Negotiating Salary & Benefits

It is extremely common and typically advantageous to negotiate with a potential future employer upon receiving a job offer. Most employers will be expecting you to negotiate and may not come to the table with their best offer in hand as a result. If you don’t ask, you may lose out on the greater potential earning power or enhanced benefits.

It’s important to prepare your negotiation strategy with research into the specific field, the company and other factors because each position will vary. You should also be paying attention to how a company phrases things, both in writing and conversationally. They will typically let you know upfront if there’s no room for negotiation by saying something like “this is a firm offer” or may even state plainly “there is no wiggle room.”

Research, discernment and confidence are the keys to your success in a salary negotiation.

It’s your responsibility as the candidate to know the market and the skills you are bringing to the table. This will require time spent researching national and regional salary data to determine where to target your ideal salary. Keep in mind that entry-level positions typically pay at the low end of the market value.

The following resources can be helpful:

Certain applications will ask for your salary requirement or even what you are making at a current position. This is common and meant to support the employer in determining those candidates who are far outside of the range and won’t be satisfied by the actual range the position can pay. It can also mean they will lowball an offer if the candidate enters a low number. That’s why research and preparation is integral to ensuring you are on par to receive a quality offer.

Keep in mind:

  • If possible, tell the employer your salary requirements are negotiable or within the market value.
  • Some roles will make you enter an actual number. Make sure the number you enter is enough to meet your daily cost of living needs.
  • Fields that let you write in a range can be beneficial. Ensure you include a range that is above your current salary or 10% higher than what you are actually looking to obtain.
  • When the question is not required, skip it!

Recruiters or hiring managers may address salary in a screening call or interview, especially if you elected not to answer the question during the application process. It’s important to be open and honest while maintaining your standards.

  • Try redirecting the question: “I’m wondering what range you are considering for this position?”
  • If they insist on an answer from you, do not create a fake competing job offer or exaggerate salary information. Rely on the research you have done to know what is within reason for the market.

Remember, certain positions will have a firm salary and it’s important to respect the person who shares this information with you. Most of the time, it’s not their decision where the salary falls.

It’s fantastic to receive a job offer because it means you were the top candidate out of a large talent pool. Most hiring managers are going to offer you the position over the phone and follow up with the details in writing. It may not be the individual you’ve been working with throughout the entire process, but they are just as important to the entire process.

You’ve answered the call and they’ve offered you the position. Now what?

  • Have enthusiasm and react positively to whatever the outcome is, even if they offer less than what you expected.
  • Don’t feel obligated to give them an answer immediately. Most employers will give you a short window to consider their offer.
  • If you’re prepared to start negotiations, ask them if they are the right person to send your request to.
  • Get the offer in writing.
  • End with enthusiasm about the offer.

Sample Offer & Negotiation Conversation

Hiring Manger: Mack, great news. We have wrapped up the interviews for the position of Marketing Specialist and we would be thrilled to have you join our team. As we discussed, the range for this position was $40k-50k and based on your experience, I was able to get you in at $43k. If you accept, we would be looking at a start date about a month from now to ensure we have time for the background check to clear and for you to get situated. How does this sound?

Mack: That’s really great to hear, I really enjoyed meeting you and the team at my interview last week. I think this could be a really great fit. However, I’m really hoping we could work together to get closer to $45k salary. I’ve done the research on our industry and the market value to tell me this is where I’m most comfortable accepting the position.

Hiring Manger: You know, Mack, we are really excited about bringing you on. Let me go back to my fiscal department and see what I can do. I’ll send over the current offer letter while I work on this on my end. I’ll be in touch by the end of the week to see where we are at. If you have any questions about the current offer beyond the salary, let me know.

Mack: Great, I really appreciate your understanding and hope to hear good news the next time we talk.

