Alumni Association - Connections Project

Tips for Negotiating Salary

By: Lisa Bilek, PhD ’13

Negotiating a salary can be such an unusual position to find yourself in, but it is important. If you have never done this before, you are typically asking for more money from someone that you have never met. Typically, it is someone from human resources (HR). The HR person will then go back to the hiring manager, so you don’t have a direct line of communication with the person you will report to if you accept the job.

Your salary should reflect your worth. The amount is typically a product of your experience, the degrees you’ve gotten along the way, milestones, or achievements, and the fair market value of the position for which you applied. You can find that fair market value by doing a little bit of research.

When I negotiated my last salary, I went to the professional organization for my role and reviewed their annual salary survey. I then took that data and compared it to the number that was offered to me. It enabled me to see that the offer was about 5% lower than the national average. I took that tangible piece of information into a discussion with human resources (HR). It was a meaningful conversation and one that I don’t recommend shying away from.

If you have a number in your mind, that is say 50% higher than the offer in front of you, that’s a pretty good sign that you may have interviewed for the wrong position. It is important to understand what you’re worth and understand what the role pays. If you’re somewhere between 2-10% off, that’s negotiable. If you are 50% off, the conversation isn’t so much about negotiations, but rather about different positions within the company that may be available or perhaps you should pursue other opportunities outside of that organization.

HR’s role in this is to make sure that you’re happy with your offer and that the employer is happy with what they’re able to provide you. At this point in the conversation, they are wanting you to accept the offer, so asking for a little bit more money based on sound evidence is not a bad idea and usually met favorably, in my experience, at least.

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