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Negotiating intern compensation

Sligh_AnarchistSligh_Anarchist Registered User Posts: 2,193 Senior Member
I received a returning offer for my internship with a Fortune 100 company, and HR will not negotiate with me concerning compensation. I was offered the same compensation as this past summer despite tremendous performance (manager said he would be extending me a full-time offer above the entry level pay grade/title after graduation). There seems to be a disconnect between HR and my business unit. Is it market-standard to refuse negotiation for a rising senior internship? Thanks.
Post edited by Sligh_Anarchist on
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Replies to: Negotiating intern compensation

  • goose7856goose7856 Registered User Posts: 529 Member
    You are in INTERN; you have zero leverage coming in right out of college, much less when you are only an intern!
  • workingATbig4workingATbig4 Registered User Posts: 317 Member
    In a world with unpaid internships, you are absolutely DELUSIONAL to think you can negotiate compensation as an intern. This is the kind of action that HR remembers...so be careful.
  • Mike1234Mike1234 Registered User Posts: 251 Junior Member
    Delusional? I don't think so. At my school, it is standard practice for students returning to internships to receive a raise of a dollar or two per hour when they return to their internship for another term. Companies that fail to abide by this and other policies ensuring that interns have a good experience are no longer allowed to recruit interns through our career office.
  • chriswchrisw Registered User Posts: 1,585 Senior Member
    Agree with Mike... just because the market is difficult, that doesn't mean that interns are less valuable than they were five years ago.

    It is in the best interest of companies to offer competitive salaries to interns because they want to HIRE these people, and just like in any other situation, if you are the best, you get paid like the best.

    That said, you do have no leverage right now. If you intern for a company and get an offer for the next summer, great! But you should not accept that offer until after you have pursued your other options. You develop leverage by applying to other companies, going through the interview process and receiving new offers.

    If Company A paid you $500 per week in 2011 and offered you $500 per week in 2012, great. You know that you will make at least $500 per week in 2012. Now you go apply to other internships... as soon as the recruiting window opens, go through the process. Let's say Company B offers you $450 per week, and let's say Company C offers you $550 per week. Now you have leverage with Company A. Go back and tell them that you WANT to work for them and that you enjoyed your experience, but that you have a competing offer that is more in line with your salary needs and expectations. The ball in now in Company A's court; if they want you, they will make a new offer.

    My point is that if you are offered something and want something more, you must have some leverage to even start the conversation. You SHOULD, however, be up front when you thank them for their offer, acknowledge that you enjoyed your experience but need to do what is in YOUR best interests by exploring your options for next year.
  • goose7856goose7856 Registered User Posts: 529 Member
    Trying to leverage your salary right out of college right now is near impossible. Most firms have very firm starting salaries. Ideally, you could leverage other offers but that is just not the case in almost all industries right now.
  • chriswchrisw Registered User Posts: 1,585 Senior Member
    So what you're saying is that because you believe he doesn't have chance at leveraging potential competing offers - offers he hasn't received yet - he shouldn't try? That is possibly the worst advice you could give. So long as you are talking about respectable companies, there is never any harm in exploring your other options in hopes of getting a better offer. Never.

    In addition, "firm" starting salaries can often be changed. Case in point, both a friend of mine and myself... we received offers at different companies (different industries entirely), and we then received competing offers. Each company stated that the starting salary was firm. Friend used his initial offer as leverage against his second "firm" offer and wound up increasing his starting salary by roughly 10%. My second offer was the better offer, and since the first offer was "firm" I figured there was no sense in trying to leverage the second offer. When I called to decline the first offer, I was asked if there was anything they could do to change my mind; magically, that offer was no longer as firm. Of course, I had already accepted the other offer so there was actually nothing the first company could do.

    What is the harm in trying? Respectable companies will allow you to negotiate. Worst case, they say no. If they renege on their offer, then you get to tell that story to everyone who will listen, and they will suddenly have a much more difficult time recruiting top talent (for example, if a company recruited at the college I went to and reneged on an offer when someone tried to negotiate, they would no longer be welcome to recruit at my school).
  • BanjoHitterBanjoHitter Registered User Posts: 1,497 Senior Member
    Negotiating offers is always a touchy subject, and people are taking some pretty extreme positions in here.

    First, some companies (more often than not in my experience) set fixed salaries for new hires and interns. This is particularly true when the company tends to hire a large group of people for the same role (such as entry level engineers). This is done to prevent salary creep and also to prevent apparent contradictions (such as an intern making more than a full-time employee).

    When a company has that sort of policy (look around the internet and talk to other students to find out if that's the case at your company) you usually have no bargaining room on salary. However, you can sometimes negotiate other areas, such as vacation, moving allowance, educational reimbursement, etc. I've seen interns try (and fail, but that doesn't mean it always happens) to get the company to reimburse them for 1 or 2 night classes at a local university.

