Negotiating the Best Investment Banking Compensation

When the interviewing for an investment banking job gets to the final stages, you must still wait until they actually say they are interested in hiring you before entering into a discussion of actual numbers.

Many recruiters and industry insiders say you should never accept or reject the initial offer, no matter how good or bad it sounds. Instead, you should always express your gratitude for receiving the offer, politely thank them, reaffirm your enthusiasm for the job, and say you need to think it over for a few days.

Let us repeat what we said before: you are going to negotiate this offer, no matter what. They expect you to. It would seem almost unprofessional not to. Reputable employers will give you a few days to a week to consider their offer. Walk away leaving a positive, enthusiastic impression and start working on building your case.

This is where your earlier research comes in. If their offer is below the industry norm, you will have the evidence to prove that. If their offer is in the mid-range, you have time to build a case, perhaps based on your unique skills, experience or abilities, for them to pay slightly more. It’s not unusual to bump up even a good offer by 5 percent or more simply by asking. If you are currently employed in the industry, you should aim for a 20 percent increase over your previous salary to make the switch worthwhile.

It also helps if you have at least one other iron in the fire. If this is the only prospective offer you are entertaining, it is much more difficult to walk away from the negotiating table. However, if you can say to them (truthfully), “I need some time to compare this offer with one from ABC Company, which was slightly higher,” then you clearly are in the driver’s seat (providing you would actually want to work for the other company).

Companies will always want to pay you at the lower end of a salary scale. But good companies do not want “bargain basement” employees, either. They want quality professionals who will help grow their business, and are willing to pay a fair price for that.

Also, remember that everything is negotiable. Salary is just one component of your compensation. Put together a package of what you are looking for, including paid vacation, benefits, training and more. Many companies give out signing bonuses to new hires as a way of sweetening the offer without straying outside their salary range. If the employer is unwilling or unable to budge on salary, negotiating these other benefits gives them the option to reward you some other way and seal the deal.

Finally, when you have agreed to all the details, be sure to get it in writing. Follow up with a letter which summarizes when you will begin work, at what salary, and include all the other details of the compensation package. This is both professional and absolutely essential to avoid any misunderstandings later on.

Negotiating one’s salary is an uncomfortable area for nearly everyone. But keep in mind that, in most cases, if they have spent a fair amount of time interviewing you at several levels of the organization and make you an offer, they are clearly interested in hiring you. All that remains is to agree on the fine points of the compensation. Always express your enthusiasm for the job and eagerness to get started once these details can be worked out.


MIT Career Development Center

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