Negotiating Your Job Offer

Have you received a job offer? First of all, congratulations! Now there is only one step left in your job search process: negotiation. Many find negotiation to be difficult because there are no set rules or guidelines for the process. Even if it seems as if your job offer is set in stone, this is rarely the case. Employers expect you to negotiate. Fortunately, a number of guides exist to help you, such as:

Research Salary & Benefits

The first stage in the negotiation process is research. It is important that you enter into the negotiation with information in hand, including a salary range for comparable positions. A number of websites provide salary information, including:

Occasionally employee salaries are publicly available. This is common for public universities, MSU included. MSU faculty and staff salaries are available here.

You can negotiate more than just your salary. Also consider:

  • Benefits
    • Medical, Dental, etc.
    • Retirement, e.g. 401Ks; cf. CNN Money’s Retirement Guide for a discussion of different types of plans
  • Vacation & leave time
  • Relocation / moving expenses
  • Flexible work schedule
  • Student loan reimbursement
  • Support for continuing education
  • Research and travel budget
  • Administrative support (assistants or interns)
  • Start date
  • Signing bonus

For larger companies and institutions you may be able to explore benefit policies, such as health and retirement benefits, on their websites. In other cases, you will need to request this information from the employers directly.

Special Considerations for Women

The wage and lifetime earnings gap between women and men is not new news, but has been getting recent media attention, e.g. the December 2012 New York Times article “How to Attack the Gender Wage Gap? Speak Up.” Studies show that much of the earnings difference between women and men is related to willingness – or for women a reticence – to negotiate everything from starting salary to job perks to pay raises. Simply being aware of this problem is the first step. We also recommend two books: Women Don’t Ask by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever (2007) for a comprehensive discussion of the problem with strategies for change and What Works for Women at Work: Four Patterns Working Women Need to Know by Joan C. Williams (2014) for practical strategies related to negotiation and the workplace.