Negotiating Salary/Benefits: Ensuring your expectations are set correctly, using tools such as salary & cost of living calculators, suggestions for salary negotiations

After you read the title of this article you may be thinking; “What does salary negotiation even mean?” or “Why on earth would I risk a job offer by asking for more?” or… “AHHHH!”

These feelings are normal! Negotiating salary is a scary topic for students as they graduate college and start applying for jobs. We want you to know that negotiating salary is a standard part of the job search process and employers EXPECT you to do it! So feel proud, be strong, and remember that the negotiations you engage in now could impact your salary for many years to come.

The Dos and Don’ts of Salary Negotiation:


  • Be attentive!: When applying, interviewing, and speaking with the recruiter… be attentive. Pay attention to clues given to you by the company, i.e. mission and values, what they look for in an employee, etc. These clues can help you persuade the employer that you are valuable to them, and worth the negotiation.
  • Stay positive: Go in to this process knowing that you are worth it. Maintaining a positive frame of mind throughout this process will be helpful regardless of the end result. Remember to be respectful and don’t be discouraged!
  • Have an acceptable salary range in mind, this will help you be flexible and open to negotiation. In saying this, also know your bottom line and when you feel it’s appropriate to walk away.
  • Do your homework: I know, I know… You just graduated and homework shouldn’t be a part of this! Right?! What we mean by do your homework is to find resources like the CDC’s Negotiating Salary Page or O*NET Online to get information about what the “fair market value” is for your position.

A great resource for navigating the investigation part of negotiation are these two little articles on compensation!:

  • Finally, DO think about the whole picture: Salary is not just about the dollar amount of the offer, take in to consideration benefits, time off from work, perks, and cost of living! The chart below will help visualize this concept:
Evaluating Total Compensation
Company A Company B
Base Salary $30,000 $35,000
Medical $0 $840
Parking $0 $912
401k Match $1,500 $0
  10% contribution 10% contribution
  Match 1st 5% No Match
Perks $2,000 $0
Taxes $7,290 $8,505
27% taxable income
Actual Compensation $26,210 $24,743

Source: UW-River Falls


  • Sell yourself short ahead of time! In any circumstance, don’t make up your mind ahead of time that you will settle with the employer’s first offer (whatever that offer is). Instead, thank the employer for their offer and ask for the evening to think about it (then spend your evening thinking about it and doing a little research if needed).
  • Start your negotiations too early: Wait a bit… We know you’re eager, but wait AT LEAST until there is an offer on the table before you negotiate. If possible, try to get the employer to provide a salary range or specific pay for a job before you give them a number. This allows you an opportunity to compare their number with fair market value and strategize in your negotiation.

A special note:

It’s important to take time to discuss the importance of women negotiating their salary. The wage gap sadly still exists and “over her working life, a woman will earn $1 million less than a man simply because she is a woman” (WAGE Project). Women are also far less likely to negotiate at work (Babcock & Lashever, Women Don’t Ask), and this reality can cost women over a half million dollars over the course of their career. For more information on gender inequality in wages and career expectations, please visit The Women’s Center and the Career Development Center for advocacy, information and support.

The Women’s Center has a Women’s Salary Negotiation Dinner available on April 7th! If you’re interested in this please contact the Women’s Center for more information.

Information retrieved from:

– Bre Hiivala, Graduate Assistant, Career Development Center



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