    However negotiation is always a touchy subject - and it's not always "you have nothing to lose." I've seen offers rescinded for demanding too much. The most successful negotiations I've seen are ones argued logically - the offerees will write a short 1/2 to 1 page proposal as to why their request is fair and benefits the company. Base the request in fact: you have another offer that pays more and you'll accept if they match, you want them to pay for a few night classes and explain how those courses will help your internship performance, etc. Whatever you request, always be very very carefully not to come across as unduly self-entitled. That will kill the negotiation and possibly your offer.
  • BanjoHitterBanjoHitter Registered User Posts: 1,497 Senior Member
    If they renege on their offer, then you get to tell that story to everyone who will listen, and they will suddenly have a much more difficult time recruiting top talent (for example, if a company recruited at the college I went to and reneged on an offer when someone tried to negotiate, they would no longer be welcome to recruit at my school).

    That's partially a good point.

    The good point is that some companies are very concerned about their reputations on campus. But only at certain schools. For example, if a company heavily recruits Harvard MBA students, they will be very concerned about how Harvard students view them and will be less likely to pull an offer. On the other hand, if you're at a secondary or non-target school, they will not care as much.

    What you're missing, though, is if you negotiate improperly, you can be placed on a firm's blacklist. Especially in a small field that can be a big problem for your career. The other downside of negotiating is that if you do it improperly, it could make your school look bad. If it happens too often, your school is dropped from the active recruiting list.

    Again, it's not that negotiating is inherently bad or wrong, just that you can't be so cavalier about it. You need to treat it delicately.
  • Sligh_AnarchistSligh_Anarchist Registered User Posts: 2,193 Senior Member
    When the HR representative sent the formal offer letter to me, I had a brief phone conversation with her. She took notes as I laid out my expectations for a return offer. She was very polite and sent my expectations to someone higher up the food chain. Her response several days later was that the firm will determine intern salary early next year, but I have to accept or decline by the end of the month. For now, my salary is what I was paid last summer ($770/week before taxes). It could change early next year, although HR did not specify in what direction.

    I have not responded to the formal offer letter yet, but my instinct is that it's not in my best interest to accept this offer.
  • polarscribepolarscribe Registered User Posts: 3,232 Senior Member
    $770 a week is not chump change. That's equivalent to a $40k annual salary, way more than most interns make already. (Hell, that's more than I make as a GS-5 park ranger with a bachelor's degree.) If you were on poverty-line money I could see arguing the point, but you're already very well paid as internships go.

    Are you really going to risk burning the bridge to your future full-time job offer over a few dollars a week? That manager who says he'll extend you an offer after graduation... will he remember you 18 months from now if you don't work for him this summer? More pointedly, what if the person who replaces you gets that offer instead?
  • BanjoHitterBanjoHitter Registered User Posts: 1,497 Senior Member
    Her response several days later was that the firm will determine intern salary early next year, but I have to accept or decline by the end of the month.

    That's a polite "no", though it's probably true that they'll do a cost of living adjustment / industry calibration next year.
    I have not responded to the formal offer letter yet, but my instinct is that it's not in my best interest to accept this offer.

    Because they're not paying you nominally more? Do you have a legitimate reason for why you are worth more? For example, do you know the average pay for your major from your school or do you have competing offers?
  • soccerguy315soccerguy315 Registered User Posts: 7,245 Senior Member
    I don't see why you wouldn't take the offer. If you get a different offer for next summer, you can take that instead.

    Option 1:
    Accept the offer
    Look for other options
    Take another offer that is better, if available

    If you don't get a better offer, you have the current internship.

    Option 2:
    Don't accept the offer
    Look for other options
    Take another offer, if you get one

    If you don't get a better offer, you have nothing.

    Lastly, if you think you want to work at this place full-time, your intern salary is not important. It's chump change compared to what you will be paid during your career.
  • Sligh_AnarchistSligh_Anarchist Registered User Posts: 2,193 Senior Member
    But option 1 isn't very ethical, wouldn't you say? I don't want to burn bridges.
  • DueceyDuecey Registered User Posts: 73 Junior Member
    Unless you have a better offer, take it. The experience is what matters. That is what intern should be negotiating for: experience, not for some goofy extra $100/wk.

    There are certain companies where you would be lucky to intern for free considering the experience and connections that can be made.
  • Packers1Packers1 Registered User Posts: 139 Junior Member
    Since you already asked HR and they responded, you have your answer. They are not going to negotiate. I have been on the hiring side of several interns and our corporate policy is that intern salary is fixed based on the location of the facility (differing COLs cause small adjustments).
    I agree with the folks who are saying take the job to get the experience.
    I know that in my companies case, if you turned down the internship this year, you would have zero chance of getting a job when you graduate. Yes; corporations do have a memory and they don't like being told no when they make an offer.
    The salary that you mentioned is a pretty reasonable one for an intern position. If you like the job; I would say take it, so you can try for the permanent position when you graduate.
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