Degree in hand, you walk into an interview to try to land an entry-level position. You ace it! After a few more meetings with the company, you get the offer. Do you accept it or negotiate for more? 

You may feel that since you’re fresh out of school or don’t yet have much experience that you should simply accept whatever starting salary you’re offered. In reality, most employers are prepared for candidates to negotiate their opening offer, and they often have room to increase that salary. When you consider that even a small increase can make a difference in your day-today finances now, as well as going forward, since you will build on this foundation through pay raises, it makes sense to consider negotiating. How do you negotiate? Read on.

5 Tips for Salary Negotiation 

The idea of having a conversation about your salary can be intimidating. It doesn’t have to be! As long as you are well-prepared, you can have a comfortable and meaningful discussion — one that may result in a larger salary. 

Here are some tips to help you enter into negotiations from a position of strength:

Know how much the job should pay. Before broaching the topic of negotiation with your prospective employer, research salaries for similar positions. Take into account your level of experience and your geographic market (salaries can vary widely based on location). Then ask yourself:

  • Is this salary comparable to what others with my background are earning?
  •  Does it reflect the abilities I bring to the job?
  • If the offer is lower than what I expected, are there benefits and perks — health insurance, a 401(k) plan, paid time off, tuition reimbursement, a signing bonus, a moving allowance, etc. — that add value beyond the salary itself?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, you are right to consider negotiating. 

Prepare your counteroffer. There’s no hard and fast rule about what percentage or dollar amount you should ask for. You need to take into account several things: what you’ve discovered the job should pay, how much you need to cover your living expenses (consult your budget) and what seems within the bounds of reason. Considering annual raises generally fall into the 2-3% range, asking for a 20% bump in your opening offer would be too much. If an employer has room to move on their offer, it’s likely to be a few thousand dollars (annually). Think it over, and try to find that sweet spot where you are advocating for yourself but not coming across as demanding or pushy.

Practice your pitch. Now it’s time to pull all of your information together and psych yourself up for the conversation itself. Treat your negotiation discussion like a job interview. Remember: You landed this job to begin with, so you know you can handle an interview! Put together a short, succinct script explaining why you feel you deserve a higher salary and get comfortable talking it through in a two-way conversation. Ask your college counselor, parent or friend to role-play the negotiation with you so that you’re prepared for potential questions and pushback. 

At the table, be polite, confident, well-informed and enthusiastic about the offer and the job. This conversation isn’t just about the money; it’s an opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism, drive and ability to bring a convincing argument to the table. Start by respectfully expressing gratitude for the job offer. Then share your pitch politely and professionally. Focus on being warm, courteous and enthusiastic while clearly communicating the value you would bring to the workplace.

End on a high note. Be prepared for each of three outcomes: You get what you ask for, you get some of what you ask for, or you get a firm “no.” Think in advance about whether you will accept or decline the job at a lower salary. If you meet at some middle spot and need a little more time to think the new offer over, ask if you might sleep on it and call in with your decision the next day. Of course, if the employer agrees to your counteroffer, be prepared to accept on the spot! It could come across as rude or ungrateful if you were to ask, receive and then delay. In any case, be gracious and thank the employer for the job offer and for giving you the opportunity to discuss it further. 

While there is no guarantee that negotiation will secure you the higher salary you want, it’s important to have this discussion if you feel that the offer falls short. This is true of not only your first job but of every job you consider in the future. Negotiation is a life skill that can serve you well throughout your career. If you want to be paid what you’re worth and earn the respect you deserve, you need to confidently advocate for yourself.