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What is Negotiable?

Truths:

  • At some organizations, job offers are not negotiable.
  • With some companies, benefits are set and only salary is negotiable. 
  • In big business, especially executive positions, almost everything can be negotiated.

Knowing how to proceed can be a challenge.

However, according to several sources, many employers expect new hires to negotiate salary. Thus, salary is a good place to start. If you remain polite and professional, use data to estimate your fair market value, and stop when you hear "non-negotiable" or "final offer," you should not offend anyone. 

Rather than get off on the wrong foot with a prospective employer, learn what you can about an organization and seek advice from others. 

  • Find the Human Resource page of the organization. Evaluate information on health/dental/life/accident/dependent insurance; retirement packages; holidays and vacation and personal days; policies on leaves of absence; alternative work schedule; and other financial and nonfinancial benefits.
  • Ask your mentors about a particular company or organization. They will also know about the norms and nuances of your discipline.
  • Career service counselors are another good source of information about job offer negotiation with specific employers.
  • Use LinkedIn to find alumni already working for an company or organization. Unless they have signed a confidentiality clause, they might be able to shed some light on what may/may not be negotiable should you receive a job offer.  

Government positions have set salary ranges and benefits are fairly standard for new employees. 

Nonprofit organizations, depending on size and financial health, can be somewhat negotiable. National nonprofits and NGO's have more flexibility than local, grass-roots organizations.

In academia, recent PhD's have less "bargaining power" than experienced faculty. Unique to higher education are tenure-track appointments, with expectations for performance within a given time frame. Thus, negotiating items like teaching loads, split appointments, lab space & equipment, student assistants, service expectations and summer salary are critical to finding early career success as a beginning faculty member. Consult with your primary adviser/mentor to avoid pitfalls!

With business and industry positions, how much is offered depends on the size, scope, financial health, and management philosophy of the organization. Depending on the position, benefits like profit sharing, car allowance, and child care may be offered. If so, be sure to calculate the monetary value of the added benefits. For example, if you are offered a position at $50,000 plus $25,000 in added benefits, the value of the total compensation package would be valued at $75,000. Source

Generally speaking, across job sectors, negotiable items may include 

  • Salary
  • Start up expenses (space, computers)
  • Travel funds for professional conferences
  • Memberships in professional societies 
  • Alternative work schedule
  • Relocation expenses
  • Starting date

Find links to job offer advice on this page.