Negotiation: An Overview

Negotiation is often one of the most intimidating parts of the job search for so many people. People are unsure about when and if they can negotiate. In order to demystify the process and give you confidence, we have outlined what you can do to prepare for a negotiation conversation, and being prepared will make any negotiation go more smoothly. You can also find our Top 8 Tips for Negotiating Your Salary as a Woman in our 2018 Buzzfeed article, and learn more through our resource on Negotiation & Identity.


Why You Should Negotiate

Do you have to negotiate your offer? No. Should you? Yes, most of the time — it’s good life practice for having challenging conversations and going through the process of reaching a compromise. You may receive some offers for which negotiating is not the best or necessary course of action. However, evaluate these on a case-by-case basis before deciding whether or not to negotiate.

The process can certainly be intimidating, but you owe it to yourself to negotiate rather than accept the initial offer. After all, you spent much time doing the following for your job search:

  • Figuring out what industry you want to join
  • Deciding what jobs you want to pursue
  • Networking and informational interviewing
  • Writing resumes and cover letters
  • Filling out applications
  • Asking for references
  • Preparing for the interview
  • Job interviewing (possibly for more than one round)
  • Writing thank you notes to the interviewers

If you invested all of those hours to find a job that fits you, why would you not invest time to negotiate a salary and benefits package that would fit your professional and personal needs?

Preparation in Advance

Learn about reasonable salary ranges for the role in a particular geographic area.  
It is difficult to pinpoint an exact number, but using the resources below (and taking cost of living into account) you should be able to come up with a range that makes sense.  

  • Talk to people in the field.  
    During informational interviews, it is appropriate to ask what a reasonable salary range expectation for a certain role would be.  You should never ask anyone what they make, but it is ok to ask in the abstract.  

  • Online Resources
    There are a plethora of online resources that provide salary information. It is often best to search websites using various job titles. Some roles are called different things at different companies. Some suggested resources include:

  • Professional Associations
    Review the resources provided by of professional associations in your field to learn about job opportunities, industry trends, and salary ranges. You can also attend an event and ask someone who works for an organization or in a role you are interested in about salary expectations.

Remember that more than just salary can be negotiated.  
Almost everything is negotiable. Common negotiable aspects of an offer include: salary, start date, moving expenses, early reviews, vacation time, professional development money, performance bonuses, geographic location, parking, commuting travel discounts or reimbursements, stock options, and retention bonuses. Some areas that are usually non-negotiable are standardized benefits that apply to all employees, such as retirement plans, health insurance, and the like.

Determine your own expectations, limitations, and dealbreakers.
You should also do some self-reflection to assess how this opportunity fits into your own wants and needs. Determine for yourself what is essential and what is flexible, and establish your priorities for any offers and opportunities that may come your way. For example, if an offered salary is acceptable to you, but a different start date is absolutely necessary, you may decide to forego negotiating the salary and focus on negotiating on a new start date. Determine your “minimums” for the components of the offer that you are negotiating, so that you will know in advance of your negotiation conversation what is and is not reasonable for you.

Practice sentences and phrases so they come easily to you.  
You will not be able to predict exactly how the conversation will go, but it will help you immensely if you practice some phrases you might use.  For example, “The research I have done about this industry indicates that the salary range for this position is x-y.”  Or “Is there room for negotiation in this offer?”  Or “The ability to work remotely on Fridays is something that I value greatly, could we discuss that possibility?”

Learn from the experiences of others.  
You may also ask fellow alumnae or mentors and friends about their experiences negotiating.  Again, it is too intrusive to ask about specifics, but you could ask if they have any advice or lessons learned. This is also research!

Remember that with every experience you have, you are improving.  
Learn from each conversation about salary and benefits. If you feel that a conversation did not go well, chalk it up to learning and know that the next time will be better. It is important not to get defeated by one bad experience.  


How to Negotiate

When you receive an offer, express appreciation for the offer as it stands and ask for time to review and think about the offer. You and your recruiting contact should determine a mutually agreeable response date. Ask questions and make sure you understand all facets of the job and the offer, such as compensation, supervision, stock options, benefits, time off, start date, etc., before you begin the negotiation process.

