Should You Negotiate Your Starting Salary in This Economy?

Many college students are worried about finding a job after they graduate. And many are wondering if they should just accept any offer that comes along. The answer is no, you should not accept any offer. Here’s an example of when it’s ok to enter a starting salary negotiation.  

Q: I received a job offer, but the starting salary is much lower than I was hoping for. Much Lower! I really want to work for this company, but I simply can’t live off of what they’re offering. How can I negotiate a better starting salary?

A: Chances are your initial offer will be delivered verbally, or in the form of a letter. Here are some tips for what to do if you receive a less than satisfactory offer verbally (i.e. the employer calls you, or offers you the job on the spot):

Thank them for the offer. Tell them that you are excited about a potential future with the company, but that you need a little time to think about it. Ask politely if it would be alright if you called them tomorrow.

At this point they may ask you what you need to consider. You can tell them that the offer is lower than you had anticipated and that based on your skills and experience you were really hoping for a salary range of X to Y.

Be sure to state that your salary expectations were based on what you have to offer the company, not simply because you wanted to make more money.

They may ask you what range you had in mind. Do not say “I don’t know”. Give them a range. Usually a spread of $3000 is an indication that you know what you’re worth. A range of $10,000 makes it look like you’re just hoping they’ll offer you more money. They won’t.

The person interviewing you either has a range they can approve, or they have one number they were authorized to offer. They may offer you more money, or say they’ll have to get back to you.

If they say that you’ll be up for a review in a year, but they could move that up to six months… and that you should just take the current offer because your salary will increase in six months, ask them to put it in writing. This is a common tactic used in salary negotiations, and new college grads rarely actually see any increase in salary. The economy could change even more drastically in six months, the company could go through a restructuring, or something else could happen. Never take a promise for what could happen down the road in place of a higher starting salary.

Make sure you know before you even start negotiating what you are willing to accept, and under what circumstances you would rather walk away. In other words, what is your best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA)?   

If you receive the offer via email or letter, simply call the person you are instructed to contact with your answer, and explain that you are excited about the offer, but are slightly disappointed by the starting salary. Use the reasoning given in the tips above as you proceed through negotiations, and good luck!


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