Salary Negotiation Tips for Recent College Graduates

Paper money and mortarboards float against a partly cloudy sky

Did you just receive an offer for an entry-level finance or accounting job? Despite what you may have heard, you can consider salary negotiation even as a recent graduate.

You may feel apprehensive about requesting more money at such an early stage of your career. However, many employers are willing to negotiate salary with the right candidate, even if you are fresh out of college. According to a survey by Robert Half, 69 percent of senior executives are comfortable with potential employees discussing salary early in the hiring process.

While employers are mostly comfortable with salary negotiation, your competitors in the job market vary in how confident they are about asking for more money. Some would rather get a root canal than ask for a pay raise. You can make this situation work to your advantage. People who start negotiating earlier tend to do so more often in their careers than employees who shy away from the subject with employers. Consequently, people who are willing to negotiate for higher salaries are afforded greater earning potential over the course of their careers, as future salary discussions are based on previous salary levels.

Employers won't lay all their cards on the table right away, so you have to make the right moves to secure a higher salary. Here are some tips:

Do your research 

Take some time to review the average starting salary ranges in your geographic area for the position you're considering. Check data outlined in the Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance from Robert Half. You can even enter your zip code in a salary calculator to access salary data customized for your location.


Use the Salary Calculator


Research the company, as well. Determine whether it recently had any large layoffs and, if possible, find out how long management has been looking to fill the position. However, keep in mind that such information may be difficult to obtain. If the company has been making budget cuts through layoffs, your chances of a successful salary negotiation may be smaller. On the other hand, you may have more leverage in the discussion if the employer has had trouble recruiting for the position you are offered.

Consider benefits and perks of the accounting job

Employers often offer more than money. Negotiating a better employee benefits package — perhaps including excellent health coverage benefits, tuition reimbursement, an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, more time off or telecommuting options — can be a reason to accept a smaller salary.

Negotiate with quantitative evidence

Describe how your skills and experience translate to a return on investment for the employer. Explain how your efforts improved operations at the organization where you interned. Show your value through concrete examples rather than vague descriptions.

Don't make demands

Speak in a friendly but firm tone, but don't approach a salary negotiation with a list of demands. Your task is to present a clear argument and persuade employers that you are worth a higher salary. Avoid appearing as if you are begging for more money, and rehearse your arguments and counter-arguments several times to address any holes in your reasoning.

Make sure you have the most reliable salary information when you begin your salary negotiation. Robert Half tracks salary information by job title and location, so you can be confident you have the right range in mind.


Download the Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance


More information on salary negotiation