Senior Series: Negotiating your salary

Welcome to the final installment of the Senior Series newsletter. In this installment, we’ll explore salary negotiation — which is an often-overlooked portion of the job search. While the thought of negotiation can leave many job-seekers feeling uncomfortable, it can be especially challenging for a first-time job searcher. Keep in mind that your employer doesn’t have all of the power in this situation. Advocate for yourself, consider what leverage you have, and take steps to enter a salary negotiation prepared because you might still be leaving money on the table if you don’t.  

A decent portion of the salary negotiation process begins before you even get an offer. In order to put yourself in the best position to negotiate you have to have an understanding of your needs, skill set, and the average salaries for similar positions in your industry.  

As we’ve shared in previous messages, we recommend setting aside some time each week to work on different aspects of the job search process. This newsletter is pretty densely-packed, so consider breaking it up into smaller pieces. Be sure to schedule an appointment to meet with a career counselor if you’d like to speak about this in a one on one setting.

Three members of the regional alumni board have volunteered to talk with you more about salary negotiation– Sarah Madey ‘09, Senior Manager of Global and Digital Marketing at Hasbro; Aimee Marti ’91, VP Branding and Corporate Social Responsibility at Aspenti Health; and Thomas Stirling ‘10, President of Stirling, Inc. Consider sending them a message in UVM Connect! 

And remember: Even though you are graduating, alums can still access Career Services for free! So please don’t hesitate to reach out and consult with us as you navigate life as a new graduate.  

Newsletter Archive

You can catch up on past topics at any time by checking out our newsletter archive. Topics include:

  • Adapting: Prepare for a job search during the “new normal”   
  • Searching: Stay visible and connected while job searching  
  • Drafting: Work on your resume and cover letter   
  • Interviewing: Tips for virtual interviews  
  • Deciding: Negotiating your salary 

Do Your Homework

Prior to Applying

A great place to start is with determining the cost of living in the location you wish to start your career in. Create a monthly budget for yourself including expenses such as rent, groceries, utilities, transportation, gym membership, and recreation. Don’t forget to include student loan payments if you have them. Cost of living calculators are wonderful tools to help you get an idea of what these necessities will cost in your city of interest. Nerd Wallet allows you to compare these expenses from one city to the next so you can determine what your budget may look like in a new city or you can compare options to help choose the most cost-effective option.   

Once you have an idea of what type of salary you will need to get by, start exploring what you can expect to earn. Glassdoor allows users to log salaries for positions they have previously held. Glassdoor then aggregates that information and provides an average salary for those positions. This information will be beneficial in your search in that it will help you eliminate jobs that won’t meet your needs, allowing you to spend more time prioritizing the applications for those that will. 

During the Application

Completing this research prior to applying to a job can benefit you when you come across a pesky application that asks you to list your desired salary. This question can be tricky. If you list something too high, you might get cast out of the running early. If you list something too low, you might undersell you worth in this role. If you’ve conducted your research ahead of time, you should be able to approach this scenario confidently. Here are a few pointers that we suggest if you do find yourself face to face with this question: 

Application platforms work differently and allow for different submissions. 

  • If the platform allows you to enter letters to be submitted, enter “Open to Negotiating”. This will allow you some wiggle room when negotiating post offer. 
  • If you are unable to letters in the text box, try to submit a salary range. Use the average salary you uncovered as a mid-point for your range but make sure the lower number of you range is not lower than what you budgeted for. 
  • If you are unable to enter a range, use the average salary you uncovered in your research. 

Important Considerations 

When applying for a job, salary isn’t the only thing to consider. Benefits play an important role in the equation as well. The salary for one job might look low in comparison to another but make sure to see what they include for insurance (medical, dental, visual, life)? Do they provide a plan to contribute to a 401K or 403b, and if so, how much would they match if you were to contribute? It might be hard to place a high value on these items when comparing salaries but a decent benefits package can save (and earn) you a lot of money in the long run. You will often get the best picture on benefits once an offer is made but try searching the human resources page of the company prior to applying as many companies will include some information for applicants there. 

Once the Offer is Made

Who You’ll Talk To

Now that you have thought strategically about how to align your needs with that of the company’s, you will start the negotiation once you have an offer at hand. Depending on the organization size, you can expect to speak to several people. Specifically, you can count on your prospective supervisor being involved with your negotiations as well as an HR Representative. You will most likely conduct negotiation over the phone, but you should expect to receive your final offer in writing.

Framing Your Negotiation

Collaborative Negotiation

There are many ways for you to start bargaining your prospective salary and benefits package with your future employer. One of the many approaches, including collaborative negotiation. Not everyone needs to be hardball negotiator to achieve an optimum result. By understanding the organizations’ interests, motivation, and values, you hold the key to reaching a win-win resolution.  

“And, not but” 

Once an offer has been made, open the conversation by thanking the employer for their offer and ask for some time to reflect on their initial proposal. You may also want to acknowledge the unprecedented times we are living in and using empathetic statements will help you avoid the tension that comes with using “but” when countering an offer. Some companies will give you a deadline (usually no more than 5-7 business days), but you should also be prepared to give a timeframe.  

Asking for More

Take stock of what skills you have and what the company or organization needs. From your research before and during the application and interview process, you should already have a list of ways you can would go above and beyond in supporting the organization’s mission and the specific role they are hiring for. It is common to add around $1000 to $5000 to your initial offer, and no higher than the salary range that you found through your research. You might be tempted to provide a hard number; unless pressed by the employer, provide a range with the lower amount being the number you are most comfortable with. 

Looking Ahead

While the ongoing public health crisis might make it even more difficult to advocate for yourself, it is important to try so that negotiations can remain open in the future. Because of the current economy, the organization may not be able to meet your counteroffer. In light of the current circumstances, you might have to be more open to a lower final offer than you might have been under regular circumstances. If the employer is not able to offer a higher salary after your negotiation, consider proposing a later date to re-visit your pay rate.

For example, you might ask to re-visit your salary in six months, or when normal operations resume. If at all possible, try to be very specific with the date and time. This way, you will have time to prove yourself to the employer and ensure that you have concrete examples of how you have improved the organization – and the employer might have had time to get back on its feet financially. This strategy is key and will set you up for an opportunity to chat with your employer about your salary and benefits package after having some direct experience under your belt.  

Closing Thoughts

We know these are uncertain times, and the idea of negotiating an offer might feel even more intimidating than before. Do your best to articulate your worth, and know that employers will likely appreciate your confidence — and your flexibility, if they simply are not able to accommodate your counteroffer.

Last year, we had UVM alum and local employer Tom Parent host a workshop on salary negotiation. He gave a few quick pointers in a video after the event – check out his advice for first-time job seekers.

Take care, and keep an eye out for future communications to recent graduates from our office. We are wishing you all the best in your job search and hope you will reach out if there’s anything we can do to help!

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