Salary Negotiation During a Pandemic

By: Kalin Noel, BEC Career Community Advisor

On any given day, salary negotiation can be a stressful task, and now add a pandemic on top of it! However, lucky for you, the approach is still going to be the same. Here are some quick tips to help you start this process and get the most out of your offer. You can also find a helpful handout on the Career Centers Career library here.

Before You Start

Research the position you are applying for and its average salary range so that when you receive an offer you’ll know what a reasonable counteroffer will be. Take note of the areas where your experience matches the job requirements to build a case for why you deserve a specific salary and a valid argument for any vulnerable areas. Both Glassdoor.com and Payscale.com offer insight into average salaries for specific positions and what specific companies have offered in the past.

During the Interview Process

Practice your pitch for the offer negotiation. Get comfortable talking about the offer, the salary you are looking for, and why you deserve the money. It is illegal in Illinois for a company to ask for your salary history, so don’t mention this in your pitch. Practice your confidence in front of a mirror and with friends so that when you negotiate you’ll have honed your strategy.

After the Offer

Congratulations! Now it’s time to negotiate. The first offer is always a starting point and you should ask for time to consider the offer. You can say “Thank you so much for this offer, I’d like to take some time to look it over and will reach back to you about it further.” Review the research you conducted to build your case for the salary you want and the salary you are willing to accept.

When you are ready, contact the recruiter (or whoever gave you the offer). Be gracious, thank them for the offer, and reiterate your excitement. Then, state your counter offer firmly. Do not negotiate against yourself (i.e. “I would like XXX salary, but I understand if you need to offer XYX salary instead.”) Aim higher than your goal so that if they counter, you will land at the salary you wanted. Once you agree on an offer, get it in writing before you sign anything to ensure the offer matches what you discussed.

If an employer cannot match the salary you want, consider the other benefits you could negotiate before making your final decision, like more vacation time, a flexible work schedule, professional development, or an education stipend. These benefits can outweigh the additional salary you wanted. 

The pandemic is a scary time but that doesn’t mean your salary negotiation needs to be. Employers are expecting it, even during this craziness. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions and see below for some additional helpful resources on your job search.


Additional Resources

Ask A Career Coach: How Do You Job Hunt During a Pandemic?

Before you accept that job offer, do this to negotiate salary

How to negotiate a salary

How to Negotiate Job Offers Like a Pro

So you’ve just had a successful job interview, and it looks like an offer will be forthcoming. You’re excited to finally have the opportunity to work in the field that you’ve been studying for the past four years. As you prepare to receive your first job offer, what are the types of things you should be considering?

Before You Walk in the Door

The first thing you should do prior to even walking in the door for an interview is to know what you’re worth. Do your research. Having access to as much information as possible will put you in a stronger position to negotiate. Sites like Salary, Payscale, Glassdoor, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics can give you a detailed breakdown of the average starting salary for the position you are interviewing for while taking into account a wide variety of other factors, including location, certifications, and education level.

Talk to the people you know who work at the company or in the industry. ASK is a great resource that can connect you with DePaul alumni working in your field of study. Have a firm idea of what you are worth before you even schedule your first interview.

Conduct a Self-Assessment

As a fresh grad, you may be wondering if you even have the right to negotiate a job offer. This is where a self-assessment can come in handy. Ask yourself: What can you offer this employer that other candidates cannot? Do you have any certifications? Are you intimately familiar with their products or services because you’ve worked for one of their customers in the past? Are the skills you obtained in school unique to the location of the employer? If you have a sense of your value in the marketplace you will have the confidence to negotiate successfully.

If you have a sense of your value in the marketplace you will have the confidence to negotiate successfully.

Find out what’s important to the company; ask the hiring manager what he or she considers the most urgent business needs. If you really want to impress your future employer, type up a plan for what you believe you can accomplish in the first 90 days and hand it to them. This can increase your value immensely and can be used as leverage if you decide to negotiate.

When to Start Negotiating

Remember to hold off the salary discussion for as long as possible. Your job is to make them fall in love with you throughout the interview process, so that when you do get to the offer stage, they’re already feeling like they can’t live without you.

When the employer does ask your salary requirements, you should first try to deflect and tell them that your larger concerns are things like job stability, growth opportunities, and culture fit. If they continue to press, avoid giving a specific number. Instead, give them a range and reference your source (i.e. one of the websites listed above) so they know you aren’t pulling those numbers from thin air. Be comfortable with an offer anywhere in that range, and make sure you have a bottom line number that you’re willing to accept. 

