Jennette Ballas and Aliza Elbert

Dilemma: I recently attended the Spring Job Fair and have an interview for a job coming up next week. Being a Cal Poly grad, I feel like I have a lot to offer, but am hesitant to ask for a higher salary. I’ve heard that it’s common to negotiate salary and I was wondering how to approach the subject?

” John R.

We understand that students often feel some concern when considering their first job offer. Sometimes this anxiety stems from a fear that an organization may be “low-balling” their salary. Or, they fear they might alienate the employer by appearing too demanding if they ask for more money. We hope the following information will be helpful to you when considering your job offer:

Research your profession’s salary range. Ask people you know in that field, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Internet and magazines of your industry.

Decide on a preferred salary. You may not get the amount you want, but knowing in advance the minimum salary you will accept and having a specific objective can help you get close to your desired pay.

Don’t initiate salary discussions. Wait for the interviewer to bring the subject up, even if it’s postponed to a second interview.

Say that your salary requests are “negotiable.” This means that on applications write “negotiable” in any box asking about salary details. If asked to provide current salary, write, “to be covered during interview.” You are not being vague, without knowing your benefits a confident decision cannot be made.

Discuss benefits apart from salary. Some benefits packages consist of insurance, tuition reimbursement, relocation payments, stock options and bonuses.

Get a second opinion on benefit packages. Someone who has previous experience may offer you valuable advice as well as an insurance, investment or bank professional. Don’t forget that your family and friends can also help you by providing a more objective outlook.

Consider the cost of living on that area. If the new area you are moving to is more expensive, consider asking to be paid the difference.

In discussing why you deserve a substantial increase, use examples of your accomplishments that prove your value, not simply your experience. Talk about the benefits you’ll bring to the company.

Never accept an offer at an interview. Instead you should always assume that a company’s first offer is negotiable. Don’t be afraid to express your strong interest, but say that you need time to discuss big decisions like this with others. End by telling your interviewer that you’ll contact them with your decision.

If you think you are going to be underpaid, consider negotiating for an early performance review with a salary adjustment at that time, especially if the position is of great interest. They should make this agreement part of the official offer letter including the agreed upon amount of the increase.

If you and the company have come to a mutually satisfying agreement, ask for something in writing that reflects your mutual understanding. If you can not reach a mutually satisfying agreement, or do, but have other offers you need to reject or withdraw from, a formal written letter or e-mail should be sent to the hiring contact.

The Bottom Line: It is in both the organizations’ and your best interest to come to a mutually beneficial agreement. It doesn’t hurt to ask as long as you take the right approach.

Aliza Elbert and Jennette Ballas are both marketing concentrations with a knack for changing the world – one ethical dilemma at a time. This article is written on behalf of SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise). You can find these tips and more on, which is apart of the Wall Street Journal.

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