How to negotiate like a boss

Tips on how to negotiate like a pro

This week’s tip is written by featured contributor Chris Klein, Assistant Director of the Career Development Center and Arts & Sciences Career Services, Indiana University Bloomington.

Getting a job can be a stressful process. Often times we focus so much on getting a job offer that we forget to consider what to do if we get a job offer that we don’t like.

That’s where negotiation comes in. Like any other skill, negotiating takes practice, patience, and a fair amount of knowledge. To learn how to negotiate like a pro, consider the following tips.

Tip 1: Know what you're negotiating for.

Let’s start by talking about what you might be negotiating for if you get a job offer. Remember that negotiation isn’t just about how much money you’ll be making. It also includes your benefits package.

Here is a list of items that are typically negotiable:

  • Salary
  • Start date
  • Relocation/moving expenses
  • Flex/vacation time
  • Training/education expenses
  • Early reviews for bonuses
  • Sign-on/performance bonuses
  • Geographic location
  • Company car
  • Compensation – salary, benefits (health and other kinds of insurance), company car, etc.
  • Stock options (take partial ownership of the company)
  • Professional development (conferences, training, graduate/professional school courses)

Note that health care plans and retirement plans are generally NOT negotiable; so be prepared to discuss alternatives from the list above.

Tip 2: Decide what’s most important to you.

In a typical negotiation, you have to be willing to give and take. So before you submit a counter offer and begin to negotiate, think about what items you’re willing to negotiate over.

Start by taking a hard look at your current lifestyle as a student and the kind of lifestyle you want to have as a working professional.

Where do you want to live? In an apartment with roommates or by yourself? Perhaps in a small house with your partner? Also, what cities hold the best opportunities for you?

Most importantly, how much will it cost to afford that lifestyle? Understanding the costs of your preferred lifestyle should inform your salary needs.

Tip 3: Understand your salary needs.

To calculate your salary needs and prepare for negotiation, you need to know your budget limitations.

To create a budget, you have to consider the following:

Net income

Your net income includes your salary and other investments.


Your savings includes money you set aside out of every paycheck toward your short-term savings (and long-term savings, if you can afford it).


Expenses are broken down by fixed expenses (including: rent, utilities, transportation [fuel/parking], internet, phone, student loan repayment, etc.) and variable expenses (entertainment, eating out, clothes, gifts, hobbies, crafts, gym membership, laundry/dry cleaning, personal care, pets, etc.).


Debt includes credit cards, mortgages, student loans, car payments, and any other major debts you owe.

Once you have a comprehensive list of what’s coming in and what’s going out, you can determine your amount of disposable income, which is the amount of money you can spend on fun or you can stash away for a rainy day. Choose wisely!

Your budget needs will be your baseline, and you want to prepare to negotiate only after you have received the job offer but before you have officially accepted the job offer.

Tip 4: Figuring out your negotiation strategy.

Once you have received a written explanation of the full salary and benefits package from the human resources person, think about your negotiation strategy.

This includes researching the industry and the range for entry-level salaries. Determine how much your education, unique skills, work experience, and other qualifications are worth to the employer.

Know what you want in advance of the negotiation, and be prepared to explain how you came to that conclusion (based on your research and proposed budget).

You should know your bottom line and be prepared to walk away from the offer if need be. Keep in mind, though, that professionals do talk to each other; so be diplomatic with your acceptance or refusal of the offer.

Tip 5: Know the steps for negotiating.

When you are ready to negotiate, follow these steps: 

  1. Express appreciation for the offer provided by the employer.
  2. Explain your reasons for your counter offer.
  3. Talk about the length and quality of experience you bring to the table.
  4. Describe how your education has specifically prepared you for the job.
  5. Summarize your main points and, again, express your appreciation for their consideration of your offer.
  6. After submitting your counter offer, wait patiently for their reply.