The Mint Grad

Salary negotiation strategies

The single most important thing on the mind of every soon-to-be or recent graduate is employment. A job is that proverbial brass ring, the key (quite literally) to your own place car and the first step to an independent life.

interview-womanAfter what seems like a million interviews, the call finally comes. They want you. It’s a dream come true except for one little issue – the pay is a little less than you expected.

So what do you do?

Considering that jobs are not easy to come by in this economy, do you jump at the offer on the table or try to negotiate for more? With little or no work experience, you’re probably wondering if you’re even in a position to bargain when there’s thousands more like you clamoring for work.

While the decision to take it, leave it or negotiate is entirely personal and based on your individual lifestyle, here are some things to consider as you work through the process of figuring out what to do. BTW, though realistically, your first job salary may be the least negotiable, you can keep these tips in your back pocket as you move up the ladder and have more room to maneuver.

First, ask yourself if you can afford to walk away from (or lose) this opportunity. If you’re planning to live at home, reside in a small town, and/or don’t have a ton of student loans, you may have more flexibility. It all depends on your cost of living.

Also, don’t lose track of the big picture. While the pay may not be ideal, the job may be a stepping stone to your dream career. And great benefits like access to health insurance, retirement savings plans, free lunch, fitness programs, parking, and tuition assistance for continuing education may compensate for the shortfall. Just think about the cost of paying for these perks out-of-pocket.

If you indeed decide to negotiate, here’s some know-how that may improve your chances of getting a salary bump:

  • Get smart – Sites like and can give you a sense of what similar positions in your industry pay so that you have an informed (and realistic) perspective on how much you should be asking for…or if you should be asking at all.
  • Build your business case – Most entry level jobs have a salary range. Where you fall depends on how the company views your qualifications and potential. This means that your job is to convince the employer that you’re worth every penny of the high end of the range because you bring unique and relevant experience to the table (internship experience, research, community service, language or technical skills). Make sure you use your resume to clearly connect the dots between your background and how the employer will benefit.
  • Know your number – Be prepared to say how much more you want with specificity. Research has shown that employees who name a number are more likely to get higher salaries than those who stay vague.
  • Think outside the box – In case no more dollars are forthcoming, be prepared to suggest other incentives to sweeten the pot and make you feel more comfortable accepting the offer. You might consider asking for a 6 month review with a possibility of a raise. Or, perhaps you’d like to telecommute a day or so a week (to minimize travel expenses if the office is far.)

Most importantly, BE NICE! Mom was right when she said you get more bees with honey. Plus, if you take the job with or without a raise, the negotiation will set the tone for your professional relationship with your manager and company going forward.

Have you had success negotiating at work?

Tell us about your experience. Did you negotiate for better pay or more flexible hours? What negotiating strategies work best for you? To share your story and ideas, contact us here.