How to Negotiate Your Ideal Salary in Your First Job Offer

People don’t realize they’re always negotiating.
There are around 11.4 million vacant jobs since the Labor Department’s last estimate in April 2022. This statistic illustrates that there are a lot of opportunities for those entering the workforce for the first time. They also have much more room to negotiate their salary and working conditions. Unfortunately, a survey by ZipRecruiter found that most new graduates expect (and settle) a salary that is $10,000 lower than their actual worth because they feel like they’re not experienced enough.

However, what you probably didn’t know is that companies are willing to offer more if you know how to negotiate and prove your value. Below are some things to remember before negotiating your salary in your first job offer:


Establish job expectations



It’s enticing to accept a hefty offer right away. However, competitive salaries may come at the cost of work-life balance or vague job expectations. Worse, the job may not be totally aligned with your career path. Though most companies disclose what they expect of you before the interview or negotiations, you should still discuss the details of your position with your recruiter. A report from The Muse emphasizes how some job descriptions leave a lot of room for interpretation, so you end up taking more work on than you initially expected.

Ask, as specific as possible, about the tasks and projects that you are expected to be involved in as well as the hours that you are supposed to clock in. Establishing these boundaries helps keep the rest of the negotiations seamless.


Ask for a strategic starting number



The best way to begin the negotiation is to start on a high note. Recruitment experts from LHH recommend that the first thing you need to do when negotiating an offer is to pitch a salary above your initial offer that factors in your research and work experience. The common practice is to go with something 10% to 20% more than what others in your field and with the same work experience are earning. You can research this with websites like Glassdoor, Payscale, and Indeed, which help calculate the salary of a profession in a given area.

You can also make your proposed salary more convincing with a presentation. Demonstrate your value through an organized table of your achievements from past work experiences. This, alongside your industry research, informs the recruiter that you’ve done your due diligence on the subject.


Be patient



Your first offer doesn’t have to be your first job. After all, as previously mentioned, around 11 million job openings are available for first-time job seekers. Remember that it’s okay to walk away from an offer if it cannot compensate you enough to cover your basic expenses.

However, patience does not only apply to waiting for better offers. Keep an open mind to some companies with less-than-ideal salaries, but generous benefits and training programs. For example, Chegg and Estée Lauder offer generous student loan contribution programs while PayPal and Facebook take pride in flexible work setups. Even though your salary may not be as high, these kinds of benefits help relieve some of your financial burdens. Your first job isn’t supposed to be your last so it’s sometimes okay to consider settling for less if it can provide you with a great learning experience and valuable benefits.


With the workforce dynamics shifting in favor of job seekers, there is a higher chance that your first job provides tons of learning opportunities and pays a hefty salary. But while there is no longer competition over jobs, it takes a strategic salary negotiation to arrive at the best possible job offer.

Remember, you’re always negotiating!

Written by Arthur Landon

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