How to negotiate salary for your first entry level job

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Congratulations on getting your very first job offer! Landing your very first entry job is often the hardest step in your working career and learning how to negotiate salary for your first entry level job is often the trickiest!

Negotiating the salary for your very first entry level job is often the trickiest to navigate because, most of the time, you do not have any leverage. You do not have years of experience and you are often desperate.

You have probably been jobless for awhile, struggling to land your first job. You will probably be devastated if you negotiated too hard and they pulled their offer.

All these things make salary negotiation for your very first entry level job very intimidating. Follow these beginner steps to negotiate your salary in your first job to calm your nerves and give you more confidence.

How to negotiate starting salary for your very first entry level job

How to negotiate salary for your first entry level job

Negotiate the salary before accepting the job offer

This may be common sense, but the best time to negotiate your salary is before accepting the job offer. So, make sure you do your research first.

If you accept the job offer, and then do your research only to find out you are now unhappy with the starting salary, it is difficult to go back to HR to negotiate your starting salary for your first job.

You may look like a difficult employee because you’ve already accepted the job offer. This leads to the next step.

Do not accept your offer on the spot

So you received a phone call and you are offered your very first entry level job. YAY!

This is the time to negotiate your starting salary for your first job – when you are officially offered a job. I say this because negotiating the starting salary at the job interview is not the time to be doing this.

In your phone call, usually with HR, they will list what your job offer entails – the compensation and benefits. They may ask what you think of your first entry level job offer.

DO NOT accept the offer right away because you are uncomfortable with the awkward silence or being put on the spot. DO NOT accept over the phone. DO NOT respond with anything definitive.

Delay your answer or respond with something vague.

Tell them you’re very happy and excited and would love to look over and evaluate the offer in writing. This will give you time to think about your first entry level job offer and do your research.

Related: 5 Benefits to ask for in your job offer

Do not be the first to provide a salary number

Take a breath and stick to your guns. DO NOT be the first one to give a number if they ask you what your salary expectations are.

The first one to provide a number is usually the one who loses.

So how do you avoid giving them a salary number?

A) Ask them the salary question back

When they ask you what salary would you be happy with or what salary you are expecting for this role, repeat the question back to them.

Ask them, “well, what is the salary range for the role?”

B) Provide a vague salary answer

Instead of answering directly with a salary number, you can respond with vague responses such as “what the market rate is”.

You can also talk around the subject and say that the salary is only a small part of what an entire compensation package consists of or that you would need more information to assess the entire compensation package.

C) Provide a salary range

If you must provide a number because you’ve exhausted the two options above or the interviewers are not willing to let it go and move on until you provide a specific number, you can provide a salary range.

When you provide a salary range, make sure you do your research and determine what the market rate is. Decide what salary you’re willing to accept and provide a salary range where the salary you’re willing to accept is on the lower spectrum of that salary range you provide.

To find the market rate, the occupational employment statistics from the US bureau is a good resource.

Keep in mind your years of experience in the field when considering the market rate, which is probably zero if you are reading this blog.

If you are in a FAANG company (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google), is a site where people submit their offers for you to compare.

D) Provide a salary with open doors

If you absolutely must provide a number because your interviewers are making it difficult to avoid the question and you are feeling the pressure, provide a salary 5-10% higher than what you would accept, but then state that you are flexible with the right opportunity.

This answer will provide a number that they are looking for, but leaves the door open for further negotiation if the “right opportunity” did not come up for you.

If you have the leverage or are confident in your negotiation skills, even if this is your first entry level job, there are other things I would encourage you to negotiate for in your entire compensation package. Even if you are happy with your starting salary, if you have the leverage, there are non-monetary benefits you can negotiate for.

Related: How to negotiate your salary before accepting the offer

A word of caution though, the saying goes you should only negotiate if you are prepared to walk away from the job and be completely fine. If this is your very first entry level job, you probably need them more than they need you.

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