Career Services Salary Negotiation

Salary Research and Negotiation


This guide is intended to help you effectively address the salary research and negotiation process to increase your confidence and maximize your pay check. This web tutorial provides simple basics that can help job hunters navigate through a very important final step in securing a job.


  • Users will gain an understanding of salary offers and negotiation
  • Users will learn how to respond to questions about salary
  • Users will learn how to research salary information
  • Users will learn techniques for negotiating salary

Fundamentals of Salary Offers and Negotiation


Starting salary can be negotiated!

It is often possible to improve a salary offer. True, many employers have little or no flexibility in starting salaries. Nonetheless, when done in an appropriate manner, one can usually ask for a higher salary without the risk of losing the offer altogether.

Starting salary is only one factor...

to consider in weighing a job offer, along with the work environment, opportunities for advancement, and others.

Salaries vary...

by field, job, geographic location, and by organization. Comparable jobs at similar organizations in the same city can vary greatly in rate of pay. Salary negotiation is more art than science.

Salary offers are based on...

your qualifications, supply and demand of candidates, financial health of an organization and other largely imprecise factors.

Salary questions may arise...

at various points during the employment process. Demonstrate to employers that you have researched salaries for your field. Be prepared to address salary issues during interviews and in a written application, as well as at the time of a job offer.

Salary negotiation is a business transaction

don't take it personally, and don't make it personal. Employers don't care about your student loans, credit card balance, the new muffler your car badly needs, or other financial obligations.


  • It's allowed, if not always advisable, to ask for more money
  • Carefully examine salary data, employers, and your qualifications
  • There are effective and appropriate ways to conduct salary negotiations
  • Your ability to negotiate a better salary may only be as good as your communication skills, interviewing savvy, and ability to research employment information.
  • Contact Career Services for more assistance with these issues, and/or consult our collection of related links.

Conducting Research


Use as many sources of salary data as you can find. The cart below is one that a Computer Information Systems senior created a few years ago using Excel to calculate the salary ranges for working as a Local Area Network Support Technician.  Note that national and local data is used.

Resource low low/hr middle mid/hr high high/hr
NACE Salary Survey 38,000 19.79 45,000 23.44 51,000 26.56
2005 Information Week IT Salary Adviser- Adjusted 42,000 21.88 49,000 25.52 55,000 28.65 for Amarillo TX  Lan Support II 44,462 23.16 50,706 26.41 58,050 30.23 for Amarillo TX- Lan Support I 36,638 19.08 41,765 21.75 48,135 25.07 Average 40,550 21.12 46,235 24.08 53,092 27.65
AVERAGE SALARY FROM ALL SOURCES 40,275 20.98 46,618 24.28 53,046 27.63

The definitive source for new college graduates is the quarterly Salary Survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which includes current nationwide average starting salary offers by academic major, degree level, and job function. A copy is available in Career Services. Be sure to use this data in your research.

Internet sources for salary data:


Differentials should also be considered, particularly when dealing with offers in extremely expensive cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and to a lesser extent in Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

Internet sources for cost of living data:

The following links will take you to information offered by reliable sources on conducting salary research.

  • HubPages - How to Benchmark Your Salary


Most organizations have websites. One can use major search engine resources such as the company list at Yahoo! to identify links to other employers. Additionally, Career Services maintains a collection of traditional company information, including annual financial reports. Look for trends in sales and revenues as indicators of a company's financial health.

Another indicator of an organization's stability is its recruiting activity. During an interview, ask how many graduates they are hiring, and how this figure compares to other recent years. Employers generally hire more graduates when they experience economic growth, like during the prosperous economy of the late 1990s. Follow this link for more information about researching a company.


How well you stack up may be difficult for you to gauge effectively and objectively. Ask a Career Services' counselor or a trusted advisor for feedback on your candidacy. Primary relevant factors include your academic performance (i.e. GPA), work experience, leadership ability, and communication skills (particularly your self-presentation in interviews).

Before The Job Offer


While salary is truly negotiated after an offer is made, you may need to address salary questions at earlier points in the employment process, i.e. during interviews and on written employment applications. At these preliminary stages, your goal should be to postpone discussion of salary issues until an employer demonstrates strong interest in you. You do not want to price yourself out of a job (i.e. indicating a salary that is too high for the position) nor sell yourself short by indicating a salary at the low end of the scale.


Leave the "salary desired" item blank on an application

Applications are primarily used to capture your contact data (e.g. address, phone number), educational background, and employment history. If you are absolutely required to specify salary, indicate a general figure (e.g. "in the 30K range") which would include the high end of the typical range, based on your research.

These recommendations also apply when responding to job advertisements asking you to specify your salary requirements in a cover letter. Use ballpark figures (or, as some career advisors recommend, do not specify salary at all).


Interviewers will ask you point blank, "What salary do you desire?" You can handle this question in several ways, depending on your personal preference, confidence, and your perception of the interviewer's willingness to settle for a non-specific answer. Whatever your response, be sure to convey your interest in other aspects of the job and/or employer like so:

"I'm sure your company would pay me a fair salary based on my qualifications. Money is important to me, but I'm especially interested in the outstanding opportunity this job presents in terms of..."

If the interviewer persists in requesting a more direct response, answer in general terms and use this opportunity to sell yourself. Calmly and confidently state something like:

"My research indicates the going range for this kind of position is mid-thirties. I'm looking for something at the high end of the scale, based on my prior work experience and other qualifications."

The Job Offer


The employer makes you an offer! Job offers are usually communicated verbally, followed up by a written offer (be sure to get confirmation in writing). Don't be overly suspicious in receiving a job offer - a first offer may in fact be fair or downright generous. If you've done your homework, you'll know how the offer stacks up. If the offer isn't quite what you were seeking, then let the negotiations begin.


Enthusiastically express your gratitude and excitement over being selected to receive an offer, but calmly and matter-of-factly express your disappointment about the dollar amount and ask if the offer is negotiable. Put the ball in the employer's court:

"I'm very excited about the prospect of joining your company! I think it's a good fit and would be a wonderful opportunity. However, I was expecting a higher offer. Is this figure negotiable?"

The employer may respond in a variety of ways - listen carefully and ask for clarification if he/she tries to dodge your question! Unless an unequivocal "No" is communicated, do not be deterred from trying to get a higher salary offer. Possible responses by the employer are listed below, along with recommendations for your follow-up response.

"No, I'm sorry, we simply don't have that flexibility"

In this case, NO probably means NO - particularly for entry-level jobs. So you make your decision about the offer at the specified salary.

If the employer's response sounds like any of these:

"Well, we think we offer a fairly competitive salary"

"I'm not sure we can go any higher"

"Well, what did you have in mind?"

The ball is back in your court-

Now you really need to have done your homework and know what you're seeking. Don't bother asking for anything less than $1,000; you might ask for 5-10% higher than offered, or more if the original offer is extremely low. At this point, you can no longer respond in general terms. You must communicate a specific dollar amount and know what minimum you will accept.

You are probably safe asking for 10% more than the original offer. If you have to compromise and get 5%, you've done well! (as long as the original offer wasn't at the extreme low end of the range).

Tips for Asking For A Raise

MoneyGeek's Guide to negotiate the pay your deserve