Research Salaries and Negotiate Offers
Advice and strategies to help you navigate the end stage in the hiring process.
Ahead of the Offer: Do Your Research
To begin, we suggest you familiarize yourself with MSU’s Employment Offer Guidelines, which capture our university’s expectations when it comes to offers being in writing, having a reasonable amount of time to consider an offer, and MSU’s reneging policy.
One of the strongest pieces of intel you can have at your fingertips as a candidate is salary information for your industry. An industry’s economic climate and the location of your position will majorly influence your salary, but you can turn to tools like MSU’s Career Outcomes Report, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) salary calculator, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Information Network (O*Net), LinkedIn Salary, Glassdoor.com, and Salary.com, to get a sense of the norms in your field. Because it’s not unusual to be asked what your salary expectations are in an interview, it’s good to have a solid sense of the salary range for the role(s) you’re vying for.
Receiving and Assessing an Offer
If you receive an offer and would like some time to consider the details, ask the employer when they’d like your final answer. It shouldn’t be an issue for most employers to give you a short extension to respond (up to 7 days is usually reasonable). Compare the offer to the research you’ve done on salary/benefit information norms in your industry and the number you’ve calculated you need in order to accept the role (use a cost of living budget calculator to determine your potential cost of living). Remember that if the offer meets or exceeds your expectations, you don’t need to negotiate.
Negotiating an Offer
Heading into a negotiation, make sure you’ve done your research and approach the conversation with a data-supported ask. Don’t just pick a number or percentage increase arbitrarily; instead, understand the employer’s potential constraints and build a case as to why you’re worth an additional investment. Present a range (vs. a specific number) and let the employer take it from there—but be prepared for potential follow-up questions about how you arrived at your proposal.
Accepting an Offer
When you’re ready to accept an offer, it’s a good idea to do so in writing. Assemble a brief email that includes your formal acceptance of the offer, reiterates the terms and conditions of employment (salary, benefits, job title, etc.), confirms your start date, and expresses gratitude for the opportunity.
Managing Multiple Offers
If you’re managing multiple offers at once, consider asking for an extension on one while you wait to receive the other(s). As you’re weighing opportunities, consider the long-term benefits of each role and gather feedback from people you trust in (or even outside of) the industry or a career advisor on campus.
Feel free to let an employer know you’re considering other offers as a negotiating tactic (not a threat), but don’t share specifics of another offer. A salary range or mention of extra benefits is as detailed as you need to get.
Declining an Offer
If you decide an offer isn’t the best fit for you, make sure to respond as soon as you’ve come to your decision so that the employer is able to continue looking for a candidate. Keep your message brief and direct (whether it’s being delivered in person, over the phone, or through email): “While I am very appreciative of your offer, I’m afraid this role isn’t the best fit for me at this time.” End things on a positive note to keep your professional reputation intact.