Salaries & Offers

You’ve polished your resume and tailored your cover letter. You’ve practiced your interviewing skills. You’ve even picked out the right thing to wear. Don’t step into the interview, however, without thinking about potential salaries and what is standard pay for the position or industry. Below are some tips on considering job offers.

Timing is Everything

Choose the right time to talk about salary.

Unless asked specifically, do not mention compensation until you have secured an offer. Throughout the application and interview process, you want to focus on showing the employer your qualifications and determining whether or not the position is a good fit.

Decide ahead of time what is acceptable.

Consider the minimum compensation that you would accept and what you would like to receive. This may change based on the research suggested below, but have a firm sense before you begin discussing offers with any employer. If you find that the typical range is not acceptable, you may need to consider methods for securing a second income as you get established. A career counselor can help you consider your options.

Do Your Research

Find out the average salary range for this type of work.

Start with these resources: 

  • Use free online salary calculators. You can find averages and ranges, including those for entry-level positions and a comparison of locations based on cost of living.
  • Look to professional associations. Professional associations often give you information tailored for a specific industry.
  • Talk to alumni and other contacts. Most should be willing to share the ranges for positions in their field. Never ask for a specific amount, or what they make. Rather, use phrasing such as: "I'm seeking a position as a chemical engineer for an environmental startup. I expect a salary between $___ and $___. Is that reasonable?"

Calculate your “worth.”

Salaries can often be negotiated on the basis of work experience, type of degree, special skills and so on. A good habit to develop is to document your performance (from past or current jobs and leadership positions), including specifics on what you accomplished, who benefited and any recognition for your work. This will help you understand your worth as you identify salary ranges. 

Consider the Big Picture

Evaluate the entire package, not just the salary amount.

Your base salary is very important, but a comprehensive benefits package can add 30–40%. This can include health care premiums, retirement contributions, personal time off, tuition reimbursement and professional association fees. Consider your future earnings potential, which can increase significantly with future bonuses, commissions or promotions. Intangible benefits are important to consider as well:

  • Job Fit: What will your day-to-day responsibilities be like? How challenged do you want to be? In job satisfaction surveys, employees often rank enjoying their job as more important than salary. 
  • Environment Fit: What is the culture of the organization? Will you be able to get along with your colleagues? What office space will you be working out of? Do you feel at ease with the supervisor? 
  • Organization Fit: Do you believe in what they do? Do they value the same types of things that you do, such as work/life balance, advancement, professional development, mentoring and diversity?
  • Location Fit: Is the organization in the city, suburbs or rural area? Will you be close to people or activities that are important to you? Will you want to establish roots in this area?