Salary and Job Offer Negotiation
Salary Negotiation starts long before you have an offer. Researching salary and understanding your worth is an important part of the job search and interview processes.
This CareerX E-mini course outlines strategies for preparing for and negotiating a job offer in just 8 minutes:
Before the Offer
During the interview process, your job is to sell yourself to the employer, emphasizing your interest in the organization and your specific qualifications for the position. At this point, your goal is to get an offer. Do not ask about salary, vacation, or other benefits during the interview, even when the interviewer asks if you have any questions.
How To Answer Questions About Salary History and Requirements
If the employer asks you about salary, it’s best to postpone the discussion. By naming a salary too soon, you could disqualify yourself by asking for too much or shortchange yourself by asking for too little.
Instead, try to find out the intended range for the position. Or use one of the following deflection statements:
- “Before we discuss salary I’d like to learn more about the position and benefits and have the chance to share my qualifications with you.”
- “Can you tell me what the range is for this position?”
- “I’m sure we can agree on compensation that is fair, based on the market and my experience, but I would prefer to have that conversation if I am offered the position.”
Know Your Worth
A successful salary negotiation depends on your being well informed about salary ranges for your target jobs and your own competitiveness as a candidate. To know your value:
- Use websites (below) that list jobs in your field as well as employer sites to research salary ranges.
- Talk to friends, professors and people working in your field to learn about current salaries and benefits.
- Consider professional accomplishments, measurable positive results, and unique skill areas from past experiences.
Selected Salary Websites
Salary reports vary from one website to another, based on the amount of data collected and methodology used. Therefore, it is important to research several websites in addition to speaking to people in your network about salary averages. Selected sites include:
Understand Your Priorities
Go into an interview knowing your requirements in advance: what is your ideal salary and what is the minimum you will accept? Create a realistic budget using the following resources:
Recommended Income Percentages
- 50% (or less) to essential expenses (needs)
- 20% (or more) to financial goals/obligations (savings and debt)
- 30% to flexible spending and personal choices (wants)
Receiving the Offer
A job offer can be communicated via phone or e-mail. When receiving an offer:
- Be enthusiastic!
- Ask for time to process and clarify a deadline with the employer
- Request the terms of the offer, including all benefits in writing
- Connect with an HR specialist at the organization for any questions on the benefits package
- Ensure you understand the terms of the offer before evaluating, by considering:
- Type of employment
- Restrictive covenants
Helpful tips to understand the type of employment offer:
- Full-time Employee
- A full-time employee is generally hired by the employer to work a regular five-day schedule of at least 35 hours per week. Full-time employees are generally provided with full employment benefits (e.g., paid vacation, paid sick leave, paid holidays, health insurance benefits, 401(k) or pension benefits, etc.).
- Part-time Employee
- A part-time employee is generally hired by the employer to work a regular or semi-regular schedule of less than five days and/or 35 hours per week. Part-time employees are generally not provided with full employment benefits. While part-time employees may be entitled to some or all employment benefits on a pro-rated basis, they typically are not provided with full benefits.
- Temporary Employee
- A temporary employee is generally hired to perform a specific job of limited duration. Such employees are often recruited, screened, hired, and trained by a temporary staffing firm or employment agency. In such cases, the staffing firm/employment agency is generally deemed the “employer” of the temporary employee. As such, the staffing firm/employment agency will assign the temporary employee to clients, determine the amount of compensation to be paid to the temporary employee, pay the temporary employee, withhold the appropriate payroll taxes, and provide workers’ compensation coverage. The staffing firm/employment agency then bills the client for the services performed. Because the temporary employee usually performs his or her services at the client’s place of business and is supervised by the client, often a “joint employer” relationship exists (i.e., the temporary employee is deemed to be employed by both the staffing firm/employment agency and the client). The temporary employee is generally not eligible for employment benefits from the client.
- Contract Employee
- A contract employee is generally hired to provide a specific service on a long-term basis on behalf of an outside contracting firm. Computer management, engineering, and accounting are examples of services a contract firm may provide. Like a temporary staffing firm/employment agency, a contract firm hires, recruits, screens, pays, and sometimes trains its workers. The primary difference between a temporary staffing firm/employment agency and a contract firm is that the contract firm assumes full responsibility for providing ongoing service to the client and supervises its workers at the client’s work site. As such, the contract firm is clearly the “employer” of the worker. To the extent that the contract firm provides employment benefits to its employees, the employee will be eligible for such benefits in accordance with the plans and policies of the contract firm. The employee will not be entitled to employment benefits from the client.