The Whole Package

There are many things to take into account when negotiating other than just your base salary. You want to look at the entire compensation package, which includes your benefits. Benefits can comprise insurance, vacation time, tuition reimbursement, stock options, relocation expenses, professional membership fees, gym memberships, flexible work options, and unpaid leave time.

Some or all of these things may be negotiable, but as a fresh grad, you may want to focus on things that will allow you to be a better performer. For example, it may not necessarily be wise to try to ask for more vacation time up front; you haven’t necessarily earned that yet. Instead, you may want to ask for a new laptop or smartphone if you know you’ll be working outside of the office. Remember, you want to backup whatever you ask for with a reason for why you think you need or deserve it.

Now, just because you can negotiate your job offer doesn’t mean that you necessarily should. Some industries are also more conducive to salary negotiation than others. For example, highly structured sectors like the government or military will not have negotiable salaries.

If you’ve received what you perceive to be a fair offer at a company that has a clear path for advancement and where you will be working on projects that excite you, it’s ok to accept the offer as is. However, even if you plan to do this, it’s always wise to give yourself at least 24 hours to review the offer and talk about it with a family member or trusted advisor. No legitimate company will force you to give your acceptance on the spot. You should take that time granted to you to really make sure this is an offer you’re happy with.

…it’s always wise to give yourself at least 24 hours to review the offer…

If you would like to speak in detail about how to negotiate your own job offer, be sure to schedule an appointment with your career advisor!

Your Guide to Following Up After the Interview

Job interviews can be nerve-racking. Even if they go well, many people breathe a huge sigh of relief once they’re over. But before you celebrate too early, keep in mind that how you handle yourself after the interview is just as important as the interview itself. So, while it’s okay to treat yourself for a job well done, there are a few additional steps you want to take to maintain professionalism and good standing beyond the interview.

Send Personalized Thank You Letters

The most crucial step to take after an interview is to deliver a thank you letter to everyone you spoke with; these letters should ideally be sent out 24-48 hours after an interview when the information and discussions are still fresh in your mind. Doing so will also help demonstrate your enthusiasm for the potential employer.

In terms of format, email thank you letters are appropriate and may be easier to complete if you spoke with a number of people at one company. However, we consistently hear from employers that thank you letters received in the mail always stand out, as it shows the applicant went the extra mile to find a card, write a message by hand, and send it off. Since most employers rarely receive mail that isn’t directly tied to their role, personalized thank you letters can stand out in a significant way.

Keep Up with the Employer

Most employers will give you a timeline for when they intend to move forward in the interview process or make a hiring decision. It’s important to honor that timeline and not be too eager to find out where you stand. For example, if an employer says they intend to make a hiring decision by December 12th, don’t contact them about the status of the position until after that deadline has passed. Reaching out sooner won’t make you seem enthusiastic; rather, it may give the impression that you are impatient, or that you don’t know how to follow directions. Best to wait it out, and then follow-up via email. If an employer doesn’t give you a timeline for when they intend to make a decision, it’s best to wait 7-10 business days before following up.

When you do follow-up, send a brief email to let the employer know that you are still interested in the position and that you were just writing to check the status of the hiring process. This is a non-aggressive way to let them know you are still passionate about the role.

If another two weeks go by and you still haven’t heard from the employer, it’s okay to send one final email to check the status of the position.

Review Salary Expectations

If you’re applying to a full-time job, you may be faced with having to negotiate a salary and benefits package. Take some time after an interview to research the average salary for the position you applied for, both at the national and local level, and evaluate your financial obligations to determine a salary range you would be comfortable communicating in the negotiation stage.

Visit your career advisor to learn more about salary statistics pertaining to your major or career path, as well as to develop a negotiation strategy specific to the position. We can also help if you are juggling multiple offers and need assistance on how to communicate with employers professionally.

Next Steps

Need help crafting a thank you note or follow-up email? Check out our Job Search Letters packet on our website for thank you letter examples. And, if you’re emailing an employer to follow-up on the hiring process, you are welcome to send a rough draft of that email to your career advisor for suggestions and feedback. Finally, if you have questions regarding salary, reach out to your career advisor for additional tips so that you feel comfortable and confident during the negotiating process.