Career Planning

Negotiating Entry Level Salary: When and How to Ask for More

The age-old question: Should you negotiate salary for your first job? Short answer: yes, but we'll do you one better and break down everything you need to know, from negotiating internship pay to entry-level negotiation examples.
Taylor Moreno
Content Strategist
January 26, 2023
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Picture this: you recently completed an interview and hear your email ping. Your heart races with excitement as you see that they sent you a job offer, and it quickly falls when you realize the salary doesn't quite meet your expectations. 

Before you get too down in the dumps, there are still a few months left to play. Negotiation becomes a crucial step. Many employers are open to adding around 10% to their initial offers, making negotiating imperative. But it's not just about securing a better paycheck; it also involves discussing benefits, holidays, compensation packages, and PTO. 

By the time you finish this article, you will be a negotiation ninja, well-versed in counteroffers, polite declines, and negotiating etiquette.

Should you negotiate the salary for your first job?

Contrary to popular belief, you absolutely should negotiate your first job offer.

Negotiating your salary for your first job is not just a smart move; it's a crucial step in shaping your future financial success. Most employers, 53% to be precise, are open to negotiating salaries, especially for entry-level positions. It's part of their hiring strategy to leave room for negotiation.

And if that wasn't enough to convince you, negotiating your salary can yield substantial rewards, sometimes resulting in an 11–20% increase in pay, as indicated by Jobvite's Job Seeker Nation Study.

By embracing the practice of salary negotiation, you're not just advocating for your financial well-being but also setting a valuable precedent for your career. Don't leave money on the table; maximize your negotiating opportunities. Your financial future may depend on it.

Can you lose a job offer for negotiating salary?

There’s always a risk of losing a job offer when negotiating salary; that being said, it’s unlikely, especially if you do it right. So let's dive into how to properly negotiate!

How to negotiate entry-level salary

Preparing for Negotiation

Do Your Research in Advance

Before you even start the interview process, Goredema recommends thorough research. Explore salary data from reliable sources like Payscale,, ZipRecruiter, Indeed, and LinkedIn to determine a realistic salary range for your desired role.

Setting Your Salary Range

Learn how to create a salary range that covers your financial needs while acknowledging that reaching the higher end may require showcasing your relevant experiences.

Considering Benefits and Perks

Making a List of Must-Haves

Beyond salary, think about the benefits and perks that matter most to you. Create a list of "must-haves" and "would-love-to-haves" to guide your job search effectively.

Exploring Company Perks

Research potential employers and their offered benefits, as companies often list these on their websites. Understanding their offerings can help you align your priorities.

Initiating the Negotiation

Assessing the Initial Offer

During the interview process, inquire about salary expectations. If the offered range aligns with yours, that's great. If not, wait until you receive an offer to begin the negotiation process.

 Negotiating with Confidence

When negotiating, maintain a positive tone and ask if the salary is negotiable. Present your salary range and provide a compelling case for why you deserve it, backed by your relevant experiences.

Navigating the Negotiation Process

Understanding Trade-Offs

Remember that negotiations involve trade-offs. If the salary adjustment isn't feasible, explore other aspects of the compensation package that can be equally valuable.

Maintaining Professionalism

Throughout the negotiation, maintain a respectful and reasonable demeanor. Your negotiation style reflects your professionalism and suitability for the role.

Additional Tips for Success

Research Industry Averages

Before negotiations, research industry salary averages to gauge your negotiating leverage. Additionally, examine the company's recent history and staffing needs.

Highlighting Your Value

During negotiations, support your case with concrete examples of how your skills and experiences can benefit the employer, emphasizing specific achievements.

The Art of Persuasion

Approach the negotiation as a persuasive discussion rather than a list of demands. Craft a compelling argument and rehearse your points thoroughly to demonstrate your value to the company.

Can you negotiate internship pay?

Exploring the possibility of negotiating your internship pay can be a wise decision, even though it's often overlooked by students. 

Before diving into negotiations, evaluating whether there's room for negotiation in your specific internship situation is crucial. Some companies offer fixed-rate summer internship programs or predetermined stipends, leaving no room for negotiation. Understanding your internship's financial structure is essential to avoid unfruitful discussions. 