- Exempt Employees
- Employees who qualify for exempt status under the FLSA are not entitled to overtime compensation for hours worked in excess of 40 per workweek. This exclusion is based largely on the fact that exempt employees are paid on a salaried basis (i.e., they are guaranteed a fixed compensation regardless of the amount of hours worked).
- Non-Exempt Employees
- The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandates that non-exempt employees be paid overtime for all hours worked in excess of 40 per workweek. The FLSA mandates that non-exempt employees be paid at a rate of one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 per workweek. This entitlement is due largely to the fact that non-exempt employees are paid on an hourly basis (i.e., their compensation varies depending upon the total number of hours worked per week).
Restrictive Covenants: Noncompete, Nonsolictiation, Nondisclosure, and Intellectual Property Agreements
Many employers require new—and current—employees to execute agreements that contain restrictive covenants. Employers require such agreements to protect their customer relationships, confidential information and trade secrets, intellectual property, and general business interests. The most common types of restrictive covenants include:
- Noncompete Agreements
- Noncompete agreements limit an individual's ability to perform work in his or her chosen profession for a certain period of time. In this regard, a noncompete restricts former employees from working for competitors or defined groups of competitors in a specific geographic area for a defined time period. Employers require employees to sign noncompete agreements to protect corporate assets, such as trade secrets, proprietary information, and goodwill. Each state has different laws that pertain to noncompete agreements, and they can differ significantly.
- Nonsolicitation Agreements
- Nonsolicitation agreements are similar to—but not nearly as restrictive as—noncompete agreements. Nonsolicitation agreements prohibit former employees (or interns) from soliciting customers or clients of their former employer for a competitor. Nonsolicitation provisions may also prohibit former employees from attempting to “pirate” or take away employees of the former employer for other competing business.
- Nondisclosure Agreements
- A nondisclosure agreement prohibits an employee or intern from disclosing an organization's confidential and/or proprietary information to third parties during both the tenure of employment and after termination. The individual agrees that he or she will not reveal anything the company considers confidential, such as customer lists, research, and development plans. Unlike other forms of restrictive covenants, a nondisclosure agreement does not restrict an individual's ability to obtain work upon the termination of employment, but merely protects an employer's proprietary information. In this regard, a nondisclosure agreement will provide a definition of “confidential information” and indicate that the employee is not permitted to disclose such information to any third parties.
- Intellectual Property Agreements
- Intellectual property agreements limit an employee’s ability to maintain ownership of inventions and ideas while working for an employer. In this regard, employees essentially sign over their rights to inventions or ideas if they were created using an employer’s confidential information or as part of an employee’s position with a company.
Before signing any restrictive covenant:
- Carefully read and understand the agreement and have someone with expertise in the field do the same.
- If it is believed that the agreement is overly broad, do everything you can to negotiate better terms.
- If the employer is not willing to change a term, it is then up to you to determine if the job is worth the restrictions that will come if, and when, the position comes to an end.
Congratulations! You have the offer-now what?
If you’ve received an offer at or above your target salary, you may still consider negotiating upon evaluating the entirety of the salary and benefits package. It’s OK not to negotiate if your target salary and benefit expectations are matched.
If you receive an offer below your target salary, it is time to negotiate. Your negotiation strategy should be based on:
- The research you’ve completed on salary ranges in your field
- Knowing Your Worth
- Considering and financially weighing benefits as part of the offer
Beyond salary, benefits are a major component of evaluating the job offer and may be negotiated to match your priorities and/or close the financial gap if the salary negotiation request was not fulfilled. Click here for definitions of all benefits. Benefits can include:
- Insurance coverage (medical, dental, vision, life, disability, etc.)
- Paid holidays
- Vacation time
- Sick and personal days
- Overtime and comp time
- Bonuses (sign-on, yearly, recruitment, etc.)
- Relocation Assistance
- Flex time/Work from home opportunities
- Tuition Reimbursement
- Professional Development
- Health and Wellness Programs/On-Site Fitness Facilities
- Profit sharing/stock options
- Retirement Plan: 401(k) or 403(b) matching and contributions
- Commuter benefits
- Merit raises/Performance reviews
- Start date
- And more!
Evaluating Multiple Offers?
