Brooks C. Mendell, Ph.D.

    Author of: Loving Trees is Not Enough:

                      Communication Skills for Natural Resource Professionals

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Book Excerpt

From Chap. 3 on Negotiation...
Telephone negotiations, like telephone interviews, tend to be shorter and may produce additional misunderstandings. Risk comes with speed. Without the benefit of body language and eye contact, both parties have difficulty perceiving inclinations or commitment.

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Number 10, October 2007



Negotiating a Higher Starting Salary


This issue focuses explicitly on negotiating a higher starting salary.  In practice, a complete job offer package will also include related compensation and benefits. However, here we emphasize the steps required to lift cash compensation.  It assumes that we have received a job offer and it provides guidelines for preparing and initiating the salary negotiating process.  You do not need to be an expert negotiator to improve your starting salary; you need to be informed.

When the job offer is made, avoid negotiating. Thank the employer for the offer and express your strong interest in the job. This is a great moment! Then, ask, “How much time can I have to consider the offer?”  Most employers will give you time. If they don’t, consider this a red flag. 

The purpose of a salary negotiation is to determine the most that an employer is willing to pay to hire you.  How do we go about this?  With lots of information – facts, not speculation – and a positive attitude. Therefore, we prepare ourselves for salary negotiations through research. At a minimum, collect information about salary averages and ranges in your industry, job type, and geography. 

Where do we find this information?  Ask alumni, professors, friends of the family, and peers.  If you are a student, you have unique access to excellent resources.  Career centers, libraries, staff, and professors exist, in great part, to help you, if you ask for it.

Discuss existing job offers received by friends and their friends.  While it may be “private,” you do not need specific salary numbers of the offers they received.  What you do need to know is, for example, if the job pays in the $36,000 - $42,000 range or the $46,000 - $52,000 range. Gathering information from several sources enables you to get a feel for the market. 

Know your “wedge.” The firm or agency offered the job to you, not to someone else.  Understand why.  You may have exceptional language skills, technical skills, communication skills, or field experience.  This “wedge” separated and separates you from your peers, and has value.

When it’s time to sit down and discuss salary, consider the following approaches to open the negotiation process:

1. I am very interested in the position, but I would like to discuss the salary you are offering.

2. I really want this position, but I was a little disappointed that the offer was lower than I expected.

3. I am very excited about this role, but was hoping the starting salary would better reflect my (a) (graduate) education or (b) work experience or (c) technical skills.

Support your case by stating your skills, the average salary range for your level of experience in your field, and the average salaries for professionals in your field. Highlight your “wedge” relative to your peers, if appropriate. Then, let the employer respond and continue the discussion from there.

Remember: never make demands; ask questions. This keeps the negotiation conversational, not confrontational. Be prepared for any possible reaction to your questions, from complete acceptance to refusal to negotiate. The person might say yes to everything, or might get angry.  Remain positive, remain polite.  How you are treated during the interview says something about how you will be treated in the future.


The Loving Trees Newsletter.  Copyright © 2007 Brooks C Mendell.  All rights reserved. We welcome sharing this newsletter in whole or in part if properly cited and attributed.