Salary negotiation is a difficult thing to do at any age. And when you’re barely out of college, looking for your first job, asking for more money or benefits can feel ungrateful or downright sleazy.
However, most employers are prepared to negotiate when they make their first offer—and the worst thing that can happen to you (if you’re even a little reasonable) is that they’ll say no. So, attempting to negotiate your offer is essential—even at the entry level.
A well-crafted counter-offer can not only get you more money and a better benefits package, but also demonstrate the kind of confidence, self-worth, and intelligence important for later promotions and respect in the workplace.
To guide you, we’ve put together a list of the NOT EVEN ONCEs and the must-says of entry-level salary negotiation.
The Worst Things To Say During Entry-Level Salary Negotiation
1. I Need More Money.
The word “need” is the bad part here. Saying you need more money can signal that you’re irresponsible or unrealistic. Can you not handle personal budgeting? Do you have unscrupulous debts or habits? The truth is, none of this stuff is really the employer’s business, but the only way to tell them that would be to overshare your personal life, which is also a major red flag. It can lead to getting your offer rescinded, or losing the respect of your hiring manager and future team.
2. Your Previous Salary Or An Uneducated Guess.
Answering the question, “How much did you make at your last job?” is never to your benefit. The employer knows how much they’re willing to pay for this role, and that’s the only effective factor. You run the risk of low-balling yourself and ending up making more than you last made, but far less than you should be by telling them this info.
If you’re like most recent college grads or seniors, then you don’t actually have a previous salary. However, you probably have had internships. What you definitely shouldn’t do is guess how much you would’ve made at your last internship if you were the “full-time version” of your job. That, too, is rarely to your benefit.
You should always wait for the employer to make the first number offer, and then counter. If you can’t turn the question around them by asking something like, “How much do you think is fair for a qualified, motivated professional to make in this role?”, then you should focus instead on using numbers drawn from careful research. Be ready to cite your facts.
3. A Bold-Faced Lie
A common piece of advice you might hear is to tell employers that you have a job offer elsewhere and for more money, even if you don’t. While this can be a powerful bargaining chip if you’re very confident in your standing with the company (and it’s true), it is usually a misstep for someone early in their career to do this. This kind of posturing can cause the hiring manager to extend someone else the job offer, especially if they don’t want to meet your demands.
It can be okay to tell the employer that you’re interviewing elsewhere to apply some pressure. However, is generally a very bad idea to tell your prospective employer a lie. You’ll violate their trust and definitely get your offer rescinded if they find out or just suspect that you’re lying.
The Best Things To Say During Your Entry-Level Salary Negotiation
1. A Well Researched Counteroffer
Hands down, the most important part of entry-level salary negotiations (or any negotiation) is doing your research. The number you have in your head should be one sourced from sites like Glassdoor, Fairygodboss, and Payscale. Glassdoor especially does a great job of averaging salaries for harder-to-find titles at specific companies, while also offering general estimates based on job title and location.
Coming to the table with numbers like these allows you to speak from an educated, fairly-reliable position.
The best part is: Whether or not you succeed in getting more money, this will demonstrate that you’re smart enough to know your worth and have the confidence to take action.
2. An Answer That Considers Benefits And Perks
While salary is the star of the show, benefits and perks are essential supporting cast members. Salary can largely determine how you can afford to live your life outside of work, but perks and benefits affect something equally important: How much time you spend working. Benefits include stuff like paid time off, sick days, working from home privileges, and more.
If your prospective employer won’t budge on salary, an important next step is politely asking them if they would be able to compensate for that with more vacations days, a steady work from home day, or more sick/personal days.
The Most Important Thing: Always Negotiate
It’s so important to remember that negotiating, if handled politely and confidently, is NOT rude. It’s not being subordinate or showing contempt to ask for more money, vacation days, or other reasonable plusses.
The worst thing that they can do is decline to improve your offer. However, chances are you will receive some sort of boost, whether it’s in the form of pay, vacation days, work from home days, or something else.
No matter what, you’ll show your prospective employer that you have the tenacity, confidence, and intelligence to advocate for yourself. And that’s a set of traits all employers love to see.