Know the Value of your Work
Whether you're scouting your first full-time job post grad, or seeking a new position with several years of experience, you should gather information about salary to understand the value of your work.
This can be accomplished by reviewing salary range information through online databases including Glassdoor and Payscale, through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or by asking others in your field, both men and women, to avoid falling victim to the gender pay gap.
Ask your Contact Network
Your professional contact network may be able to provide valuable perspective regarding compensation at different stages of your career. It cannot hurt to ask your contact network about salary expectations during the initial stages of your job search process.
Connect with faculty who have experience in your field of interest, and recruiters you have met at networking events, including internship and career fairs, to manage your salary expectations.
Research Different Industries
It is possible you will see different compensation standards for the type of position you're searching for across multiple industries. For instance, you may find that an accountant at a school district may be compensated lower than an accountant working at a fortune 100 company.
If financial gain is central to your values, begin by exploring salary standards across multiple industries. Using the same tools mentioned above, research salary across industries through Glassdoor and Payscale, and through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Understand the Expectations of the Hiring Employer
Compensation should be aligned to the job responsibilities of the role. When beginning the hiring process, the conversation should start with the role, not compensation. Considering what is learned about the responsibilities of the position, you will have a better understanding of the position's impact, and how much compensation should be aligned with the level of work.
Analyze Cost of Living
When receiving an offer of employment outside of your current geographic area, it is important to conduct research on the cost of living within that geographic location. For example, the cost of living in St. Louis, Missouri, is significantly less than New York City, New York. Considering the cost of living in a new geographic area should be a part of your research if seeking opportunities outside of your current location.
A hiring official may ask what your salary expectation is before preparing an official job offer. This is an opportunity to apply the research you conducted at the start of the hiring process.
Avoid using a range: While the salary you desire may be within the range given, the employer is likely to offer a salary at the lower end of the range.
Try this: "I am excited about the opportunity to be a part of this team, and expect the salary to be in the range of $60,000, considering my experience and skills".
Ask for more than what you will settle for: At this stage of the hiring process, the employer has already invested time and resources in hiring you. Therefore, do not be afraid to ask for more than what you're willing to settle for.
Employers will likely counter offer with a salary lower than what you request, but near the salary you're willing to settle for.
Negotiating salary can be an uncomfortable experience, but it doesn't have to be. When considering research conducted at the initial stage of the hiring process, and analyzing an official offer by the employer, it is appropriate to initiate a conversation about negotiating salary if you believe the offer is below you're worth. Review our recommendations and examples for negotiating salary below.
The initial offer: Begin by analyzing the offer, as directed in the previous section of this guide, before negotiating. If the salary is not at the level you expect, initiate a conversation by phone or in-person with the hiring official to discuss the offer. Here's a couple scripts to try from Robin Madell, contributor for U.S. News and World Report:
I'm very excited about the position and know that I'd be the right fit for the team. I'm also excited about your offer, and knowing that I'll bring a lot of value to the table based on my experience that we discussed during the interviews, I'm wondering if we can explore a slightly higher starting salary of $60,000. My market research showed that as the industry average for this area, and I'm confident that you'll be very happy with how much I can contribute to the team and department.
“I’m really excited to work here, and I know that I will bring a lot of value. I appreciate the offer at $58,000, but was really expecting to be in the $65,000 range based on my experience, drive, and performance. Can we look at a salary of $65,000 for this position?”
Use e-mail where appropriate: Most negotiations are done in person or over the phone, but if most of your communication with a recruiter or hiring manager has been over email, don’t be afraid to negotiate over email, as well. It ensures you stick to the script and can be a whole lot less scary.
Be willing to decline and walk away: When considering your numbers, you should also come up with a “walk away point”—a final offer that’s so low that you have to turn it down. This could be based on financial need, market value, or simply what you need to feel good about the salary you’re bringing home.
Walking away from an offer will never be easy, but it’s important to know when to do it—and powerful to be able to say “no.”
Five Things to Know About Declining a Job Offer
Courtesy of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)
After considering a job offer (the job, salary, benefits, etc.) and weighing the pros and cons, you make a decision: You don’t want the job.
The reality is, not every job is right for every person. Remember the purpose of the interview: It gives the company representatives an opportunity to decide if you’re a good candidate for the job and lets you evaluate if the position and company are the right fit for you.
If you choose to reject the company’s offer, here are five things to know:
- It’s okay to say no, thank you. You aren’t the first person to reject a job offer. In addition, the position is going to be filled by another candidate.
- A rejected employer may appreciate your answer. If you know the job or company is not a good fit for you, declining the job offer is the right thing to do. Hiring an employee is expensive. Accepting a job offer you are unsure of—and then resigning a few months later—costs time and money for both you and the organization.
- Say thank you. There must have been something that kept both you and the employer interested through at least two rounds of interviews. Be sure to thank the person offering the job for their interest in hiring you. (Note: Leave a good impression. You may want to work for that company in the future!)
- Be professional when you tell other people. Don’t bad-mouth a company or specific person within an organization. Note: If you believe any interviewers acted inappropriately (asked illegal or uncomfortable questions), speak to someone in your campus career center. While it’s not appropriate for you to speak ill of someone in your rejection letter, you also need not let improper recruiting conduct go unaddressed.
- Give them your decision in writing. It is imperative that you send an e-mail or letter to the person making the offer letting him or her know of your decision. In large organizations, a formal job offer letter may come from a human resources representative. In this case, send a letter to the hiring manager and forward a copy of the letter to the HR representative. As with thank-you letters, rejection letters are professional and concise.
Sample Rejection Letter
Dear Mr. Orr,
Thank you very much for offering me the public relations assistant position with PPR Public Relations. I enjoyed meeting with you and your staff.
After much deliberation, I regret to inform you that I will be unable to accept your offer. Please know that my decision was a difficult one, as I was impressed with the opportunity presented.
I wish you the best in your recruiting efforts for the position. Perhaps our paths will cross in the future.
cc: Patti Landish, HR Representative PPR Public Relations