Salary Negotiation & Fair Compensation

UNH's Career and Professional Success shares some helpful salary negotiation tips

Receiving your first job offer is exciting but concern over how to approach salary negotiationevaluating an offer, and asking for a higher salary can be stressful.  Learning how to negotiate from a knowledge-based, confident manner can boost income and reduce stress. 

When to Talk Salary?

Some employers ask candidates to identify their salary requirements when completing an application, others ask during an interview.  While all candidates should be prepared to discuss salary requirements at any time, they should avoid asking about salary and benefits until the employer has made an offer.  This will allow candidates to fully articulate their value and be in a better position for negotiating.  

Not all starting salaries are negotiable.  However, if a candidate has the opportunity to negotiate, it is wise to do so; starting salaries provide the basis for future raises and bonuses. If you are unsure whether the salary is negotiable, you are encouraged to negotiate.  As long as a candidate conducts him/herself professionally and is not adversarial during the negotiating process, a reasonable employer will not renege the offer due to an increased salary request.   

Arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to negotiate fair salaries

Determining a fair salary is a four-step process: 

  1. Know your value: Articulate how you bring value to the company (think skills, experience, accomplishments, measurable results, areas you excel) 

  2. Identify your salary range and fringe benefits: Research job titles to locate average salary range for someone with your experience within a similar geography and establish your target salary.  Be realistic, know your budget, and assess the benefits package.  

  3. Define your strategy for negotiating:   After receiving a written offer, determine your value in relation to the offer.  Be realistic, remain positive and flexible: remember negotiating is not a battle, it is a conversation.   Develop a value proposition for the salary request; you need to define why you require more income based on the nature your skill set and position.  Be specific, persuasive and strategic when negotiating Avoid questions about salary history so that your offer is based on the position and not previous compensation.   

  4. Practice, practice, practice:   Seek assistance from professionals who can help develop candidate's talking points and delivery.  Negotiation skills improve with practice and constructive feedback improves verbal and body language skills.  Remember:  do not allow compensation conversations to become personal nor emotional.  

Did You Know...

On average women are paid .80 cents to every dollar men earn, and Black and Hispanic women earn even less.  Over time this adds up:  based on today’s national wage gap, women lose $430,480, African American women lose $877,480 and Latina women lose over $1,007,080 over the course of a 40-year career when compared to White men (AAUW, 2017).   


Factors that contribute to the gender pay gap include: 

  • Discrimination Paying women less than men for the same job or for comparable jobs. 

  • Family responsibilities:  women are disproportionately impacted by family caregiving responsibilities and are more likely to take time out of the workforce for family reasons.  These interruptions negatively impact the advancement of careers.  

  • Educational and career choices:  Men and women earn degrees in a variety of fields and certain degrees put graduates in positions to earn more money.  For example, engineering and computer science are educational fields where women are underrepresented, and they are some of the highest earning degrees.  Career choices are also influenced by gender norms.  For example, 97% of childcare workers are women and 96% of truck drivers are men.  However, on average, truck drivers make significantly more than childcare workers.  

Wages and the Law

It is illegal for employers to determine rates of pay in relationship to gender, marital status, pregnancy, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation.  These are discriminatory markers and are illegal.  If these topics are discussed by a potential employeryou may click here to learn how to respond ( )

The Good News...

Several states (including Massachusetts, California, Delaware and Oregon) have made salary questions illegal. In some states, employers may not ask “what is your current salary?”  Instead, the new law in Massachusetts requires that hiring managers state the position’s compensation upfront based on the applicant’s worth to their company.  This type of law is designed to ensure pay equality and increase salary transparency.  It is important to note that candidates may disclose their salary but are not legally required to do so   


Several states including Maryland, have passed comparable operations legislation.  This requires equal pay for workers whose jobs are alike as well as work that is comparable and substantially similar.  

On Fringe Benefits...

Do not assume that benefits (including paid time off and vacation pay) are legal entitlements.  No state in the nation has passed mandatory vacation requirements but it can be a point of negotiation.  Several states have passed paid sick leave laws.  The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is federal legislation that requireemployers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave.  In order to qualify for FMLA, private employers must employ least 50 employees and personnel be employed for over 12 months. Private employers with fewer than 50 employees are not covered by FMLA but may be covered by state family and medical leave laws. 

Discussing Salary with Coworkers…

Under federal law, it is illegal for an employer to prohibit an employee from discussing his/her compensation with other co-workers.  Employers can prohibit employees from sharing colleague’s compensation with third parties; compensation is confidential information, and if shared illegally, an employee may be fired and an employer sued.