For most people, negotiating for a salary is not a task to relish. However, it’s important to recognize that when you’re looking for a job, your ability to negotiate can be very useful and have long-term repercussions.
When you’re offered a job, most employers are going to expect you to negotiate for salary. Even if it’s your first full-time job, it pays to ask for a higher salary than what you’re initially offered. Keep in mind these key points when preparing to negotiate.
Learn the norm for the area
You should begin your job search only after gaining a good idea of the typical salary range for that job in that geographic area. There are resources that can help you do your research ahead of time (see “How do I determine a reasonable salary?”), so that when you do get an offer, you’ll know if it’s acceptable.
Make your request for a higher salary politely. You will want to first say that you’re excited about the offer and the opportunity to work with the organization (assuming that those are true statements), and provide evidence to support your request for more money. Your evidence should come from reliable sources, but it can also be based on your experience in the field. If it’s your first full-time job, that experience would need to include relevant internships, co-op positions, and part-time or temporary jobs.
Additional factors to consider
Ask about the timing and potential amount of future pay increases and/or bonuses. Make sure you understand how raises or bonuses relate to goals and performance.
If the employer says that the salary they have offered you is as high as they can go at this time, ask for a couple of days to think about it. Most employers are going to realize that you will want to think about the offer, and asking for up to a week to make your decision is reasonable.
Leverage other offers
If you have more than one offer, you can use that as an opportunity to demonstrate your value to the organization. You can say something such as, “I’d really like to work for your organization, but I have an offer from another company in town that is somewhat higher. Can you match that offer?” Only use this line if it’s true ... if the other offer is not higher, that’s not going to work; but you may be able to identify another aspect of that offer — another benefit they include in their employment package — that can help you negotiate.
In thinking about what competing jobs will let you earn, make sure your comparison includes steps to monetize circumstances and benefits, especially when they are not directly comparable. For example, a job that pays 10 percent more but requires a two-hour commute may not be worth it once you look at the cost of commuting (and the loss of all that personal time!). A job that pays $1,000 less but includes free parking may beat a job that pays more but makes you pay to park. There are lots of similar factors you may need to consider.
If the employer says that salary is non-negotiable, consider asking about the possibility of other benefits, such as education reimbursement, additional vacation time, or a flexible schedule.
Finally, always treat the employer with respect. If you do get the job, you’re going to be working with this person and you’ll want to have a foundation for a good relationship. Even if you end up taking a different job, you never know what direction your career may take—so somewhere down the road, it may be helpful to have that employer as a contact.