After months of polishing your resume, sending out perfect cover letters, interviewing with potential employers and nervously waiting for the phone call, receiving a job offer can feel like the happy end to a long, stressful period. In all the excitement, it can be easy to say "yes" to everything, from your start date to your salary.
When it comes to first-time job offers, many recent graduates overlook how important it is to negotiate a fair salary.
These four salary negotiation tactics can help you land a salary you're happy with, even if you have no experience talking numbers with future employers.
1. Don't be scared
According to a study by Salary.com, only 18 percent of new hires negotiate for a higher salary. That means about 80 percent of new employees may not be receiving their best possible salary. Many people fear that asking for a higher salary will offend their new boss or even cost them the job offer. But don't fear; negotiating a salary is a standard business practice, even if you're a new graduate. All that's standing between you and higher pay is a little negotiation.
2. Do your research
After you receive a job offer, ask for some time to consider your answer. Ask the person making the offer when the company would like to know whether you accept – and stick to their deadline. Take several days or the weekend if you can to read through the job offer and see if it is competitive and attractive. Spend some time researching average salaries for comparable positions and companies.
Sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn offer tools to help determine a typical entry-level salary range in your field, based on your position and location. Remember that some kinds of companies, like large law firms, have a set salary for an incoming class, which means you might not have any room to negotiate.
You should also consider the entire compensation package the company is offering, says Jim Dickinson, assistant vice president for career services at Loyola University Maryland. "If there's a 401(k), is there a match? Are there parking benefits or public transportation stipends?" To familiarize yourself with the different kinds of benefits your company may provide, there are many online resources including this Glossary of HR and Employee Benefit Terms.
If you're considering more than one offer, Dickinson encourages job seekers to compare the salaries and benefits. You'll also want to consider other factors that could make a big difference, like commute time or cost of living if the positions are in different cities. A $35,000 salary in Knoxville, Tennessee is much different than a $35,000 salary in San Francisco.
3. Craft your message
Once you complete your research, compile a list of reasons as to why you deserve a higher salary. Even if you haven't had a full-time job before, you still have relevant skills and knowledge from your education experience, internships, part-time jobs and hands-on class projects.
Maybe you have already interned for the company, which will make it easy for them to train you in your new role, or maybe you held a similar temporary position at a different company. These are all important points that will help craft what to say when negotiating salary. Remember, they already find you valuable.
Negotiating, Dickinson says, "is about communicating the value you bring to the company." Focus on your skills, experience and the standard salary range for the position when you ask for more money — not the cost of rent or that you have a car payment to make each month. Those are important factors for you, but they aren't appropriate reasons to bring up when asking for a salary bump.
To craft a compelling pitch on why you deserve a higher starting salary, follow these steps:
- Write a salary negotiation script that emphasizes that you are honored to receive the offer and that you look forward to working together.
- Once you determine a fair salary based on market averages, ask for 15 to 20 percent more than that. The company will come back with its own offer.
- Use language that is polite and confident.
- Practice what you'll say before starting the negotiations.
4. Make your request
Whether you're on the phone negotiating or doing it in person, asking for more money can feel stressful and awkward. Remember that while it may be your first time negotiating a salary, the hiring manager does this for a living and expects these negotiations. According to a study from NerdWallet, about 76 percent of employers surveyed said they would think an entry-level candidate who negotiated their salary was "confident."
If you practiced what you'll say and are making a reasonable request, you shouldn't have anything to worry about, even if they decide not to budge from their initial offer. Then it's up to you to choose whether you'll take the job for the salary that's on the table or move on and find another position. Either way, you'll have learned a new skill and gained some perspective on the job-seeking process.
Negotiating your first salary can be nerve-wracking, but it's an important skill to hone as you start your career. Use these tips to help you reach a number that works for both you and your new employer.
No matter what stage of the job hunt you're in, make sure you have a resume that highlights your skills as your educational and professional accomplishments. Pair that resume with a solid cover letter to catch the hiring manager's eye. With a solid resume and cover letter, we suspect your first job offer won't be far away. LiveCareer's Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder can help you assemble both documents in no time at all.