Best Practices for Salary Negotiations

For job seekers, negotiating salaries with an employer can be a tricky tightrope to walk. This is especially true for students or recent graduates looking for an internship or their first job out of college.

With the end of the semester just around the corner and many students looking for summer internships and jobs, now is a good time to go over some best practices for approaching salary negotiations.

Know Your Value

It’s important to know how much you're worth in the job market before entering into any salary negotiations. Tools like are a great way to get an idea of how much the average person with your knowledge, skills and experience commands in salary. Speak with a trusted colleague, adviser or professor about this, as well. Without this basic information on hand, you will be entering salary negotiations at a serious disadvantage.

Never Give the First Number

Let the interviewer give the first salary number. This can be tricky because he or she will try to do the same thing by getting you to give the first number. However, if you do give the first number, you are telling the employer just how little they have to pay in order for you to be happy.

By letting the employer give the first number, you will have room to go up. If you give the first number, they have no reason to offer more.

The interviewer will probably ask something like, “What are your salary requirements?” That is a direct question, but you can't give in by offering a direct answer. Penelope Trunk of recommends job seekers to offer a soft answer, such as, “Let’s talk about the job requirements first, so I can get a sense of what you need.” Read more great responses to tough questions.

The truth is, an employer has a certain amount budgeted for any job they are offering. As an applicant, you need to figure out what that amount is before you offer any salary requirements of your own. You might get a low offer to start out, but don't be afraid to counter-offer. Never accept the first offer. If an employer is unwilling to budge on a low offer, it might be an indicator of how much (or little) they value the position.

More Than Salary

If an employer can't or won't meet your salary requirements, you might try negotiating for other incentives. For instance, you can negotiate for a sign-on bonus, stock options or perhaps more vacation time than was previously offered. This is, of course, assuming the salary they do offer is not too far from what you requested.

In summary, salary negotiations can be difficult, tense and even a bit awkward, especially if it’s your first time going through the process. Just remember to research the market value for the position and be prepared to counter offer. Do your best to keep emotion out of the process and remember that business is business.