How to Negotiate Salary: Tips for Recent College Graduates

By Robert Half June 13, 2018 at 1:00pm

Did you just receive a less-than-stellar offer for an entry-level job? Despite what you may have heard, the starting salary for recent college graduates is negotiable.

It’s natural to 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.

While employers are generally comfortable with salary negotiations, your competitors in the job market may not be so confident to discuss pay levels. Some would rather get a root canal than ask for more money. 

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. 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 often based on previous salary levels.

Securing a higher salary for recent college graduates is going to require all the right moves, especially since employers won't lay all their cards on the table right away. Here are some tips:

Do your salary 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 Robert Half Salary Guides. You can use the Salary Calculator to create a customized pay range for your open role, based on experience level, location and other factors.

Examine the companies, too

Do some company research ahead of any salary negotiations. Determine whether the firm recently had any large layoffs and, if possible, find out how long management has been looking to fill the position. 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’re offered.

Consider benefits and perks

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

Negotiate with concrete examples

Describe how your skills and experience translate to a return on investment for the employer. Did you work as an intern? Explain how your efforts improved operations at the organization while you were there. Show your value through concrete examples rather than vague descriptions.

Be persuasive, not demanding

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 desperate for more money, and rehearse your arguments and counter-arguments several times to address any holes in your reasoning.

Check out our guide to today's best entry-level jobs now!

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