say, let the interviewer think and/or talk. You might be tempted to keep talking yourself to ease the tension, but instead, simply listen at this point. 

If you're then asked what number you'd consider in order to accept the position, frame your answer as a question. For example: 

Would you consider something in the range of $38,500-40,000?

Hopefully, you will come to an eventual agreement on salary. If and when you do, ask for the amended offer in writing. And then pat yourself on the back. You have a new job—and a little more money in your future pocket!

Managing Tricky Situations

Navigating the offer/negotiation process can be difficult even in the most straightforward of circumstances. It can be even harder when you’re facing a tricky situation of some sort.

Here are three you may run into, along with tips on how to manage them.

The Employer Wants to Discuss Salary Before They Make You an Offer

If you discuss potential salary in too much detail before a decision has been made to offer you a position, you risk not getting an offer at all. You have more leverage after an offer is on the table. And you have even more leverage if you’re the organization’s strong first choice.

So try to diplomatically avoid the topic of salary until you have an offer. 

There are several ways you can respond if the employer wants to discuss potential salary earlier on. You could, for example, say something like this:

Salary is definitely important, but at this point I'm eager to focus on whether I'm the right person for the job and a good fit for the organization. If we decide I'm the right person, I'm certain we can agree on a salary that works for both of us.

You can also keep things simple and say something like:

If we come to a point where I'm your top candidate, I will consider any reasonable offer. Thanks for asking about it.

If the employer continues to press you to discuss salary, avoid discussing specific numbers; focus instead on a broad salary range. Say something like this:

In my research, I’ve found that the salary range for this type of position is generally between $xx,xxx and $xx,xxx. Taking that information into account, along with my skills and experience, I'm confident we can find a salary we're both comfortable with.

You’re Considering Several Offers at Once

There are worse problems than having more than one job offer to consider! But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to figure out which of them, if any, to accept. 

Considering the many variables involved in this type of situation, your best bet is to get some help from a CLA career counselor and/or other trusted people in your life. A second (or third or fourth!) brain can help you look at the various offers from a variety of perspectives and pick the one that is best for you in both the short and long terms.

You Need to Decline an Offer

What if it turns out that you don’t want the position you’ve been offered? 

That’s OK—you have your reasons. You just have to be professional and gracious in declining the offer. 

Here’s how:

  • Let the organization know as soon as possible because the people there are waiting for an answer from you before they can move forward.
  • Be polite and sincere when you decline. Be sure to thank the people involved for considering you, and let them know your reason(s) for not accepting.

Accepting an Offer, Then Changing Your Mind—Don’t Do It!

Do not decline an offer after you have already accepted it! 

Employers have a word for this aggravating practice—reneging—and it happens to them more than you might think. A student accepts an offer in hopes that a better one will come along later; they then think they can “un-accept” the first offer—without consequences.

It doesn’t work that way.

Reneging on an accepted job offer can not only be damaging to your professional reputation; it can also hurt other students’ chances for positions with the organization, along with the University’s relationship with the organization.

If you were an employer, would you want to believe that your hiring process was finished—only to find out that it isn’t, and that you have to begin again? Think of the frustration and the hassle, the time and expense involved. 

That’s what reneging on an offer produces, and it’s no wonder employers don’t like it.

Thus, you should know about—and always heed—the CLA Reneging Policy:

Once a job offer has been accepted, students must cease actively searching for other job opportunities. Violation of this policy may result in loss of services from on-campus recruiting and Career Services offices.