When you do begin the negotiation process, begin by expressing appreciation and reiterating your interest in the position before making requests. Make sure your any requests you make are specific and actionable. So, say “I’d like to discuss the salary and the possibility of increasing the starting salary to $50,000,” instead of, “I’d like to make more money.” Use the research that you have done to inform your number, and support that number by emphasizing the value that you bring to the organization.

You must give the organization an appropriate amount of time to respond to your negotiation requests. If your answer to the offer had been requested by Friday, don’t call and begin the negotiation process on Thursday at 3 p.m. Give them enough time to listen to your requests and come up with a counter offer.

With the counter-offer, the organization will let you know which requests they can meet and which ones they cannot. You may decide to renegotiate, based on this response, or move forward with the new terms of the offer. You should ask for the new offer in writing, before accepting, to ensure that both you and the organization have complete details of your compromise.

Additional Resources
What to Say When You Negotiate Salary, Allison Green, Ask A Manager
"How Can I Make More?" and other questions you didn’t know to ask about work and money, Julia Carpenter and Alex Laughlin, Washington Post


Frequently Asked Questions

When do I ask about salary or negotiation?
You don’t. Wait until the employer or hiring manager starts the conversation about offers, salary, and benefits. However, keep in mind that the opportunity to negotiate a job or internship offer can present itself at numerous points during the application and interview process, not just at the end.

  • In an application, you may be asked to list your salary requirements or expectations.
  • In an interview, you may be asked about your salary expectations or the interviewer may tell you what the salary or salary range is likely to be.
  • When you receive an offer, you will be given information about compensation, including salary and benefits, if included.
  • As an employee, you may have opportunities to re-negotiate your salary or benefits during performance evaluations.

How do you list salary requirements in an application or if asked in an interview?
Before naming your salary requirements in an application or in an interview, you should arm yourself with the relevant salary information you gathered through research, so that the expectations that you bring to a potential employer is grounded in facts. You can find salary information for the industry, for similar roles, and for the geographic location on sites like,, [etc.]. When possible, you should name a salary range, but you may only be allowed to name a specific number. If so, provide a salary expectation that is grounded in the research that you have done and that you can justify, based on the value of your skills and experiences. You should also indicate that the salary expectations are flexible, leaving the door open for a negotiation conversation.

Additional Resources
Q&A: The Secret to Giving Your "Salary Requirements", The Muse

When do you negotiate?
The most common time to negotiate is after you have received an offer, but before you have accepted the offer. If you accept the offer immediately, you are accepting it as is, and it is more challenging to go back to your contact at the organization and ask to discuss changes to the offer package.

What are some common mistakes?
Candidates make mistakes when they start the negotiation process too soon (i.e. before receiving the offer) or negotiate with the wrong person. Typically, negotiation conversations happen with your interviewer or a member of Human Resources. If you aren’t sure who you should discuss this negotiation with, ask! Additionally, if you don’t adequately prepare your argument and appear uncompromising or demanding as a result, you risk creating a negative impression of yourself during the process and starting your new career off on the wrong foot.

How do you decline an offer?
You may decide, after receiving an offer or after negotiating, that this is not the right opportunity for you. It is customary to have a phone call to provide your final answer, whether accepting or declining. Express appreciation for the offer and the opportunity to interview with the organization. State that you will have to decline the offer, and provide them with an appropriate reason, such as you are pursuing another opportunity.

NOTE: It is poor practice to accept an offer, and then continue to apply and interview for other opportunities. If you are uncertain about the offer you have received, don’t just accept it as a safety net. Talk to your Career Community Advisor.

What if the organization demands an answer right away?
As a general rule, employers are expected to give candidates a reasonable amount of time to make a decision. Exploding offers (offers that require candidates to accept an offer within a very short time frame, such as 48 hours) make reasonable decision-making challenging, and you can ask to have some time to think about the offer, and agree on a new response date.