Negotiating Salary & Benefits

You have a job offer. Now what? Should you accept outright, negotiate the terms, or decline and pursue other offers?


Getting a job offer can feel like crossing the job search finish line, but before you accept an offer and do a victory lap,

it's important to remember a job offer is more than just the salary.

Make sure to evaluate all aspects of salary, benefits, and work/play/love/health balance before making a decision.

Your first step should be to graciously thank your potential employer, then take time to consider the offer.

Most employers will give you a few days (and maybe up to a week or two) to make your decision.


First Step in Negotiation Process

Broadly evaluate your personal wants and needs.
There are benefits that have monetary and non-monetary value.
Does the offer and the company excite you? How do the job responsibilities fit into your goals?
Are there opportunities for growth?  What hesitations do you have?  
Consider the position, location, cost of living, work environment, relocation, transportation, and other factors.
Do you need help or more information?

Next Step

Do your research.
Evaluate the salary and benefits offers, considering their relative importance to you.  
Research typical salaries by job title in the geographic location you are considering.
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“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity".

Final Step in Negotiation

Accept, Negotiate, Defer, or Decline the offer. Ensure you get the offer in WRITING, then select one of these actions; Do Not Ignore Your Acceptance!


 Congratulations! After a period of consideration, enthusiastically accept your offer verbally and in writing.

Keep your good reputation by honoring the commitment you just made, ceasing your active job search;

closeout any other outstanding applications or interviews.

Plan on hitting the ground running and making that first month at your internship or 90 days on the job count

by preparing and listening well, outlining priorities, defining actionable goals and create metrics to measure success.


If the employer is open to benefit discussions

and (through your realistic research) you believe that your full-time offer is below market value, you may be able to negotiate.

Engage respectfully and professionally,

noting the positives of the offer while highlighting which of your experiences and qualifications make you worth the extra compensation.

 Have this conversation before the offer officially expires so both parties have time to assess the outcome;

be ready to respond to the employer reaction.

If you do not get the salary/benefit you were hoping for,

weigh the offered salary/benefits package against other current intangible opportunities at the organization, including future promotions.

If you are applying for an internship, a salary negotiation is highly unlikely.


If you need more time (perhaps due to personal reasons, school challenges or other competing offers),

a request for more time should be accompanied by a specific reason and time needed for the extension.

Some, but not all employers, will have that flexibility.






 Politely and appreciatively decline a job offer with a brief comment on why you are declining.

This is usually an awkward situation, but if you stay pleasant, appreciative and do not say anything negative,

you can preserve your relationship for a future employment or networking possibility.

You do not have to give the hiring team or recruiter a complete account of why you are turning down the job offer,

but you can mention what was good about the company, hiring team or process

and note something positive about the new or different direction you are heading (better fit, different opportunities, etc.).

How to Handle Various Scenarios:

Scenario A:

During an initial phone interview with a hiring professional, the HR person asks you your salary range. “I hadn’t prepared to answer that so early on in the process. Without doing research, I turned it around and asked him what their salary cap would be. The range he gave was much higher than I would have given myself — and, when the offer came through, the final number was significantly more than I was previously making!”

Scenario B:

The interviewer asks “So, what are your salary expectations?” Or “what’s your salary history like?” (Even though this question is now outlawed in a handful of states since it has a tendency to perpetuate systemic wage gaps).

So How Do You Handle Both?

  1. For Scenario A, Remember that negotiation starts with a solid offer.

You’re not in any kind of a position to negotiate until an offer is on the table. And unless you’re a contractor or consultant pitching the company (your prospective client), then they’re the ones who should be making the first move on that front. You can say, “Is this a job offer?” If they say no, then say, “If this were a job offer I am sure we both could come to a decision that would mutually benefit both of us.”


If they say “yes,” you can say, “While doing research, I learned that people doing this type of job, in the Northeast (or your location), with my type of background, are typically paid between x amount and y amount.” (Do your research and be prepared to give them a salary range.)

  1. For Scenario B, Remember that if they want you to disclose your current pay, it is illegal for companies in some states to ask this.

Smile and repeat as politely as you can, respond with, “I’m not comfortable discussing salary at this stage in the game. When the time comes, I’m looking forward to hearing more about your offer. I don’t disclose my pay, but am sure you’ll make a competitive offer if you’d like to move forward.” 

