Career Corner: Salary Negotiation 101

Career Corner: Salary Negotiation 101

April 5, 2016   |     West Now Home

The content herein is that of the author and does not reflect the position or opinion of Western International University (West). This article originally appeared in the West Alumni Connection newsletter.

You are faced with an epic moment when receiving a job offer. It is validation of your search efforts and dedication to your career plan. It feels great to finally get an offer and you are thrilled about the prospect of starting a new job. However, you are also faced with the next hurdle of carefully negotiating your compensation package to ensure the offer will meet your needs. Salary negotiations can be a challenge; professional career coach Kathryn Scahill, NCC, DCC offers this two-step process to set you up for a positive outcome that will allow you to celebrate your career success. Read on for her tips, and to find out which Milestones in the West Career Guidance System can help.

Step 1
Research as much as you can to get a sense of what average salaries are in your occupations of interest. Begin with Milestone 1 of the West Career Guidance System, where you can review careers based on your interests, location and other relevant information. To get started, log in to and click on Fast Track Career Tools, then Career Guidance System. West students can log in to and click on the Resources tab, then Career Resources.

You can also search by specific occupations to see sample salaries. You may have to hunt around to find job titles that correlate, but try to determine a range to give you some idea of potential salary.

In addition, you can use (in Milestone 8 of the West Career Guidance System) to view salary information posted anonymously by current and former employees at your target companies.

Step 2
Know what you want to earn. Think about your past salaries, the cost of your education, value of your skills, and come up with a desired salary range. Ask yourself what you are willing to compromise, if anything. Remember that the job offer may include benefits, vacation time, sick time, retirement plans, and more, so think about what is most important for you in terms of total compensation. Would you take a lower salary for more time off? Are you willing to start at a lower salary if there is a clear path for growth?

Keep in mind that you should always wait for the employer to discuss salary; it is not recommended for you to ask for the pay in an interview. An interviewer may ask you what you would like to make, and your answer should be based on your research of the industry, taking into consideration your individual values. It is best not to give a number if you can avoid it; always ask first if they can provide a range, and if you are pressed, respond with a range as well.

You Have the Offer–Now What?
Once you get an offer, you need to decide if it is right for you. If not, the first question to ask: “Is the salary negotiable?” If the response is no, your options are limited. Perhaps benefits are negotiable, or future pay raises. If the employer responds that the salary is negotiable, they are going to want you to tell them what you want. You’ll need to give out another number, and it should be within reason. An increase of about 20% more than the initial offer is a good rule, but only you know what you want to make! Asking for too little is not recommended, and asking for too much can be risky.

Next, you have to be prepared to sell yourself on why you are worth more (further emphasizing skills, education, commitment to the company, etc.). Remember that you do have the option of asking how soon the employer wants a decision. Generally, they will give you a day or longer to consider. Don’t feel pressured into accepting or declining on the spot if you are not ready.

Taking a bit of time during your job search process to prepare for salary negotiations will always pay off. Remember to use the tools in West Career Guidance System to help with your job search, including access to professional career coaches for questions you may have.

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