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Salary Negotiation

Evaluating Job Offers

There are four major types of factors to consider when considering a job offer: job-related factors, geographic considerations, life-style issues, and finances. When visiting an organization for an interview, it is important to spend time checking out the geographic area as well. Listed below are some elements you need to analyze:

  • Salary (consider local, state, & federal taxes)
  • Bonus or commission plans
  • Profit sharing
  • Benefits
  • Company car
  • Salary vs. cost of life style
  • Work schedule/travel
  • Social life for singles/couples
  • Commute to work
  • Size and type of organization
  • Formal vs. informal clothing
  • Geographic climate
  • Type of community (urban, rural, etc.)
  • General cost of living
  • Availability and cost of suitable housing
  • Cultural/recreational activities
  • Proximity to academic institutions/shopping/services

Negotiating Salary and Benefits

After finding a new job, many students and recent graduates feel uncertain about whether the salary offer they received was the best they could have gotten. A little preparation and good timing can help ensure that you are maximizing salary possibilities.


Just as you should research an organization before going on an interview, you should also research typical starting salaries for the position, and determine your own salary requirements. Prior to the interview, it is important to:

  • Research Average Salaries: Salaries vary significantly by major/position type, organization, industry, geographic area, and level of experience, so you should be sure to find salary figures that closely match your own situation. The CDC has links to salary survey websites. Use the following link to read more about salary information. The CDC's Career Information Center also has a section on salary surveys that you can use.

  • Learn About Your Career Field: What kind of skills will you be using in your job and how valuable will they be in the workforce? For example, a computer programmer will probably make more than a writer. However, a writer who also knows desktop publishing can potentially make more than one who does not. Also, learn what a typical career path in your field is; that will provide insight about your ability to earn more money in the future.

  • Know Yourself: By determining what priorities you have for your first job, you will be able to make better decisions about the suitability of a given position. For example, is a job with promotability and good public visibility more important to you than a high salary? Some people find solid benefits are more important and potentially more valuable than a higher salary. Consider what is best for your long-term career goals before fixing a salary figure in your mind.

When to Negotiate

Salary should only be discussed after you've been given a job offer. Discussing salaries prior to that puts you at a disadvantage in the negotiation process because you don't know enough about the position to determine a fair rate for that particular job. Also, job seekers that appear to be more concerned about money than whether the job/organization is a good match for them appear to the employer to be "greedy" and self-absorbed.

Should the interviewer ask you about your salary requirements during the interview, avoid naming an exact salary. You can answer that you are sure they have established a fair wage for the position and at this point you are seeing if you and the organization are a good fit for each other. If the interviewer presses you for a figure, state a broad range (based on on your research) and reiterate your willingness to discuss salary if you are chosen as the candidate.

For Education Majors

The process is different if you are interviewing with a public school district. In New York State, salaries are often set by union contract and are structured into a "step schedule," based on years of experience and amount of education. It is difficult to negotiate salary when the rate is entirely based on these two factors; however, some districts will vary in their determinations for higher demand areas.

All public school districts in the Western New York area pay their beginning teachers roughly equivalent rates. The differences between districts often come as a teacher gains more experience and education; districts vary more in what they pay their 20-year veterans than they do in what they pay their beginning teachers. Private schools vary widely in what they pay teachers, and compensation is more negotiable than with public schools.

How to Negotiate

  • When you first receive the offer, express your pleasure and appreciation to the employer, even if you feel the salary offer is lower than what you expected. It is a compliment to be offered a position and your positive attitude can help set the tone for your future requests.
  • Don't feel you have to accept an offer immediately, especially if you are still waiting for offers from other organizations. Tell the employer you want to take a little time to evaluate the offer so that you are sure you are making the best decision not only for yourself but also for them. Ask when they would like to have your decision.
  • Before the deadline, contact the employer and ask if they are flexible on a few small points of the offer. This gives you the opening to discuss the salary figure.
  • When you state your preferred figure, you also must make a case for why you are worth the amount you are asking for. The best reasons address the needs of the employer and why you are a valuable commodity to them. Reasons often include your skill level, possessing skills that are unique, your experience in their field or employment with a competitor. Stating that you need more money to pay your bills, you have a family, or that your friends are making more than you, would not be valid reasons.
  • Set your asking price slightly higher than what you will truly accept. This gives the employer a little room to meet you part way, and who knows, you might just get what you are asking for!
  • If you have received or anticipate receiving offers from other organizations, you can let the employer know that in a polite manner. There is no need to provide them with specifics about the other organizations, but you can use information about other anticipated offers as leverage with a potential employer.
  • Realize that the employer may not be able to give you an answer immediately because they need to consult with someone within their organization.
  • Many employers (particularly larger ones) study salaries extensively and make what they feel is their best offer at the very beginning, so they will not negotiate with you. Also, many training programs offer all entry-level people the same rate and will not pay one trainee more than the other in the interest of fairness. This is no reflection on you, but simply a matter of corporate policy. Don't take it personally.
  • If you negotiate salary with an employer, be sure that you are prepared to accept the position if they meet or come close to your requests. To ask for more compensation and then refuse the offer is a fruitless effort for both you and the employer.
  • After you and the employer agree on compensation, get the offer in writing whenever possible so that you are certain of their intentions.

More than Money. . .What else can you Negotiate For?

In a tight job market, many employers don't have extra money to give to new hires, so what else can you gain that might make an offer more attractive? Some organizations might offer you increased relocation expenses if you are moving, increased bonus, flexible work arrangements, an expense account, training and education opportunities, professional memberships or unpaid vacation time. If salary is still your "bottom line," you can ask for a review of your work in six months (instead of a year, which is when most evaluations are done) with an increase in salary if your performance is good. This gives you an opportunity to prove your worth and makes the employer feel good about you as an initial investment.

Career Development Center

Buffalo State College  •  1300 Elmwood Avenue  •  Cleveland Hall 306
Buffalo, New York 14222  •  Phone: (716) 878-5811  •  Fax: (716) 878-3152