Tips for Negotiating Salaries
Updated: Apr 10
Do your research
Never, ever pull a random number out of thin air when you're talking to a recruiter or a hiring manager. Check out sites like Glassdoor and Salary.com to get a sense of a standard salary for the opportunity you're pursuing.
You can also try speaking to individuals who started out at an entry-level position in the company. Although people may be hesitant to disclose their current salary, many won't blink when asked what their starting salary was, especially if they've been working for a number of years. You may even find that some contacts offer you negotiating tips they wish they'd taken.
Build out a budget
How much do you need to live on? Don’t negotiate just to negotiate.
Create a budget, taking into consideration your geographical location, living expenses, transportation costs, student loan payments and retirement contributions.
Try Mint.com for tips on generating a budget and tracking your expenses.
Negotiate at the right time
Never be the first one to bring up compensation. If a potential employer tries to broach the conversation earlier than you'd like, don't feel intimidated. Here are some suggested responses:
“As a student, my jobs to this point have been geared toward gaining experience and earning money to cover my educational costs.”
If you're pressed, you can turn the tables: “I am not familiar with the salary structure here at XYZ company. Can you share with me what the job pays?” OR “Of course salary is important, but I am really looking for the right fit. I am confident that you will make me a competitive offer if the fit is there.”
Once the offer is made
Do not feel pressured to give the employer an answer on the spot. More importantly, acknowledge and thank them for the offer! Tell them how exciting this is. Then, “I would like some time to think about this. When do you need an answer from me?”
Negotiation should always be done by phone or in person. Never by email or text.
Start the negotiation by asking, “Is this offer firm?” and be quiet!
If they are open to a discussion, this is when you name the salary you are looking for.
Look at the whole picture
Compensation isn't just about salary. Do not think in terms of hourly wage. If they give you an hourly wage, multiply it by 2080 (the number of hours in a full-time 40 hour week position, on an annual basis).
Consider all benefits the company offers in addition to the salary including: tuition reimbursement, flexibility of schedule, employer contributions to retirement savings accounts, health insurance premiums, 401(k) matches, etc.
Benefits can be up to 35%-40% on top of the annual salary.
Keep your ego in check
On the one hand, you should have some confidence going into the negotiation. You have some “leverage”: at this point, the hiring manager clearly thinks you're a great fit and wants to hire you.
However, do not let that go to your head! Your best bet is to come across as knowledgeable, yet willing to learn. Try to take a balanced approach throughout the negotiation. Do not let it become combative.
Do not let a company force you into a lower salary because you don't yet have years of experience—we all have to start somewhere and your education does count for something. And! Recognize that you may need to prove yourself and show you're worthy of a higher salary over time.
Make appropriate and consistent eye contact (if in person).
Use confident body language: upright sitting position, not fidgeting, open posture, etc.
Breathe deeply and smile.
Speak slower than you normally would, and avoid oversharing or talking too much. These are signs of nervousness and inexperience.
Practice your pitch
Practice this just as you would your Elevator Pitch.
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