It’s your first engineering job. Your interview is a few days away and you’re getting all sorts of advice. But what you really need is some help in negotiating your salary. The job posting simply stated: competitive. And the hiring manager didn’t say a word about salary when he invited you for the interview. So how do you go about negotiating for the salary you want? Some tips to help you through this unfamiliar territory:
Do some due diligence. Scour the web for similar firms and try to find out what the salary range is for newly minted engineers. A good site to check out is Salary.com. Industry networking groups (of which you should already be a member of) will have postings about entry-level salaries in your field. Connect with members of your various professional organizations and find out who is paying what for grads. Develop a bracket and place your salary demands in the center of the bracket. If the job posting specifically asks for a salary, give them the bracket—not the exact figure.
Let the employer bring up salary. If the interviewer asks what you’re looking for in terms of salary, ask them for a range, not a specific number. This tells the employer you’re flexible and that you’ll work with them. Don’t be argumentative and mention that company A is paying this, or that company B is paying some huge salary to new grads.
Negotiate salary with your "equity." Once the topic of salary comes up, you need to know that most employers will start at the bottom of the range. This is where you sell your abilities—anything that separates you from other job candidates. You need to add any skills, knowledge and internship “equity” into the negotiations at this point to ratchet up to a higher salary within the pre-established range.
Do not bring benefits into the equation. These are most often a given. Health and life insurance, 401K, they're pretty much non-negotiable and “company standard.” Office size, expense accounts, company car, ski condo in Aspen—all are reserved for experienced engineers and managers, so they don’t come into play. Keep the negotiations on point—salary. Incidentally, this is not the time to bring up bonuses, which are based on performance, of which you have no track record as a newbie.
Follow up with a written agreement. Once you orally agree on a salary, job title and duties, ask the employer to spell things out in writing—an email or snail mail letter. You can simplify things for the employer by drafting this agreement letter yourself and asking them to simply sign off on the key terms of the job.
If you have any suggestions for young engineering grads regarding salary negotiations, feel free to include them in the comments section below.