Negotiating Offers

If you have evaluated a written offer and think that it does not reflect fair market value for your skills and experience, then you should consider negotiating for a better salary or other benefits.  A high percentage of entry-level offers are not negotiated because companies spend time analyzing the market value of entry-level engineers and try to offer competitive packages.  Remember, they want to be competitive and fair in the offer because 1) they want you to accept the offer and 2) they want you to join their team knowing you have been treated fairly.  Many of the larger companies use an algorithm that uses your GPA, work experience and other factors to determine your starting salary.  This is another reason to keep your grades up and complete an internship or two.

However, sometimes employers make mistakes, or make offers they believe are fair but are low.  If a higher offer will affect your employment decision or your feelings about being treated fairly, then you should definitely ask the employer to consider increasing the offer.  The employer will welcome the opportunity to discuss the offer and address any issues that may negatively affect your decision as long as you have a rational explanation for requesting the adjustment.

Tips for Negotiating an Offer

The following tips should be followed when negotiation is required:

  • Express gratitude for the offer and enthusiasm for the position, but indicate you have a concern about the offer.
  • Respectfully inquire about how the salary was determined and then listen carefully.  You will likely be told that your beginning level of experience merits your salary to be in the “low to mid” range of the pay scale.
  • State your concern and your rationale for requesting an adjustment.
  • Be clear on what you are requesting.
  • Have data or concrete justification to support your request.
    • Specify the skills and experiences that you feel make you a more valuable employee and deserve special consideration.
    • If the offer is significantly below that average for your major, point this out and be prepared to share your data. Here is our salary & statistics data from recent Iowa State College of Engineering graduates.
    • If you have a better offer but would prefer to work for an employer that offered less, ask them to match the offer.  Be prepared to provide proof of the other offer.
    • If you know that the timing of your start date will just miss the raise cutoff date (something you learned on your internship) and you will have to wait more than a year for an increase, ask for your raise up front.
  • Always keep the door open for further discussion and don’t give ultimatums.  Even if the employer declines to make any changes to the offer, plan to end the discussion by thanking them for listening and telling them that you will get back to them with a decision soon.  They may feel pressured initially but after they have had a chance to think about it and reflect on the respectful way that you handled the request, they may decide an adjustment is justified.
  • Be willing to compromise and have a good idea of what you are willing to accept before the conversation.  Many employers have fairly rigid policies and will only have the flexibility to adjust salary and maybe offer a signing bonus.  However, other employers may not want to adjust salary but have the flexibility to offer a better relocation package, extra vacation time, etc.
  • If a change to the offer is agreed to, ask for it in writing.  It needs to be clearly documented so that there are no misunderstandings and nothing is forgotten.

Sample negotiation emails developed by Engineering Career Services can be found in Canvas.