What to Say

Sometimes employers will ask for your salary history or salary requirements with your initial application.

Manage Early Salary Requests

Requests for a salary history are more common with positions requiring more experience. Generally, employers use this to gauge the appropriateness of an applicant:

  • Too high? If you set salary expectations too high, you may be ruled out as too expensive.
  • Too low? If expectations are set too low, the employer may question your true qualifications or experience.

Give a general, but educated response.

If it is only suggested that you include salary requirements with your application, you do not need to mention anything. If it is required, acknowledge your willingness to take a competitive salary or mention an appropriate range:

  • "I will consider any offer that represents the standard amount appropriate for my education and experience." 
  • "The most recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers states that a position in consulting for candidates with a Ph.D. is between $___ and $___. That's the range I am in." 

Don't raise the issue in interviews, but be prepared.

A similar approach as above can be taken during the interview process:

  • "I expect to be fairly compensated. I feel confident that if we determine I'm the right person for the job, we can reach an agreement."
  • "I expect the standard amount appropriate for my education and experience."

If you are pressed for a specific salary requirement, ask the interviewer what the salary range is. Normally the interviewer will share it. You can then respond with, “Yes, I'm within your range” or “Yes, that's near what I was expecting.” If the employer will not share the range, you may provide a range based upon your research.

Do not accept or decline an offer on the spot.

This is advisable even if this is your ideal job. Thank the person for the offer and convey your enthusiasm for the position. Ask them to send the particulars of the offer in writing. Let them know that you will get back to them in a couple days (or longer, depending on their timeline and yours). 

Negotiate Your Offer

Find out how negotiable the offer package is.

For entry-level positions, there is usually less variation. An employer may offer all new hires the same compensation without special considerations. Generally, however, employers will have some flexibility, even if it is only with the benefits.

Support your request for higher compensation.

If after evaluating the offer, you decide you deserve a higher base salary or additional benefits, think specifically about what you have to offer that is beyond comparable candidates. For example:

  • "As the lead graduate researcher in my lab, I sought out and secured additional funding for our research project. This allowed us to hire three undergraduate research students this summer. As such, I believe I can contribute significantly through my grant writing abilities."

This is also the case if you decide to negotiate the salary amount: instead of stating a specific amount, give a range to begin the negotiation. Remember, however, that the lower number you quote should always be acceptable to you.

Be objective and open to alternatives.

Try to consider this objectively and not as a way to push the employer to their limits. Think clearly about what is acceptable from the start, and be clear and courteous throughout the process. Beyond the base salary, you can consider negotiating:

  • Your first preference in geographic location
  • Early salary/performance review
  • Relocation reimbursement
  • Flexible work schedule
  • Tuition reimbursement plans
  • Professional development training or conferences

Take your time.

Thoroughly review the offer, organization, position and what it is you want. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is particularly important as it is unacceptable to renege on your acceptance, even if it is verbal. You want to be sure of your decision when you contact the employer with your answer.