Salary and Offer Negotiation

Often times, graduates jump on the first offer they receive after graduation without any sort of negotiation. This mistake leads to individuals being underpaid and not just for their starting salary - for their entire future.

According to a research study released in 2010, researchers found that when you don’t negotiate your starting salary, you could lose significant monetary amounts over the course of your career. For example, neglecting to negotiate just $5,000 more could mean the loss of more than $600,000 over the course of a career!  You’ve studied too hard for too long to let that happen!

Negotiating Salary

The Right Reasons to Negotiate Salary

Salary negotiations involve discussing a job offer with a prospective employer to negotiate a salary and benefits package that’s in line with the market (and hopefully, that meets or exceeds your needs).  The most productive salary negotiations occur between people who realize that they have a common goal: to get the employee paid appropriately for their skills and experience.

When should you engage in negotiation?

  • When you know that your skills, experience, and education are worth more than the offered amount.
  • When you know that the pay range for the position is less than the industry average.
  • When you know that the cost of living is higher in the area where the job is and the salary offer does not reflect that.
  • When you have been made multiple offers with similar similar salaries and benefits packages.

Know Your Value

You don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.

Your value is the strengths and the contributions you will bring to the position and to the organization. Think on it:

Evaluate your personal salary requirements.

How much do you need to earn? (Be honest!)

Find out what your skills and level of experience are worth in the job market (i.e. internships, volunteer and part-time work, education level, etc.).

Research career fields and salary averages for various occupations. Investigate cost of living adjustments to salary based on employment location. Review Salary Information from ECS.

Develop a salary range with a high, low and middle range. Make sure your range is not too spread out.

When to Negotiate

When you've been offered a position, the thrill of the offer may be offset by disappointment when the salary doesn't meet your expectations. Negotiating on salary can be done, but you much approach the conversation carefully, and under certain conditions:

The best time to negotiate is after an offer is made by the employer.

Avoid discussing salary before an offer is made.

When asked what your salary requirements are by a potential employer during an interview, indicate a range, not a dollar amount.

For example, "Based on the industry average and my level of experience, I am seeking between $64,000 and $69,000."

How to Negotiate

Before you respond to an offer, take a breath and plan your next steps. Arranging the negotiation:

Negotiate over the telephone or in person --- never in writing or by e-mail.

Written communication may lead to misinterpretations so it's better to discuss sensitive topics via phone or face-to-face instead.

Time it right.

Start the process at least 3-4 days before the offer deadline. Reach out over e-mail to schedule a time to speak with the appropriate contact (perhaps an HR manager or your future direct supervisor).

Know Your Value

Focus on the qualifications you are bringing to the job. Put together a list of your qualifications and experiences that make you well-qualified for the job. This list will be useful to reference as you make the request. And remember, they offered the position to you, so they WANT you!

Determine Your Target Salary

First, prepare a case based on facts. Facts should include: another higher salary offer you have received, comparison salaries relative to cost of living, industry salary ranges, Illini Success Survey, and your own background and qualifications.

Consider Other Benefits

If the number isn't exactly to your liking, consider the value of other benefits including vacation, professional development opportunities, tuition assistance, among others.

Present your case

Next, if you have a strong case to ask for a higher salary than was offered, present your case: Ask the employer, in a tactful and diplomatic way, if the salary offer is open to negotiation. Convey to the employer that you are truly interested in the job. Don't sound as though you are just shopping for the best salary.

Sample Negotiation

Shruthi: Hello Jennifer, I received your offer email, and I am very excited about the opportunity to join your company. As I hopefully conveyed in my interview, this is exactly the type of position I was seeking, and it matches my interests, skills, and qualifications well. In fact, your company is my employer of choice. In reviewing the offer, however, I am wondering if you are willing to negotiate the salary?

Jennifer: What did you have in mind?

Shruthi:  I have been doing a lot of research and the base salary information I have found for this position for someone with my qualifications and experience ranges from $60,000 - $68,000, with the average being $63,000. Although I do not expect top dollar, I did expect that based on my 2 related internships, academic success, and demonstrated leadership that my offer would be between $63,000 and $68,000.  If we could agree on $63,000, I would sign and return the offer letter today and forego ALL other offers and interview opportunities.

Jennifer: Well, we did make you an offer close to our max, so I'll need to check with my supervisor and get back to you.

Shruthi: Thanks, I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Salary Research

National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Salary Calculator provides salary analysis based on data and trends from partner schools. allows you to search for salaries by job title, company, and location. All data is employee-reported and also includes company reviews. offers a Salary Wizard that draws from a database of employer-reported salaries.

PayScale Cost of Living Calculator: Compare how your earning potential changes when you consider jobs in different cities and states.

Quick Tips

Getting the most value from a job offer should still be one of your goals, even with changes to the economy in light of COVID-19. Here are some tips for having a professional negotiation conversation that may result in even better outcomes for you:

  • Ask yourself whether you would still be interested in the job if the company were not able to change the terms of the offer. If the answer is “no,” there is no need to negotiate. You should only engage in this process for an opportunity that you genuinely want.
  • Start the conversation at least 3-4 days before the offer deadline. Don’t wait until the day you agreed to make a decision.
  • Ask to have a conversation over the telephone or in person. You can request a meeting time via email.
  • Be prepared to justify your request to negotiate by focusing on the professional value you bring to the prospective employer rather than what you “need” or feel you deserve. Evidence of your professional value includes special skills and training or certification and related experiences such as internships, co-ops, and projects.
  • Determine your priorities. Pick one or two most important elements to negotiate. If the salary is too low, focus on that aspect. As an alternative, you can discuss the signing bonus, time-off benefits, relocationassistance, or professional development opportunities.
  • Determine your target salary range (not a specific number). Visit the Illini Success Reports to benchmark the average annual salary and signing bonus that previous graduates in your major received. This information will help you determine a reasonable range to pursue.

Additional Resources for Offer Negotiations:

ECS: Salary and Offer Negotiation

Illini Success Reports