Lauren Dana
Lauren Dana
September 04, 2018
5 minute read

How to Negotiate a Higher Starting Salary For an Entry-Level Role

Keep calm and do your research.

How to Negotiate a Higher Starting Salary For an Entry-Level Role

Congrats! You’ve scored your first job offer out of college – now what? Even though it’s your first “real world” job, there’s still room for negotiation when it comes to salary, benefits, vacation days, and more.

Unfortunately, not many Americans negotiate their salaries nowadays, a study from staffing company Robert Half shows. Out of approximately 2700 surveyors in the US, only 39 percent negotiated their last salary. But taking the steps to negotiate your salary now can help you in the long run. According to Business Insider, negotiating your starting salary (and re-negotiating every few years) could lead to an significant increase in your lifetime earnings – by about one million dollars.

In other words, negotiation is crucial to your financial health, especially as recent graduates. Unfortunately, however, nearly 75 percent of college graduates feel unprepared when it comes to salary negotiation.  To help you walk into your negotiation meetings as prepared as possible, we’ve compiled the best advice from experts across the country. Remember, negotiating doesn’t have to be winner-versus-loser.  Follow these tips to ensure a hassle-free negotiation session with your new boss.

Negotiate Up

Negotiating is all about compromising, which is why it’s good to negotiate up, since your employer will most likely try to work with you to lower the number that you state. For example, let’s say you’re offered $50,000 starting salary, but you’d really like $53,000. In this case, ask for at least $55,000.

What’s more, negotiating with your employer can help set you apart from other employees in the best way possible. “Aside from the financial gain, a key benefit to speaking up and negotiating from the start is that it sets the tone for your engagement with that employer and can position you as a leader amongst other new employees,” says negotiation consultant and speaker Devon Smiley.

A survey conducted by NerdWallet showed that 84 percent of hiring managers said that an entry level candidate would not jeopardize their job offer by attempting to negotiate, and that 74 percent of hiring managers often have room to increase their first salary offer anywhere from five to ten percent. What’s more, of the graduates and students who negotiated, 80 percent of them were successful.

Some fields are more willing to negotiate salaries than others, including marketing and engineering departments, according to the same NerdWallet survey.

Be Confident and Do Your Research

When it comes to negotiating your first salary, it’s important to remember that your prospective employer hired you because they believe in you, your skills, and your work. “While they have the money and the decision power, what they don’t have is your knowledge, your key skills. What you bring to their table is quite a lot, no matter what your age is,” says  Fred Coon, author, CEO, and career coach.

Part of being confident means doing your research, too. Before going into a negotiation meeting, make sure you’ve prepared your own compensation / offer package. For example, check out sites such as Glassdoor,, and Payscale to help you determine the median starting salary for your field.

You’ll also want to come up with your own budget and lay out all your expenses so you know how much is appropriate to ask for. Your budget can include transportation expenses (i.e. a subway card or gas money), living expenses, and travel expenses to name a few. The more detailed, the better.

Once you build your budget and come up with a reasonable salary expectation, go into the hiring manager’s office with realistic expectations, and remember to show respect and go in open-minded.  “Negotiating does not need to be competitive. Competitive negotiation has a winner and a loser. When negotiating a salary, we want both parties to be winners so we need to change the paradigm to be collaborative,” says conflict negotiation expert Carol Barkes.

Think of the Big Picture

It’s also important to note that negotiation doesn’t have to be just about salary itself: Consider the whole package, not just the small details – especially if you think you’ve scored your dream job or got an offer from a company you’ve idolized for years.

You can also negotiate paid time off, benefits, flexible hours, bonuses, and overtime, to name a few. Prioritize which is most important for you. In some cases, for example, you may be happy with your starting salary, but are looking to have more paid vacation days.

Again, negotiating is also about compromising, so don’t be stubborn when it comes to discussing certain stipulations with your hiring manager. Instead, look at the “bigger picture” of the package, as opposed to being dead-set on getting three weeks paid vacation when you’re getting flexible work-from-home days, for example.

Moreover, as you’re conversing with your potential boss, show – don’t tell – this person what you bring to the table as an employee, and why you deserve paid time off or any other extra perks. “More options create more opportunities.  Avoid being narrow-minded and look for ways for both parties to get their needs met,” Barkes says.

All in all, there is no shame in asking for fair compensation; in fact, your chances of getting all or some of what you ask for are pretty high. By taking the time to prepare and draft up your own compensation package to present to your employer, negotiating will be that much easier. You got this.

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