Getting Hired: Compensation and Salary Negotiations

This is the third and final post in the Getting Hired series. Read "Tips for Interviewing" and "Answering Tough Questions."

Members of APA's Women and Planning Division hosted a panel discussion "Getting Hired: Hear from a Hiring Manager." The panelists offered their perspectives on preparing for, and acing interviews, including suggested responses that will help you put your best self forward. Panelists included:

  • Corrin Hoegen Wendell, AICP, community development director for the City of Little Canada, Minnesota
  • Breanne Rothstein, AICP, economic development, and housing director for the City of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota
  • Anna Laybourn, AICP, principal at Design Workshop
  • Aimee Duffy, director of human resources at Design Workshop and Principal.

Congratulations, you got a job offer! Now what?

Navigating Salary Talks and Transitions

Prepare for the Salary Conversation

Although the interview should have been a realistic job preview, take some time before you accept to ask questions to ensure that you receive a fair offer and gain insight into what you can expect.

Think about what is most important to you. Inquire about culture, expectations regarding communication, responsibilities, reporting structure, and more. For instance, are you expected to answer emails outside of stated working hours? What is the policy on remote or hybrid options? Get specifics on when insurance or other benefits start, and clarity on all the benefits offered. Asking questions upfront will help minimize surprises once you’re on the job.

When a verbal offer is made, reply with enthusiasm. Ask when they need a decision on the offer and if you need more time, ask for it immediately. There is time to negotiate before the final offer, which is why it's important to be clear on the entire compensation package before you accept it.

Salary Range

Many states require sharing salary ranges when posting open positions. Search and be prepared with the information in advance of the conversation. If the employer did not post a salary range up front, check listings on APA's Jobs Online for similar titles that have salary ranges, or do some research on sites such as You are looking to find averages based on role, skills, experience, education, and location.

There is a growing trend to legally prohibit employers from asking for salary history. If you're asked about your salary expectations, be prepared with a salary range — giving a range leaves room for negotiation.

Negotiation Basics

You should be negotiating your salary at every point in your career.

Consider the compensation negotiation as demonstrating a useful skill. As a private consultant, you will be called upon to advocate on behalf of your company in interviews with clients and during budget discussions. As a city employee, your preparedness demonstrates that you will be mindful of the public dollar. Your confidence during negotiation demonstrates leadership qualities that will be attractive to the hiring manager.

Negotiation is especially important for women in planning. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Planning Association finds that while the percentage of women in the planning field rose, "on average they were still only paid about 80 percent of their male counterparts in the private sector." Although several factors account for this, one important aspect is that women often don't negotiate their salaries.

If you don't have a mentor to ask for direction, think of your network and find a champion. Someone who will coach you to clarify what you want, provide perspective, and remind you to not take things personally will be especially helpful.

Negotiation is a collaborative conversation for mutual benefit, not a conflict. It's more about how the employers value the work than about you. You can be gracious and confidently persuasive. By presenting a salary range, you show that you are prepared and willing to be flexible. Think of negotiation as determining your long-term career earnings, rather than scoring a little extra money now.

Also, think beyond salary and look at total compensation. There might be performance bonuses or reimbursements that add to your take-home pay. Ask how raises are assessed and if there are any caps on annual increases. Review holidays and paid time off.

You need to think about what's meaningful to you and how the organization is going to support you in achieving a career milestone, certification, or other professional development. Are conference attendance or professional training compensated? You want a place that's going to position you well for the future.

Overall, when evaluating offers, determine which is the better fit for you and your career development.

After Accepting the Offer

After negotiations are over, carefully review the offer letter. You want to ensure that everything you've discussed is in writing. If you don't reach an agreement and turn down the job, send a letter of appreciation.

Leaving your current position can be bittersweet. Two weeks' notice is still common practice and is considered a courtesy. The initial conversation should be with your direct manager since you don't want the news to reach them through the office grapevine.

It's a good idea to write a letter of resignation to your supervisor and human resources. You are not obliged to provide a reason for leaving. You may be asked to leave immediately, whether you are going to a competitor or not, so be prepared.

It should go without saying, but leaving on a positive note is good for your reputation. You never know when you'll cross paths with former colleagues. As much as it might be tempting to post your work grievances #QuitTok-style, save the feedback for your exit interview.

To garner goodwill, you may want to provide your supervisor with a transition memo about your responsibilities, which will help your former colleagues take over your duties.

Top image: iStock / Getty Images Plus - RedVector

About the Author
Bobbie Albrecht is APA's Career Services manager.

September 19, 2023

By Bobbie Albrecht