Don’t let anyone bully you into answering a question that you don’t want to answer, even if you start to feel awkward and uncomfortable about it. Consider this: those 10 seconds of awkwardness might otherwise cost you THOUSANDS of dollars in lost compensation each year and that can add up to BIG DOLLARS when you consider how that compounds over the course of a lifetime.

If the employer baggers you, or rudely pressures you for that information, this may be your sign that you might not want to work for this company. If they are going to handle this situation unprofessionally and disrespectful, imagine how they treat their current staff and clients. This might be your sign to more on.


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Whether face-to-face or over the telephone, a real-time exit interview done by a member of the college relations team is an excellent way to gather feedback on the student’s experience and to assess their interest in coming back. Having the students fill out an exit survey and bring it to the interview gives some structure to the conversation.


Students work very hard at completing their work and are generally proud of their accomplishments. Setting up a venue for them to do presentations (formal presentations or in a fair-type setting such as an expo) not only allows them to demonstrate their achievements, but also showcases the internship program to all employees.


Conducting focus groups and feedback surveys with these representatives of your target group is a great way to see your organization as the students see it. Focus groups in particular can yield information about what your competitors are doing that students find appealing.


Providing students with access to in-house training—both in work-skills-related areas, such as a computer language, and in general skills areas, such as time management—is a tangible way to show students you are interested in their development.

You may also want to consider providing interns with information about nearby community colleges: Many students will be interested in attending during their work term to take care of some electives and/or get a little ahead with the hours they need to graduate. If you have the budget, you may also want to consider paying the tuition for courses they take while working for you, but, as is the case with housing, any assistance you can provide—even if it’s just providing them with information about local schools—will earn you points with students.


One of the greatest advantages to students in having internships is the access they get to accomplished professionals in their field. Consequently, speakers from the executive ranks are very popular with students—it’s a great career development and role modeling experience for interns. Having a CEO speak is especially impressive. Best scenario: Your CEO speaker is personable, willing to answer questions, and willing and able to spend a little informal time with the students after speaking—your interns will be quite impressed.

For you, having your executives speak to interns is another way to “sell” your organization to the interns, and get your executives invested in (and supporting) your program.


New-hire panels are one of the best ways to showcase an organization to interns as a great place to work. These are panels of five or six people who were hired as new grads within the last three years. They act as panelists in a meeting of interns, giving a brief summary of their background and then answering questions from the intern audience. Your interns get insight about your organization from your new hires—people who they perceive are like themselves and who they consequently view as credible sources of information.

In these meetings, I’ve found that the interns consistently bring up the same topics: Why did you choose this employer over others? What was your first year like? How is being a full-time employee here different from being an intern? Do you recommend getting a graduate degree? In the same field, or an M.B.A.? Is it better to go straight to graduate school after the bachelor’s or better to work a while?

It’s also fairly consistent that the new hires will offer other types of advice to your interns, such as how to handle finances those first couple of years out of school. (Their typical advice: Don’t run right out and buy a new car, and, Start contributing the maximum to your savings plan as soon as you are allowed.)

College relations staff should attend these sessions, but should remain unobtrusive, staying in the back of the room so as not to stifle the conversation. By being there, you stay aware of what is on the minds of your target group, and you can answer any detailed questions that may come up, such as those related to benefits.


Although some programs—especially those that are very structured on the university side—make visits by career center staff and faculty a regular practice, most do not. In general, career center staff and faculty members have relatively few opportunities to visit employer work sites to see firsthand the types of experiences that their students are getting. By inviting them to your site, you will build a better working relationship with these groups, which can lead to more student referrals, enhanced campus visibility, and increased flexibility on their parts when your business needs dictate it.


Involve your college recruiting teams—whether they are “volunteers” who participate in college recruiting, staff members dedicated to college recruiting, or some combination of both—in your intern program. They can sponsor social or professional development events, and help to orient the interns to your company culture. In my experience, college team members served as cooks at intern picnics, hosts at speaker events, and drivers for social outings such as ball games.


Having a dedicated manager for your intern program is the best way to ensure that it runs smoothly and stays focused on your criteria for success. Unfortunately, the size and resources available to most internship programs mean that this isn’t always possible. If your program isn’t big enough to warrant a dedicated full-time staff member, an excellent short-term solution is to hire a graduate student (look for a student working toward an advanced HR degree) to be your intern, and put this college relations intern in charge of the daily operation of the internship program. This gives the interns a “go-to” person, and gives you and your staff a break from the many daily tasks involved in running a program of any size. For this to work, you have to plan the program structure in advance (don’t expect your intern to do it), and be very accessible to your college relations intern


Students mention flex-time as one of their most-desired features in a job. (A flexible time schedule during their internship eases their transition to the workplace.)

If you think about how students spend the day on campus (varied schedule each day, with varied activities such as work, class, social time), you can understand that 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday is a bit of an adjustment for them. A flexible schedule can make them feel less chained in by an unchanging routine.

Other work arrangements that have been found successful with students include keeping them on as part-time, remote employees after they go back to school (depending on the type of work they do for you and whether they have a willing manager), and having them come back and work over school breaks for a couple of weeks. These are excellent ways to keep communications open and build a stronger bond.


Pairing a scholarship with your internship is a great way to recruit for your internship program—and this is especially true if you are having difficulty attracting a particular type of student or student with a specific skill set to your program. Attaching a scholarship can increase your pool of candidates with the desired qualifications.


Few employers can afford to provide fully paid housing for interns, but you’ll find that you get a lot of appreciation if you offer any kind of assistance toward housing expenses. If that’s not possible, provide assistance in locating affordable housing: For those relocating to the job site, the prospect of finding affordable, short-term housing can be daunting. Easy availability of affordable housing will make your opportunity more attractive to students, broadening your pool of candidates.

If you can pay for all or some of your interns’ housing, be sure to design (and stick to) a clear policy detailing who is eligible. This will eliminate any perceptions of unequal treatment. In addition, be aware that employer-paid or employer-subsidized housing is considered a taxable benefit. Check with your internal tax department on exceptions to this.

You will also want to consider the issue of relocation, which is separate although related to housing. Many organizations pay some or all of their interns’ relocation expenses to and/or from the job site.


Whether in paper booklet format, or presented as a special section on your website, a handbook serves as a guide for students, answering frequently asked questions and communicating the “rules” in a warm and welcoming way.

A separate intern website serves many of the purposes of the handbook, but has the advantage of being easy to change. You can use your website as a communication tool, with announcements from the college relations staff or even articles of interest written by the interns themselves.


It’s important that everyone “be on the same page,” so to speak. Make this happen by holding an orientation session for managers and mentors as well as a session for students. Orientations ensure that everyone starts with the same expectations and role definitions. This is time well spent—the effort you put into these sessions will pay off throughout the program.


Providing interns with real work is number one to ensuring your program’s success. Interns should be doing work related to their major, that is challenging, that is recognized by the organization as valuable, and that fills the entire work term.

You can guarantee that hiring managers provide real work assignments by checking job descriptions, emphasizing the importance of real work assignments during a manager/mentor orientation sessions, and communicating with interns frequently throughout the work term to determine who they perceive what they are doing.

Share with us how the Career Success Center has helped you on your career path at create new emailor in person in our office.

Tips for Developing Adaptability

-  Change your thought process

-  Force yourself to take risks

-  Encourage others to be open minded

-  Embrace learning 


Keep moving forwarding and just do stuff. ​
Turn your ideas into action.  ​
The Career Success Center has lots of ​custom ideas for you. ​


You live, eat, work, study with others, ​so they all are a part of your life. ​
They have lots of ideas, experience, and contacts, and ​should be a part of your life design​



Life and the career process ​is not just one or two things-​it is a process.

Turn bumps in the road ​into learning opportunities. ​




Ask lots of questions, ​research your options, ​be active in class, ​follow interesting organizations​ and people​





Learn different ways to look ​at things to get unstuck​





Get into some real work, try stuff, reflect on what works for you and refine your next steps to designing a better life




Narrow your testing options, build some ideas, select some ideas, and plan the quick/cheap/easy prototype

Ask a lot of questions



Create some future Life Sketches; do real brainstorming and think up lots and lots and lots of ideas

More = Better



Consider your views on the world

Reflect on what work is and what it means to you

What dysfunctional thoughts can be reframed?

What's the life challenge/opportunity we want to solve and/or learn more about?


Don't try to change what can't be can REFRAME!

(HINT, you have to work with, not change, gravity)




Take some personal assessments 

Evaluate your current work/play/love/health

Open up meaningful discussions with your family and friends