By: Robert Half
A human resources executive once told me, "If I offer
a job to a candidate at a specific starting salary, and that candidate
doesn't at least try to negotiate a better offer, I question that individual's
sense of self-worth."
Ironically, I've heard more than one accounting major say, "I'd be
uncomfortable asking for a better salary if I'm offered a job I want.
I'd be afraid of losing it by trying to negotiate for more."
Both points-of-view are understandable, although I think they're unrealistic.
Most human resources professionals or other hiring authorities I've known
over the years expect someone who is offered a job to negotiate a higher
salary or better benefits. But only a few share the view fo the HR executive
quoted above, that to fail to do so diminishes one's sense of self-esteem.
For recent graduates, fear of appearing presumptuous by asking for a higher
starting salary is the norm rather than the exception, particularly for
someone seeking that crucial first job.
Every human resources department shares its company's goal of keeping
costs as low as practically possible. Because salaries can constitute
a company's biggest expense, HR professionals try to bring on board the
best possible talent at salaries that are competitive, but not overblown.
The goal is to bring people on board at a market rate of pay that rewards
and motivates them without disrupting the company's or the department's
Within most salary structures there is some flexibility. An initial salary
offer is often viewed as a starting point for negotiations and, possibly,
a counteroffer. For entry-level professionals, hiring authorities on the
other side of the desk may have the upper hand because of his or her experience
in handling salary negotiations. They're comfortable with the process,
and adept at determining whether requests for a higher salary or enhanced
benefits are warranted, and whether any given candidate's potential contributions
to the company justify offering more.
What's working in your favor is that the company, after interviewing other
candidates, has decided it wants to hire you. This is the reason, whenver
possible, any discussion of salary should be put opff until a job has
actually been offered. If, early in the interviewing process, an interviewer
asks you what salary you're seeking, an appropriate response may be, "Right
now, I'm interested in finding out all I can about the job, what contribution
I can make to the company, and the potential for the future." If
pressed, you may have to give a range based on your research of compensation
for similar positions. But emphasize that you're open---the opportunity
to join a growing firm is your primary goal.
There is nothing wrong with asking whether the salary being offered can
be increased or exploring the possibility of beter benefits. Be realistic,
however, and base your request for a slightly higher salary on what you're
confident you can achieve for the company, not on personal needs.
If the employer stands firm on the salary offer, the decision will be
yours whether to accept, or to look elsewhere. But remember, you're starting
your career, and your worth to the firm and its goals will take a while
The starting salary should be fair. But more important, the job should
provide a challenging and enriching learning experience. It's your entry
into the accounting profession.
Make your ultimate decision based more upon whether it will enable you
to learn and grow, while helping your employer meet its objectives, rather
than on salary alone.