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Negotiate a Salary Package

Don’t assume that you are expected to negotiate a higher salary. But it is not impolite or unprofessional to negotiate if you have legitimate reasons for requesting reconsideration of one or more terms of an offer. If the salary is fair, negotiate on other issues, such as a signing bonus.

If you decide to negotiate on salary, suggest a salary range based on national salary surveys. Be prepared to accept the low end of that range for your first job.

Use the following resources:

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook.
  • National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Salary Survey available in the Cornell Career Services library in Barnes Hall.
  • Salary calculators, cost of living, and relocation expense estimates available through websites such as salary.com.

For academic jobs, other negotiable items include:

  • starting date
  • timeline for considering the offer
  • teaching load
  • lab facilities and/or office space
  • early or delayed tenure options
  • moving expenses
  • assistance with spousal employment
  • extra teaching assistant or research assistant support
  • parking expenses

What to Say or Do in Negotiations

What if an employer asks for your salary requirement or history in a want ad or job posting? Here are some options:

  • Avoid the salary issue altogether. Ignore the request for salary requirement/history.
  • Say your salary requirement is negotiable.
  • State your current salary and say your requirement is negotiable.
  • Say you are earning market value for someone in your field. Or you expect to earn market value for someone with your educational background.
  • Give a range in which the low-end figure is 10 percent above your current salary.

If you don’t give a salary requirement, you may receive a salary-screening phone call:

  • Politely ask what salary range they’re considering for the position: “I know we don’t want to waste each other’s time if we’re far apart on salary. May I ask you, though, what is the range you’re considering at this time for the position?”

If they won’t give you a range and won’t schedule the interview unless you give your salary range, respond this way:

  • “Depending on the management philosophy of the company, overtime hours required, training and support available, medical and dental benefits, commuting and travel time, how well it fits with my long-term career goals and opportunity for advancement, bonuses, commissions, and other profit-sharing type compensation, my salary expectations range from $XX to $YY.” [Give a VERY WIDE range.] “I’m free [X day and time] for an interview. Which time would work for you?”

How to handle the early discussion of salary and compensation in a job interview:

  • Employer: “I assume you’ve seen our advertised salary range. Are you willing to accept a salary within that range?” Delaying Tactics: “I applied for this position because I am very interested in the job and your company, and I know I can make an immediate impact once on the job, but I’d like to table salary discussions until we are both sure I’m right for the job.”
  • Employer: “What would it take for you to accept a job offer with us?” Non-specific Response: “As long as you pay a fair market value, and the responsibilities fit my skill level, we’ll have no problem.”  OR “I feel my salary should be based on the responsibilities of the job and the standards of the industry.”
  • Employer: “If you were to receive a job offer from us, would you accept it?” Throw it Back to the Employer: “While I’m very interested in the job and the company, it really depends on the offer. What would a person with my background, skills, and qualifications typically earn in this position with your company?”

When salary is raised in the middle of the interview: thank the employer for the offer, but be non-committal. There are four possible responses based on the offer:

  • The salary range is acceptable:“I really appreciate the confidence you have in making this job offer to me. I want to bring my talents and skills to work for this organization. Those figures you mentioned are within my expected starting range, depending on the entire salary and benefits package.”
  • Only the top of the salary range is acceptable: “Thanks so much for asking me to be a part of your team. I know my unique mix of skills and abilities will be a great benefit to the organization. Based upon my research and/or what I’ve been discussing with other companies that are currently interested in me, I would have to say that only the upper end of that range would be acceptable.”
  • The entire salary range is unacceptable:“Thank you so much for the offer. I want to bring my skills and talents to your organization. Based upon my research, I would anticipate a salary somewhat higher than that range and/or the other companies I am currently speaking with are considering me at a salary somewhat higher than that range. Of course, money is only one element, and I will be evaluating each overall package.”
  • The interviewer doesn’t give a salary range, and asks what kind of salary it would take for you to accept the position: “From my research, $X is around the base level for salary for this type of position. Considering my experience or expertise in (what do you have that the company values or what can you contribute and how will that benefit the company?), I believe I’m worth mid-range, say $Y to $Z.  What can you do in that area?”

When salary is raised at the end of the interview (it means the employer is very interested in hiring you), there are two options:

  • “I’m ready to consider your best offer.”
  • “I would encourage you to make the formal offer. What is most important is the opportunity to work for you and your company. I am confident your offer will be competitive.”

When the Official Salary Offer Is Made

  • Start with enthusiasm: “Thanks so much for asking me to be a part of your team. I know my unique mix of skills and abilities will be a great benefit to the organization.”
  • Ask by when they need a decision; if you need more time, negotiate this immediately!
  • Ask for the offer in writing if not offered. End with enthusiasm.

Let the negotiation begin!

Depending on timeline, after the initial offer call if made, call back after the initial written offer has arrived and ask questions that have not yet been answered (if not found via research, discussed in the interview, or part of the offer letter and materials) and that are of interest/concern to you.

About the company:

  • How have past market trends affected the company’s growth and progress?
  • What decreases in productivity and employee layoffs has the company experienced within the past three years?
  • What production and employee cutbacks do you anticipate in the future, and how will they affect this position?
  • When did the company last reorganize, and how did that reorganization affect this position?
  • When do you project the next reorganization of this company, and how do you believe it will affect this position?

About the salary package and position:

  • Will compensation time or pay be given for weekend responsibilities and overtime?
  • Are performance and salary reviews based on standard raises for all employees or determined by individual performance?
  • How often are performance and salary reviews conducted?
  • How does the company recognize, evaluate, and reward outstanding employees?
  • What standards will the company use to evaluate my contributions, productivity and effectiveness?
  • What is the salary range for this position?
  • What is the hiring range for this position? Do you ever pay higher than that range? If so, for what reasons?
  • What kind of salary progression would be expected in the first three to five years?  OR What is the average increase being given? After one year? Two years? Three years?
  • What are the promotional opportunities of this position? To what position/level? OR Based on my maximum productivity, how long do you foresee me fulfilling this position, and what are the possible titles and responsibilities I might assume when my position changes?
  • Does the company have an official policy on internal promotions?
  • What potential career paths within the company might someone entering this position pursue?
  • What is the complete compensation package for an employee at my level?

If you decide the official offer is unacceptable:

  • “I am still very interested in working with you and for your company, but at this point I am not able to accept the offer for the following reasons . . . If you were able to . . . I would gladly accept the position immediately. Are you in a position to help?”

If you decide the offer is acceptable, but you’d like to sweeten the pot:

  • “I would like to accept your offer, and I’m looking forward to working with you and becoming a valuable member of the team.” [Wait for positive response.] I am committed to working with you, and since you are my future boss, I have [some] minor issues I wanted to make you aware of. I don’t know if you’re able to make changes in these areas, but I’d surely appreciate your looking into the possibility. Would it be possible to . . .?”  (Provide reasoning if possible.)
  • If they say no, you can say: “How close can you come to my offer? Can we talk about it to figure out a way for us both to be happy?”

Going back and forth:

  • Begin and end EVERY call with enthusiasm!
  • Take notes and summarize at the end of each encounter.

When the Decision Has Been Made

Once you are finished negotiating, get the offer in writing and submit your acceptance in writing highlighting the terms of your acceptance based on what was negotiated.

If you don’t reach an agreement and turn down the job, send a letter of appreciation.