Secure the salary you need

Kelli Fitzpatrick

When you’re ready to ask for a raise, whether in a current job or when beginning your career after graduation, you need to be professional and prepared. Jody Patterson, career counselor at The Career Services Center, outlines a few integral components to success.

1. Get the job first.

“Students should always try to negotiate salary after an offer for employment has been made,” Patterson said. Acquire the position before asking for more, unless the employer tells you the job is “non-negotiable.” Patterson said 60 percent of managers leave wiggle-room for negotiation when making an offer, but only 33 percent of applicants will actually negotiate.

2. Do your research.

Figure out a realistic goal for negotiations and know the facts. “Be sure to use some reliable sources when citing salary ranges,” Patterson said. Find the median salary for your type of job online at the Occupational Outlook Handbook ( the Occupational Information Network ( Research your career to understand what is a reasonable starting point for negotiation.

3. Know what you won’t budge on.

Before negotiating, understand what your priorities are. Be up front about what is “non-negotiable” for you, Patterson said. Do you require a certain level of pay? Can you be flexible with your terms and still be happy? Do you need certain benefits (insurance, sick days)? Then, “look at the opportunity holistically — evaluate the entire offer,” Patterson said. What other “perks” come with a base salary? Are added vacation days, bonuses and opportunities enough to balance out a salary lower than desirable?

What not to put on your cover letter

Compiled by the human resources department of a local organization:

1. Don’t get personal. Exclude personal information like age, race, gender, marital status and religion.

2. Be gender neutral. Do not use “Dear Sir,” but use “Hiring Manager” or “To Whom it May Concern.”

3. Keep it short: Do not make the cover letter more than one page long.

4. Don’t mention that references are available upon request. Employers already expect them to be.

5. Don’t be generic. Specifically state what company you are applying to.

6. Do not send colored paper or use fancy fonts. Don’t handwrite the letter.

7. Follow all given directions. If an employer requests a resume, cover letter and salary history, send all three.

4. Rehearse what you’re going to say.

Preparation is key to presenting yourself well during negotiations. Put your requests in a positive light and consider these angles from The Career Services Center’s salary negotiation strategies:

  • “I’m delighted that you are interested in me and I am very interested in the position. Based upon my experience and a variety of expenses I’ll have when I graduate, I’d like to be making around $X0,000. How do you feel about that?”
  • “I would like to accept your offer and I’m looking forward to working with you. However, I have a few concerns about the offer that I’d like to discuss. I’m not sure if you’re able to make changes in these areas, but I’d appreciate your looking into that possibility.”
  • “That sounds great, but my experience will allow me to contribute immediately to your company. Would you consider increasing the salary by 10 percent?”

5. Answer the big questions.

When you’re preparing to negotiate a salary, get ready to answer questions about your skills, Patterson said. Such questions include:

  • Why should the employer offer you more?
  • Why are you the right fit for the company?
  • What makes you stand out from your peers? What makes you desirable as an employee?
  • What are your salary requirements?

“Having an answer to these types of questions will increase the likelihood of the employer accepting your negotiating terms,” Patterson said.

6. Don’t feel pressured to immediately accept the offer.

“Express appreciation for the offer. However, there is no reason to say yes to an offer immediately and most organizations will not expect you to accept an offer on the spot. Offer a reasonable amount of time to get back to the employer with your decision,” according to The Career Services Center’s salary negotiation strategies. Give yourself a few days to consider and respond to the employer when you’re ready to accept, decline or negotiate further.

Contact Kelli Fitzpatrick at [email protected].