Career Development Center

Interview Skills

Salary and Compensation Negotiations

Before the interview:

Invariably, the employment interview process will involve a discussion of salary.  If an offer is extended, salary discussions are inevitable and salary negotiations may be necessary.  For many, the discussion of salary can be difficult.  However, if you have done your research and are well-informed, you can approach salary discussions with confidence. 

Before you begin the interview process, research what the salary range is of the job that the employer or the industry has established.  Also know what the reasonable range is for others with similar experiences and credentials at similar jobs and industries.  (The following are good websites to obtain this information:  www.jobstar.org, www.salary.com, and www.salaryexpert.com.)  In addition, have a salary amount in mind that would be the lowest you would consider, i.e. what you need to maintain your lifestyle.  In other words, your salary range should be consistent with what the industry standards are for that position for those with similar credentials and experience, and one that works for you financially. 

During the interview process, the following pertaining to salary should be considered:

Let the interviewer raise the salary issue; never bring it up.  If you are asked what your salary requirements are, it is best not to respond with a specific amount, if possible, until you are at the offer stage. Possible ways to defer the question include the following:  

  • Give a broad salary range from previous positions you’ve held but remark that because your role would be different at this company, though your skills can easily transfer, the range may not be representative of your value.
  • State that you expect competitive or fair compensation
  • You can also redirect the question to the interviewer, asking what the company has budgeted for the salary range for the position.
  • If pushed to respond with an amount, give the range that reflects industry standards for the position and one that works for you financially.  (You should have this range from your research.)
  • If the question appears on the application form, it is best to respond with the words ‘open’, ‘flexible’, or ‘competitive’.

When the position is offered to you:

Request that the offer be put in writing if it is presented verbally.  Thank the employer for the offer, express your interest and enthusiasm for the position, but request time to consider it.  Come up with a mutually agreeable date for you to respond to the offer.  Consider the following aspects of the offer and determine if they are in keeping with your priorities: 

  • Is the salary adequate based on industry standards, salaries for those with similar credentials and experience, and an amount that works for you financially? 
  • How are individual salary increases determined, what is the schedule for reviews, and what is the potential for salary growth?
  • Does the full compensation package include bonuses, commissions, stock options, 401(K) plan, medical, disability and life insurance, paid vacation, sick/personal leave, tuition reimbursement and reimbursement for travel expenses?
  • Is the company well-established?
  • Are there growth opportunities within the company?
  • Are there opportunities for professional development?
  • Are there fringe benefits such as flex time, computer allowance, and child care allowance or onsite child care facilities?
  • Are frequent overtime hours required?
  • Is your commuting time reasonable?
  • Is significant travel involved?
  • Is there flexibility in dealing with family issues?
  • What is the climate of the department you will be working in?

Take the time to consider all of these factors when deciding if the position is a good fit for you.  Even if the salary may not be what you were hoping for, if you find other aspects of the company and the offer appealing, then perhaps the position is worth considering. 

Negotiating the offer:

If the offered salary is not in your range, call the hiring manager and express your appreciation for the offer.  Explain that you are in agreement concerning most aspects of the offer but that there are a few points you’d like to discuss.  Offer to email or fax the discussion points to the hiring manager to review prior to an agreed upon meeting or phone call for the discussion.  When negotiating the offer, be sure to consider the following: 

  • Mention the points you agree upon as well as the ones you don’t.
  • If asking for a higher salary, be sure to communicate your value.  Show how your actions will benefit the company. 
  • If the salary is non-negotiable, try to negotiate for other things such as a faster review date, i.e. in six months instead of one year.  You might also ask for a signing bonus or higher performance bonuses.  Consider negotiating for more vacation time or personal days.
  • If you don’t require the health insurance benefits because you are covered elsewhere, or if you are willing to forgo other benefits in the compensation package for a higher salary, enter these points into the negotiation phase.  Show the hiring manager that you are willing to compromise.
  • Be sure to continue to sell yourself throughout the entire process.

After an acceptable offer is made, don’t say ‘yes’ right away.  Be enthusiastic, appreciative and indicate that you’re very interested, but ask for time to consider it.  Come up with a mutually agreed upon time for you to respond to the offer.

Accepting an offer

If you decide to accept the offer, show your appreciation.  Ask for the offer in writing and make sure all the points that were negotiated are listed and that the offer is signed by a company representative.  Be wary of companies that aren’t willing to do this for you.  Stop interviewing for other positions and reject other offers presented to you by telephone and then in writing.  Never renege on an offer that you have already accepted.

Rejecting an offer

Express your gratitude for the offer and say something positive about the employer, both verbally and in writing.  This should be done in a timely manner, so the company can proceed with steps to fill the position. 


* This salary negotiation guide was created and adapted from the following sources:  http://www.quintcareers.com/salary_negotiation.html; http://www.fast-trackresumes.com/old/salary.htm; National Association of Colleges and Employers; Career Coaching:  An Insider’s Guide by Marcia Bench.

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