Create your own list of features that matter to you and list them in order of importance, with the most important feature appearing at the top of your list. Then, rate the features of each company’s offer on a scale of one to five (five=excellent; 1=poor). In this sample, the offer from ABC Company has the highest rating, indicating that ABC’s offer provides more of the features that matter to the sample job seeker.
Negotiating the Offer
During your negotiation, focus on presenting a rational case for your requests. Avoid reacting emotionally. Be professional, direct, and non-confrontational. Your financial needs or wants are irrelevant to an employer; what matters is your ability to make a case for why your skills and experience make you worth a higher salary or benefits package. Remember, you are speaking to people you hope to work with. The ability to listen well and express yourself clearly in a negotiation will make you more attractive as a future coworker.
Sample statements to begin the negotiation include:
- “I’m excited about this opportunity but I do have some concern about the salary. Based on my research on similar positions and on my experience and training, I was hoping for a salary in this range (name it). “
- “Thank you, this is a great offer. I’m very interested in this position, but I was expecting a higher salary given the responsibilities of the job. Is there any flexibility in this offer?”
Communicate your value during the negotiation and compare your accomplishments to the job description. For example:
“As a result of my efforts to ___(identify past actions)___ I have achieved ______(results)______, which provided the following specific benefits to the company: _____(fill in quantitative results or other positive outcome)____ .”
From the American Association for University Women.
Don’t shy away from talking about your accomplishments!
You can practice your negotiation conversation with an Employer Engagement and Career Design staff member.
No offer is final until you have received it in writing. Be sure to request written documentation of the terms of your updated offer.
To accept an offer, you may verbally tell the employer that you will be accepting. At this point, you are committed and cannot continue searching! The final step is signing the offer letter (on paper or virtually) and submitting it back to the Hiring Manager.
Reneging on a Job Offer
When you accept a job offer from an employer, either verbally or in writing, that is considered an agreement between both parties. Reneging on a job offer is considered a breach of contract, which also affects the university’s relationship with the employer and can put you in jeopardy not only for after-graduation hiring, but for co-op opportunities as well.
If an employer reports that a candidate has reneged on a job offer, the candidate will be subject to the following actions:
- Immediately dismissed from On-Campus Recruiting
- Employer Engagement and Career Design will email the Dean of that student’s school, informing them of the matter
- Student will be suspended from using Employer Engagement and Career Design’s services and the use of NUcareers
Do NOT accept a job offer if you intend to continue interviewing. When you accept a job offer, you are agreeing to work for that specific organization. If you receive an offer and are NOT ready to accept it, you may speak with a member of Employer Engagement and Career Design to review options and devise a plan to address the situation. The counseling staff is trained to handle these matters, so take advantage of their experience and expertise.
Declining An Offer
After considering a job offer (the job, salary, benefits, etc.) and weighing the pros and cons, you make a decision: You don’t want the job. It’s OK! Not every job is right for every person. If you choose to reject the company’s offer, here are five things to know:
- It’s okay to say no, thank you. You aren’t the first person to reject a job offer. In addition, the position is going to be filled by another candidate.
- A rejected employer may appreciate your answer. If you know the job or company is not a good fit for you, declining the job offer is the right thing to do. Hiring an employee is expensive. Accepting a job offer you are unsure of—and then resigning a few months later—costs time and money for both you and the organization.
- Say thank you. There must have been something that kept both you and the employer interested through at least two rounds of interviews. Be sure to thank the person offering the job for their interest in hiring you. (Note: Leave a good impression. You may want to work for that company in the future!)
- Be professional when you tell other people. Don’t bad-mouth a company or specific person within an organization. Note: If you believe any interviewers acted inappropriately (asked illegal or uncomfortable questions), speak to someone in Employer Engagement and Career Design. While it’s not appropriate for you to speak ill of someone in your rejection letter, you also need to not let improper recruiting conduct go unaddressed.
- Give them your decision in writing. Click here for a sample offer rejection letter. It is imperative that you send an e-mail or letter to the person making the offer letting them know of your decision. In large organizations, a formal job offer letter may come from a human resources representative. In this case, send a letter to the hiring manager and forward a copy of the letter to the HR representative. As with thank-you letters, rejection letters are professional and concise.
If you have an offer, you can meet with an Employer Engagement and Career Design staff member immediately to have your questions answered and practice your negotiation dialogue. Call 617-373-2430 and someone will be able to assist you with your offer in 24 business hours Monday through Friday.