Negotiate A Salary

Often times, entry-level salaries are non-negotiable because you are one member of an entering “class” of new employees, all of whom are going through a similar orientation and training process. If this is the case, employers will usually tell you. Otherwise, you are free to attempt a negotiation.

The negotiation can be a friendly exchange and logical discussion in which both parties have acceptable reasons for their positions.

You have to determine, first of all, whether or not you will accept the offer as initially given. If the answer is “no,” you need to determine what your breakpoint is. In other words, what is the minimum you will accept? You will need to establish some sort of justification for this breakpoint. Perhaps you have worked out a reasonable budget, based on college loan payments, cost of living, cost of moving to a new location, etc. You can also do homework on what average starting salaries are in various fields by consulting with your career counselor or alumni advisors. Perhaps you have data from recent graduates who have received better offers.

Whatever points you decide to base your decision upon, they should be based on some objective data, not on whim. The negotiation can be a friendly exchange and logical discussion in which both parties have acceptable reasons for their positions. In the final analysis, you need to be prepared to walk away from the offer if your breakpoint is not met. So, think carefully about your own objectivity. Test it with others. After the initial offer, always ask for time to consider it. Don’t try to negotiate for less than a $1000 differential.

Employer responses vary:

  • We’ll talk about it and get back to you.
  • Our offer is firm.
  • I’m sorry we can’t do anything, our offer is final.

Best Advice

Think it through and see your career counselor to talk through your script before you call. You can get help as you go through your outline and may be asked some other questions to help you clarify the issue. Another opinion could help.

Remember to evaluate your benefits. They are often one-third of the total compensation value and may be negotiable. Good ones to look for and understand when offered a job can be found here.

Negotiating an Extension of an Offer

Negotiating an extension of the reply date to an offer is usually easier than negotiating a salary increase. Some employers make more offers than they plan to have accepted; as do colleges during the admissions process. Others make one offer for each opening to be sure they are neither over or under. Those in the first category who have a wait list to use when a preferred candidate declines the offer want to be sure those students don’t accept other offers while first-choice candidates are making a decision. They are also less likely to grant an indefinite extension. Unfortunately, we don’t always know which is which. Employers don’t want someone who is unsure about a job to be pressured into accepting, but they selfishly want to be sure they have the targeted number of exceptional new hires.

Give yourself plenty of thinking and negotiating time. The employer can always say “no,” and if the deadline is tomorrow, you have a dilemma. Before you call, check with other employers you’re interested in so you know your requested new date is valid. You don’t want to call every other week. You should have your potential offers in pretty good priority order by the time you are faced with this problem. If the offer is from employer 5 on your list, work on 4, then 3, and so on. Call the next employer and ask about the timetable for making offers. Say that you have an offer, are going to call to request an extension, and want to be sure you ask for enough time. As you ask each employer about the timetable, you can work your way up the ladder while always keeping an offer in hand. If you say, “I need to know right now if you are going to make me an offer and the salary,” you risk a negative response. You probably will be asked the employer’s name.

If you are careful about scheduling site visits, you can prevent this dilemma. If you have returned to school with an offer from the summer, you should know your negotiating chances. You should have discussed your timetable before leaving.

Remember, once you accept an offer, either verbally or in writing, you must notify all other employers and withdraw from consideration.

Videos on Negotiating the Salary Question

Salary Statistics

The National Association of Colleges and Employers offers the most accurate compensation data available. Click here to access the NACE Salary Calculator Center.

For statistics on salaries in a wide variety of industries, visit, a site developed, in part, by a Williams alum.’s Cost of Living Calculator – Compares both qualitative and quantitative data from 300 of the most populous US cities and allows users to segment the data based on their demographic i.e. if they are a student or recent graduate. Students learn how their living expenses, like rent, healthcare, and entertainment, will affect their salaries.