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Salary Negotiation Part II: How-to Guide

We've covered the reasons someone might consider negotiating. Now let’s discuss when, what, and how.

When do you negotiate? After you receive the offer, but before you accept the job. This may seem obvious, but just remember that if you have accepted the offer under the specified conditions, the employer is likely to either laugh or withdraw the offer if you come back later to ask for more.
You negotiate after you’ve carefully reviewed the written offer, including all conditions of employment and the benefits package. Never wait until the day of – or even the day before – the acceptance deadline.

What can be negotiated? Here are the main factors: Acceptance deadline. Starting salary. A sign-on bonus. Relocation assistance. Your start date. Time off [without pay] for personal needs [for example, you’re in a wedding—maybe even your own-- before you’re eligible for vacation time]. Maybe a mid-year performance review with the possibility of a mid-year salary increase.

So, you’ve done your homework. You’ve carefully considered all aspects of the job. You know the facts about the salary and benefits. How do you approach the negotiation? There are essentially five steps:

[1] Start on a positive note.
[2] Reaffirm your interest and fit for the job/company.
[3] State your concern.
[4] Ask – don’t demand!
[5] Be prepared for both yes or no answers.

Oh – and one more thing. Do it verbally. Have your facts and your list of questions handy. Then make a phone call to the person who issued your offer.

You will begin by re-introducing yourself. “Hello, this is Scarlett Ann Gray. I'm an electrical engineering student from Ohio State and I received an offer of a [type of job/job title] from you on [date]. I have a couple of questions about the offer. Is this a good time for you to talk?” [If yes, proceed. If not, schedule a time to call back.]

[Start by mentioning the positive things about the offer.] “I was happy to get this offer and I'm very interested in it. It seems like an excellent opportunity [because…].” [Remember, if you're not genuinely interested, there's no point in calling, is there?]

If the salary is lower than you’d like: “I do have one concern, however. The salary is ____ [what’s your reason? Somewhat lower than the average for your major, or somewhat lower than a similar offer from another employer?] and I’m wondering if there’s any flexibility in what you’re able to offer.” Then pause and wait for their reply. Typically, the person will need to check and get back to you. Luckily, you didn’t wait until the deadline to make this call! Make sure you’re clear on who will call whom and when – this isn’t a call you want to miss.

If they say yes, they expect you to accept. But you could say, “That’s great! Thank you. I’d like to sleep on it. Can I get back to you tomorrow?” Or you could accept: “That’s great! Thank you. I accept. Can you confirm this in an email or does my offer letter need to be redone? “

Maybe you‘re happy with the salary but you’re wondering if you might be able to get a sign-on bonus. “I know that a number of companies offer sign-on bonuses, and in fact I have another offer that came with a sign-on bonus. Is that a possibility with this offer?” [Remember what I said earlier – be prepared to document this if they ask!]

If you need more time to evaluate your decision: “The offer stated a deadline of December 10th. Is there any possibility of extending that to December 19th? The extra time would give me a chance to talk things over with my family in person after finals are over this quarter.[If your reason is different, use that!] This is a big decision for me and I want to think it through carefully.” [Chances are that they will grant this extension. If yes…: “Thanks! I really appreciate that. I'll get back with you no later than the 19th.” If no: “Well, I’ll definitely get back to you before the stated deadline. Thanks for your time.”

Remember that your ultimate goal is to find a place where you can enjoy your work, feel proud to work there, enjoy your co-workers, grow and be challenged professionally, contribute to the organization, and succeed financially.

For more on this topic, attend one of the ECS workshops on Negotiation or make an appointment for a personal consultation. An excellent book on Negotiation in general is Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In: Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, Bruce Patton: Books.

“You can't always get what you want…But if you try sometimes …you just might find … You get what you need.”
– Mick Jagger.


Authored by Rosemary Hill.