Other ways to phrase the negotiation

  • “I am still interested in working with you, but at this point I am not able to accept the offer because {include some of the facts you have already researched and contemplated}. If you were able to {add on extra perks & benefits or increase my salary by $2.00} I would certainly accept the position today. I completely understand if you can’t, but if you are in a position to help I would be so grateful.”
  • “I don’t know if you’re able to make changes, but I’d really appreciate your looking into the possibility.”
  • “Is there any room for negotiation? Can we figure out a way for us both to be happy?”

Consider the employer might not be able to go any higher with their offer, but it’s a possibility they could give more vacation days, flexible hours or even a hybrid work schedule. These additional benefits can save you time, gas money and wear on your car. If this wasn’t discussed in the interview already, now is a great time to ask!

You should prioritize which benefit or perk is most important to you when considering adding these to the negotiation conversation.

  • A better title
  • Vacation time
  • Relocation expenses
  • Signing bonus (not applicable in all positions)
  • Travel benefits
  • Transport reimbursement (commuting expenses)
  • Tuition, training & continuing education
  • Flexible schedule
  • Early review for potential salary increase
  • Stock options (public companies only)
  • Work technology for a home office or a work cell phone
  • Professional association membership

Sample Ask

Mack: I understand the position offers $45k and I’d be happy to accept if we could add an extra week of vacation time and the potential to revisit my salary within the first six months of my being hired. If this is agreeable, I am eager to accept the position.

An employer can choose to do a few different things in response to your negotiations. Whichever route they decide to take, it’s best to be prepared so you react appropriately.

  • They have accepted your counteroffer: Congratulations on your successful negotiation! Be sure to thank them and get your agreement in writing so there aren’t any misunderstandings or confusion on either end. Ensure you state how excited you are to join the team and work on confirming a start date if you haven’t already.
  • They come back with a compromised offer: This is definitely another possibility if they don’t want to lose you, but also cannot meet your salary expectations. In this situation, you can either counter again (consider trying for extra benefits if you didn’t already) or accept their offer. Be mindful of when to end negotiations and wrap it up. If there is too much back and forth, the hiring manager can get frustrated and you would not want to start a new job with this type of impression. 
  • They have declined completely: Unfortunately, this is another possibility that you must be prepared for. If this happens, it is usually not because of you, but rather a strict budget that the employer must stick to. You will have to decide to accept or decline the original offer while remaining very professional, respectful and grateful. 

If there are other employers who are actively considering you, be transparent about that and give yourself time to weigh out the best options for you. This ensures that you keep professional and open connections with possible employers in the future and you also never know when you might run into them at a career event or restaurant.

Multiple Offers at Once – Impressive! In this case, it should be your priority to line up the decision-making dates for all your job offers. When asking them for more time, show interest for all of the companies.

“I do have one other company that’s pursuing me and they should be giving me their offer any day now.  At this point, I do feel more prepared to accept your offer and would love to work for your company, but I would still like to review both job offers, so I was wondering if you could give me another few days to come to a final decision?”

Waiting on the “perfect job?” It can be tough to decide if you should take the offer in front of you or wait for your perfect position.

  • Take the current offer if:
    • It’s a stepping stone. It will help you get closer to your dream job in the long run.
    • You’re not sure what your exact dream job will be. Use this new job to explore what your dream job might be. Make connections and communicate! Maybe try to find a mentor in your field. 
    • You’re in a rush. Health insurance needs or financial responsibilities must be taken care of right now.
  • Wait for your dream job if:
    • You are qualified for it. If you have worked hard for your Master’s degree, PhD, or specialized training certificate, then don’t sell yourself short by taking a job that doesn’t require those skills you studied (and paid) so much for!
    • You know exactly what kind of job you want. Taking this route means you know precisely what kind of job you want, it’s okay to start declining job offers during your search. Keep in mind that if you’re not sure what components you require in your dream job, you could end up waiting forever for that magical job to appear! Write out a list of perks and benefits, salary, working environment, etc. that are must-haves for your lifestyle.

If you need help navigating these situations, we recommend stopping by the O’Brien Center or your school’s advising center for additional support.

Information within this resource was gathered using the following sources: