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.

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 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.



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.


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.).

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“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity".

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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