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Negotiating a Job Offer


The following information is a starting point in understanding how to handle salary negoatiations. 

Look Beyond the Salary
It is important to evaluate a job offer beyond the salary.  Most people see high salary vs. low salary and automatically select the higher salary.  This can be a mistake, when you are comparing offers, you must also include benefits and other forms of compensation.  Some of these might include:

  • Stock Options
  • Tuition Reimbursement
  • Professional Memberships
  • Sign-on Bonus
  • Relocation Reimbursement
  • Free Parking
  • Additional Vacation Days

However, a base salary can be indicative of your next salary, so salary is important as well.

How to Find Information on Salaries

Before you interview, you must do research to find information on salaries.  Explore the typical salary average and range for the type of position you are considering. It is important to acknowledge how salaries for the same type of job vary with geographic location.  Therefore, when evaluating salary figures, investigate comparable jobs and job titles, with companies that are in the same geographic region.  There are a number of great resources to help you to identify entry-level salary averages and ranges.

When and How Should Salary be Discussed?
Throughout the interview process, you should be aware of the absolute minimum salary you would accept and the salary you would like to have.  Any number between these two is considered your acceptance range. (This does not mean that you will not negotiate; it just gives you assurance that you are in your range.)

Try to hold off a discussion of salary for as long as possible during the interview process. Focus on getting them to want you. The ideal point to engage in any negotiations is once you receive an offer. However, sometimes the interviewer will raise the topic of salary.  In that case, the best strategy is to turn the question back to the employer.

For example, your interviewer might ask, "Tell me what salary you are expecting." 

You might say:

"I expect to be fairly compensated for my work. I feel confident that if we determine I'm the right person for the job, we can reach an agreement."


"I expect the standard amount appropriate for my education and experience."


"If it is acceptable to you, I would prefer giving you a specific answer after learning more about the position and your organization."

Or you interviewer might state, "I need a clear idea of what salary you expect."  A great way to respond to that question is by asking, "What is the salary range for the position?"  The interviewer may then respond with a salary range.  Once you have that information in front of you, you can state that they are within your range or that they are near what salary you are expecting.

There are times when an employer may push for you to share a salary and will not share a salary range with you first.  In that case, you can use your research.  For example: "Based on Lehigh University's Placement Report and the National Associations of Colleges and Employers Salary Survey from last year's seniors, students going into this field earned $40-$45,000.  This is the range I would expect to be hired in."  If the employer's response is, "The range is from $30,000 to $35,000," you have a basis to start your negotiation. In response you could say, "Yes, I'm within your range." Or, you might state, "Yes, that's near what I was expecting. I'm thinking in terms of $35,000 to $40,000."

How Negotiable Is Salary?
After you receive your job offer, you are welcome to ask the employer if they have flexibility to discuss other parts of the offer, including benefits or additional forms of compensation from salary to relocation expenses. 

If the salary is slightly lower than your expectations:

  1. Be sure to evaluate the entire offer before making a final decision about whether the salary is too low.
  2. If you decide to negotiate the salary, it is necessary to back up your request to support why you are worth more than the offer.  Use points such as your previous experience that provide evidence of what you bring to the company, as well as cost of living concerns for specific geographic regions.
  3. Engage in negotiations on factors that are truly important to you. Be sure to know what you want to negotiate before you start talking.  Once that discussion is resolved, end the discussion and take time to make your decision. 
  4. Don't go back for repeated negotiations.  Be prepared the first time you talk.

Salary History/Expectations
Employers may use salary history as a tool to screen applicants. If salary expectations are too high, an applicant can be ruled out as too expensive. If expectations are too low, the employer might question why the applicant is not already receiving a better salary and might question their real worth.

Here are some strategies:

  1. Give an open-ended statement such as, "I will consider any offer that represents the standard amount appropriate for my education and experience."
  2. Use your research.  For example: "The most recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers states that an entry level position in advertising, for candidates like myself with a bachelor's degree, is between $25,000 and $34,000, and that's the range I am seeking."

Material on this page was adapted with permission from Princeton University Career Services.