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Student Professional Development Center

Negotiating

Most employers make identical offers to all new college hires or will differentiate only slightly within a salary range, based on the following factors:

  • Caliber of the university attended
  • Internships/relevant experience
  • Major
  • GPA, etc.

Employers do not know which new hires will be successful and often prefer to start all recent graduates at the same, or very similar, salaries and reward them later with performance-based raises or promotions.

Employers expect students to base their acceptance decision on the job responsibilities and opportunities for advancement.  Still, it is possible that the salary offer from your first choice organization is substantially lower than other offers you have from similar organizations.  If this is the only obstacle to your acceptance, you may want to discuss it with the person making the offer.  You may say something to the effect of, "I'm very excited about this opportunity, but I have higher offers for the same type of position. Is there a possibility that you might match the offer?”  If told that the organization cannot do that, you might then say, “Of course, salary is only one of the factors I'm using to make a decision.  Could you give me more details about the salary package? With good performance, when would I be eligible for my first increase, and what amount might I expect?"  This gives the employer an opportunity to tell you about rapid salary progression or to explore whether the salary can be increased.

*Keep in mind that cost of living in different cities will affect the offer.  For example, a salary of $40,000 in Raleigh, NC should increase to $62,000+ in New York, NY to maintain quality of living.  Use a cost of living calculator to help you compare cities.

When evaluating a salary offer or choosing between offers, consider the net value of all monetary benefits and expenses.  Fringe benefits, such as health insurance, retirement contribution, and tuition reimbursement for graduate studies, can equal 25%-40% of the total salary package.  Job-related expenses, such as formal business attire, safe and convenient housing, and transportation, can significantly decrease your net income.

In many cases, it is not possible to negotiate salary for an entry level position, but it may still be appropriate to follow up with questions about a signing bonus.  Also potentially negotiable are:

  • A 60-, 90- or 120-day performance review and raise
  • Annual bonuses
  • Possible supplements to salary such as:
    Association membership
    Tuition reimbursement for future education
    Travel benefits

Keep in mind the importance of preserving your positive relationship with your future employer throughout the negotiation process.

If you have other offers:

Explain this to the employer.  Reinforce your interest in the offered position along with your need to carefully evaluate the other offers as well.  You can explain that this process will result in a more informed answer and a more confident employee.

Companies may pressure you to make a decision.  You need to be specific in your reasons for needing more time.  Ultimately the match between you and the employer will be best if you can take the time up front to evaluate all opportunities.  The employer does not want a dissatisfied employee who made a hasty decision, nor do you want to regard your decision with regret.

Consult a cost of living calculator to give you more information if you're deciding between different geographic areas.