Thursday, March 31, 2016

Salary Negotiation

Your phone interview is just wrapping up, you’re sure it went well, you had great answers and even asked some insightful questions to help you determine fit. Then your interviewer asks what your salary requirements are, and your response is dead silence.


You aced the phone interview. You were invited to an onsite interview where you were well prepared and wowed the entire selection committee. They tell you they will be making a decision within the week. You’re on pins and needles all week, and finally the phone rings and you’re offered the job! But then the recruiter starts throwing numbers around related to salary and benefits, and suddenly your mind goes blank.

Now what?

Don’t let this happen to you! Salary expectations are usually discussed before the job offer, but some organizations do not bring up this topic until they make you an offer. In any case, the mention of salary by the recruiter should not be the first time you consider your wage expectations. Thorough investigation of salary ranges, additional compensation, benefits, and cost-of-living factors should all be part of your research for a specific job and preparation for the interview.

Salary: Do your homework on acceptable salary ranges for that particular job in that particular city. See the list of online resources below that will assist you with this research. Is the company located in a city with a much higher cost of living than what you’re accustomed to? Once you determine the salary range for the job, create a list of expenses you can expect as you transition from student to young professional. What will your estimated take-home pay be? Will that be enough to cover your estimated expenses? Can you make a case for yourself that you should expect the upper range of the salary? Even if the job is entry level, do you have relevant experience, such as internships, that would place you in the upper-range category? The online guides will assist you with answering these questions. Once you have this information, you can move forward as an informed participant in the negotiation process.

Additional compensation: Besides a flat salary, the employer should make it clear if the offer includes additional remuneration, such as bonuses, commission, and overtime. Add these approximate figures to your range.

Benefits: Similar to additional compensation, the employer should discuss all benefits that are provided to make the offer more attractive. These typically include paid vacation, different types of health insurance, life insurance, and retirement plans. Moreover, some companies add additional benefits as incentives, such as educational benefits and access to fitness facilities or other memberships. What are these worth to you? Are you prepared to accept a lower base pay if these benefits and amenities are added?

Cost-of-living factors: Even if you’ve moved off campus and have become accustomed to managing your own finances, transitioning from student to employee is a big adjustment. The goal is to be a financially literate new professional. Know the lay of the land in your target community, including what you can expect to pay for expenses such as housing, utilities, transportation, groceries, and entertainment. Factor in any credit-card and school-loan payments you will have.

Once you get a base salary amount (or range), add the above benefits to come up with a value-added compensation package. Is it realistic? Does it, at the minimum, cover all of your expenses and income requirements? Are you prepared to turn down the job offer if the salary doesn’t meet your expectations? Knowledge is power, and you will be a better negotiator for yourself when you are prepared!

Keep in mind that the employer is committing to you with this job offer. Go into the negotiation process with the assumption that they will be honest with you and will give you the best package they can based on their budget, the job requirements, your experience, and industry standards. They won’t intentionally give you a low-ball offer, but they will often start with the lower range in anticipation of a counter offer. If you don’t advocate for yourself, you may lose out on the higher starting point. Ask! They will certainly not think less of you for speaking up. However, realize that there may not be room for negotiating – especially for entry-level jobs – but they will be upfront about this as well.

Your prospective employer has done their research and prepared themselves for the negotiation process on their side of it. Make sure you have done the same. If all goes well, you’ve got yourself a job and your post-graduate career is launched.


The following resources offer more assistance on salary negotiation:


Written by:  Maureen Fitzgibbon, Grinnell College
Assistant Director of Employer Relations & Employment Counseling 

Edited by:  Stacie Hays, Morningside College

Career Counselor, Career Services 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Stand Out During Your Job Search

Last week, I had a student ask me for some tips to help her stand out to employers in the job search process; should she:

  • Print her resume on hot pink paper?  
  • Use a funny email address?
  • Upload that sexy picture from her cousin’s wedding to her LinkedIn profile?

While you are likely to get an employer’s attention using any one of these tactics, your best bet for making a positive impression is to send a hand-written thank-you note following your job interview.

First, it’s the right thing to do.  You are asking a hiring manager to consider you for a position with her company.  She honors your request by inviting you to visit the organization and to share your skills and qualifications with the search team.  As we learned in kindergarten, when we ask for something and it’s given to us, the polite response is to say, “thank-you.”

Second, you want them to remember you.  Employers may look at hundreds of resumes before selecting the candidates they wish to consider.  After conducting phone interviews, they pare the prospects down to 3-4. You want to be sure they remember YOU, so mention a specific topic or piece of information discussed during your interview.  It will help them connect your name to the exceptional impression you will have made. 

Finally, sending a hand-written thank-you note can help close the deal; however, most candidates do not take the time.  Why should you? Here’s what employers say it means to them-

The job seeker…
  • understands the subtle rules of etiquette
  • is willing to put forth the extra effort
  • shows persistence
  • knows how to seek out solutions
  • demonstrates that he/she wants the job

Take the extra time and effort to send a thank-you note.  Your efforts will pay off.

Written by:  Cheryl Redd, Mount Mercy University
Career Services Director

Edited by:  Catharine Craig, Graceland University
Director of Career, Academic and Personal Counseling Services