For internships without predetermined salaries, you have an opportunity to negotiate. Many companies, just like for any other position, seek the best talent at a fair price, making negotiation a valid option for interns. However, to succeed in your negotiation, it's essential to have a compelling story that justifies your request, particularly if your fellow interns become aware of it.

What to say when negotiating an entry-level salary

"Thank you so much for the offer. I’m so excited to join the team! I would like to discuss the compensation and benefits package outlined in the offer. Based on my research, people with similar experiences and positions are at a higher range. I was expecting between [salary range]. Based on the value, my experience, and performance, is the salary up for discussion?"

Effective entry-level salary negotiation is a blend of persuasive communication and data-backed arguments 

When negotiating your entry-level salary, it's essential to communicate your value clearly and persuasively. Start by expressing your understanding of the company's challenges or needs, showing that you've done your homework. Then, explain how your skills and experience uniquely position you to address those challenges or contribute to the company's success. 

Use reputable sources like Glassdoor, Fairygodboss, and Payscale to gather salary data specific to your role, industry, and location. These platforms offer insights into industry standards, company-specific averages, and geographical variations in salaries. Armed with this information, you can confidently justify your counteroffer.

How to negotiate a higher salary with no experience

Remember that employers are eager to hire you, and your negotiation sets the stage for future raises and bonuses. While you may lack years of experience, emphasize the unique qualities you bring to the table, setting the tone for a successful career journey.

Step 1: Research and Confidence

Research is your foundation when it comes to salary negotiation. 

Understanding the local market's pay range for positions similar to yours is essential. Avoid apologizing for seeking fair compensation. Be specific in your requests and open to compromise to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.

Step 2: Leverage Your Resources

Seek advice from friends, mentors, and colleagues to determine competitive pay rates for your role and industry. Your college career center can also provide valuable data on entry-level positions in various fields. When negotiating your salary, aim for a figure that falls in the middle of the researched pay range. 

Step 3: Consider Benefits

Your compensation package extends beyond salary alone. Approximately 31% of your total compensation comprises benefits. Consider the complete package, including retirement savings, paid time off, commuter benefits, and other offerings. Sometimes, these benefits can offset a lower salary.

Step 4: Highlight Your Skills

While you may lack extensive professional experience, don't undervalue your skills and knowledge gained during internships, volunteer work, or coursework. Emphasize these experiences and skills during negotiations. Be specific and confident when discussing what sets you apart from other candidates. Avoid delving into personal financial matters like student loans or rent. Focus on the professional aspects that justify your requested salary.

How to counteroffer a starting salary

Start by suggesting a figure 10-20% above the initial offer and make sure to clarify why your counteroffer is reasonable, citing your skills and value to the role.

You can use this structure:

  1. Express excitement and gratitude.
  2. Highlight a positive interview experience.
  3. Request a comprehensive compensation review.
  4. Carefully evaluate the offer.
  5. Counteroffer with salary and benefits.
  6. Conclude positively for a successful partnership.

How to politely say a starting salary is too low

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude for extending the offer to join [Company] as a [Position]. I am genuinely excited about the prospect of contributing to your team and the company's continued success.

I believe that I am an ideal fit for this role, given my [briefly mention relevant skills/experience/qualifications]. However, after careful consideration, I wanted to discuss the salary component of the offer. The proposed salary of [Current Offer] falls below my expectations, and I had envisioned a compensation in the range of [Your Desired Range] based on [mention relevant factors, such as market research, qualifications, or additional skills].

[Provide supporting details for your request. For example, you can mention market data, your qualifications exceeding job requirements, and specific achievements that demonstrate your value.]

I am open to discussing this matter further and exploring potential ways to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. Please let me know if there is an opportunity for us to connect via email or phone. Your time and consideration are highly appreciated.

Thank you once again for considering me for this role, and I look forward to the possibility of becoming a valuable member of the [Company] team.”

In the world of career beginnings, salary negotiation might feel like uncharted territory. However, it's a terrain worth exploring, filled with opportunities to enhance your financial well-being and set the stage for a successful future. Remember that negotiations are not just about securing a better paycheck; they're about establishing your worth, showing your commitment, and laying the foundation for your career's financial growth. So, whether it's your first job or an internship, approach negotiations with confidence, research-backed arguments, and a commitment to showcasing your unique value. As you unlock the power of salary negotiation, you're not just shaping your present; you're investing in a brighter, more prosperous future.

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