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:
Cost-of-living 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.
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
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.
RESPONDING TO AN OFFER
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.
If the employer's response sounds like any of these:
The ball is back in your court –
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).