You’ve gotten your first job offer — congratulations! This can be an exciting event, but most students have little to no experience navigating the offer process. It can be a mistake to immediately accept an employer’s offer without allowing time to carefully consider the details and make sure that it’s a good fit for you. Remember that the offer process is a two-way street; employers want you to accept, of course, but they also want to make sure you’ll be happy there as an employee. If you accept too quickly, without any negotiation, you may realize later that there were details you weren’t aware of; this can lead to feelings of resentment, which is a bad situation for employee and employer alike.
Formal negotiation usually starts with the employer’s job offer (either verbal or written). You’ll need to ask the employer for the details of the offer in writing, if they are not provided, and also request a specific time frame in which to make your decision so that you have enough time to make an informed choice.
If you’re not completely on board with all of the terms of the offer, you may make a counteroffer. However, make sure that you have a good reason and solid evidence to back it up before you request additions to the offer. As a recent graduate, you may not have much “wiggle room” with regard to salary negotiation, depending on your field. Some industries may allow for more flexibility with starting salaries than others. Below is a list of common negotiable items:
- Moving/relocation expenses
- Start date
- Vacation time
- Professional development/continuing education funding
- Performance bonuses
- Geographic location
- Company car
- Flex time
- … and others.
Some items, however, are almost always non-negotiable, as they effect all personnel of an organization:
- Health care plan
- Retirement plan
As previously stated, if you’re going to try and negotiate for a certain salary, you should do plenty of research to determine your market worth. Salary offers can be influenced by a wide variety of factors, including years of experience, degree, geographic location, and economic conditions, among others. Going in, you’ll need to know the estimated cost of living in the area where you’ll be. You’ll also want to gather information on what the average salary would be for a person hired for that or a similar position in that city. Below are a number of helpful resources for learning about the cost of living and salary data in various places:
- CCLIR Online Careers Guide – The Christopher Center provides a fantastic online career and salary research guide with information and links to a variety of different topics. This is a great place to start.
- Sperling’s Best Places – This is an excellent resource for cost-of-living comparisons and other info on different cities around the country. Helpful if you’re looking to relocate.
- Payscale.com – One of the better salary calculators out there. With a free profile, you can research typical salaries for most jobs, including variables such as education/experience level and geographic location.
- NACE Salary Calculator – Another reliable salary calculator, put out by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.