Deciding whether or not to negotiate the terms of an offer can be tough. However, by conducting some research in advance, you can make an informed decision. You can also utilize your alumni contacts. Alumni are often helpful in determining which organizations and industries are typically receptive to bargaining.

Should I negotiate?

These steps can help you decide whether to enter the negotiation process:

1. Identify the Issue

First, identify the primary issue that you want to negotiate using the results of the values assessment you have completed thus far. Some students need to negotiate immediately for more time to make a decision. Other common examples of negotiation points are salary and start dates. Think carefully about what terms and alternatives are acceptable to you. For example, if your request for a higher starting salary is denied, you might then negotiate for a performance and salary review earlier than they are typically conducted.

2. Should I Negotiate?

Next, decide if you have grounds for negotiating. You may want to consider negotiating if you:

  • discover that you will be unable to make ends meet with the offered salary (see Budget Worksheet)
  • have experience or other qualifications that exceed those of other candidates offered similar positions by the organization
  • learn that similarly qualified candidates have been offered more appealing employment packages by the same organization in the same location
  • will only accept the offer if the organization will negotiate the terms

3. Other Considerations

This final condition suggests three other significant points:

  • Enter into negotiation only if you plan to accept the offer if your needs are met. Don’t attempt to engage organizations in a bidding competition.
  • While it is not common for employers to rescind offers to students who attempt negotiation, it is possible. With a tactful approach, you should be able to avoid putting your offer in jeopardy.
  • Meet with a UVA Career Center counselor to discuss your thoughts, develop a plan, and practice your approach.

How to Negotiate

1. Determine the actual salary that you are seeking. 

Experts indicate that it is best to have a potential salary range instead of one figure. For example, let’s say you were given a $35,000 offer to be an auditor for a public accounting firm in Washington, DC. In doing your research, you found that the average salary in Washington, DC for a similar position was $39,000. Going into the negotiation process you would want to negotiate a salary between $37,000 and $41,000. Here are some resources you can use to help you determine what salary to negotiate.

2. Be mentally prepared for negotiation.

The company has invested a great deal in you as a potential employee. If you are seriously considering the offer, it is essential that negotiations be handled professionally and confidently. Listed below are some pointers.

  • Be prepared to support your proposed salary, using the results of your research and/or your assessment of your unique qualifications for the position.
  • Be willing to listen to the employer’s issues and to negotiate.
  • Be prepared to accept the offer if the issue can be settled.

3. Start the formal negotiation process.

  • Contact the company representative who extended the offer. Email is appropriate.
  • Convey your enthusiasm and interest in the offer.
  • Express your concern about the salary and provide a solid rationale for your request for a higher starting salary.

4. Be prepared for possible responses, including:

“What salary are you willing to accept?”
Respond by providing a salary range with your ideal salary as a mid-point.

“That figure is beyond our salary range for this position.”
You have the opportunity to make another counter-offer if you are willing to consider a salary lower than your targeted range.

“The salary we offered was at the top of the range for your position.”-OR-“We are offering all of our new hires the same, non-negotiable salary.”
In this case, you may wish to talk about alternate methods of achieving your financial goals. This could be a signing bonus, a 60-, 90-, or 120-day performance and salary review, or bonuses during the year (signing bonus options depend on the industry and are not always available).

5. Respond to the company’s negotiated offer.

If you feel you can agree, you should be prepared to accept the offer. If you can’t agree on a mutually satisfying compromise, you do not have to accept the offer. If the employer’s counteroffer is not what you expected and you are unsure about accepting the terms of the negotiated offer, you can ask for a short period of time to reconsider. No matter what the outcome is, always be professional as you never know how these interactions will help or hurt you in the future.

Contact the UVA Career Center at (434)924-8900 if you need additional help.