Negotiate an Offer

Congratulations on surviving the job search!   Receiving an offer is exciting, but it is worth pausing and taking a step back to evaluate the offer and determine if it will meet your goals and needs.   To set yourself up for future success, we encourage you to invest time to clarify your personal goals and evaluate any offer you receive.  

Having the Conversation

  • Ask for time to review the offer
    Once you receive an offer, it is very common to ask for time to consider it and make a decision. You can ask for a date and time when they would like your answer, and for a contact person to whom you can direct further questions. Make sure to ask questions and start negotiating with enough time so that you don’t exceed the deadline (at least a few days).
  • The phone is better than email
    While email may feel less confrontational, a phone call is the best way to keep the conversation grounded. In an email, tone is difficult to convey, and you may come across as demanding. On the phone, you’re one human talking to another.
  • Lead with questions
    From the above ideas, you may be wondering what the organization’s standard policies are and what’s negotiable. Turn these into a list of questions to ask at the beginning of the conversation. For example, “I was wondering how bonus amounts are determined, and during what times of the year they are given.” For questions about basic benefits policies, ask human resources, especially regarding personal topics such as family leave.
  • Show your excitement
    To keep the conversation positive, emphasize that you are excited about the position or the prospect of working with the people you met during the interview(s).
  • Make It about problem-solving
    Engage the employer in brainstorming options to help you get an offer that suits your needs and qualifications. Resist making demands or threats in the process (these are your future co-workers, after all).
  • Explain your thought process
    Make sure they understand that you’re negotiating using evidence.

    • “Based on my background and the salary figures I’ve found for that area, I’m looking to earn $X. Would you be able to meet that?”
    • “My children get out of school early on Fridays, so it would be helpful if I could work from home on those days. Is that possible?”
    • “From the quotes we’ve received, moving will cost us $5,000. Will the company be able to cover that expense?”
    • “In talking with some of your employees, I heard that the company covers the cost of attending industry conferences. Would you also be willing to pay for a professional membership for my first year with the company?”

What things are most important to you?

Money may not be the only driving force for deciding whether or not you should accept an offer. Being close to family, developing a satisfactory relationship with your supervisor or co-workers, or having a good health plan may be more important to you.   Below is the list of potential areas to consider as you clarify your priorities.

  • Job Security
  • Benefits
  • Coworkers
  • Culture
  • Diversity/Inclusion
  • Opportunities for Advancement
  • Opportunities for Professional Development and Growth
  • Organization size
  • Location
  • Organization’s Reputation
  • Expense Coverage
  • Remote/Flexible Work Option

What might be negotiable?
There is more to an offer than salary, including an array of non-monetary benefits to be aware of when making a decision. Below is a list of benefits to consider.

Monetary Benefits

  • Base salary
  • Bonuses (how is it determined?)
  • Profit-Sharing
  • Stock Options/Equity




Near-Monetary Benefits

  • Insurance
  • Relocation Assistance
  • Moving expenses (Flat rate or itemized? Funds to visit to find a home?) 
  • Housing allowance 
  • Technology allowance (computer, phone, etc.) 
  • Retirement benefits 
  • Health, dental, and vision insurance

Non-Monetary Benefits

  • Start date 
  • Remote workdays per week 
  • Flextime 
  • Growth opportunities (professional memberships, training)
  • Job Function
  • Professional membership 
  • Vacation, sick, personal leave days per year
  • Location 

How do I Prepare?

Salary and Market Information
What are others in the field being paid? How do salaries compare in different cities?   In addition to the resources below, consider talking to alumni and industry professionals about their experiences at various organizations, including what hiring salary range you might expect, benefits, and other elements that are negotiable. Consider asking them, “Is there anything that you wish you had negotiated for but didn’t?” 

Cost of Living

    • Cost of Living Calculator on
    • Cost of Living Wizard on
      Compare the buying power of salaries in different cities.
    • Cost of Living Wizard on Expatistan

Understanding Benefits

   1. Types of benefits packages:

    • Free Standing:
      Each benefit is considered separately
    • Cafeteria – Flexible Benefits
      • Certain $ allocated
      • Important to find out how often changes can be made.
    • Life Cycle
      • Needs differ for different employees (similar to cafeteria plans)
      • Example: An older employee might want family medical leave to care for aging parents; younger employees might want a free health facility membership and daycare assistance.
    • Personal Benefits
      • Company exclusive
      • Example: One company may offer free meals, and another may offer free tuition for dependent

   2.  General questions to ask regarding coverage:

    • When does coverage begin? Some begin on the first day of work, some after 30 days, some after one year, and some on the first day of the following month. (So, if your parents’ insurance runs out when you graduate, you might not be covered.)
    • Who is covered? Does it cover other family members or future family members?
    • Are there any monthly costs that might make a difference in your take-home pay?
    • Are any of the benefits taxable (life insurance is an example of a benefit that can be taxed at the end of the year.)

   3. Questions to consider:

    • Health Insurance
      • What is the employer’s contribution?
      • Are there deductibles or copays?
      • Is there pre-existing condition waiting periods?
      • Any lifetime caps on medical/mental health benefits?
      • Can you choose any doctor?
    • Vision / Hearing Insurance
      • What is covered?
      • Deductibles?
      • Annual or lifetime maximums?
    • Life Insurance And Accidental Death
      • Term or whole life?
      • Can it be continued if you leave?
      • Coverage for spouse and/or dependents?
    • Short Term/Long Term disability
      • How do pre-existing conditions affect this?
      • What is the waiting period before it begins?
    • Dental Insurance
      • What is the employer’s contribution?
      • What is covered?
      • Preventive?
      • Surgical Care?
      • Orthodontics?
      • Deductibles, co-payments?
    • Retirement And Investment Programs
      • What type(s) does the company offer?
      • Retirement Plans
      • 401k’s
      • Pension Plans
      • Supplemental Retirement Annuities
      • Investments
      • Profit-Sharing
      • Stock Options/ESOPs

Information adapted from Duke University and the University of Iowa