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How to Negotiate an Entry-Level Job Offer

By Maurie Backman - Feb 14, 2018 at 8:22AM

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Being new to the workforce doesn't mean you can't fight for more money. Here's how.

When you're fresh out of college and eager to start working, landing a job offer can be a major cause for celebration. But what if you receive an offer whose salary is considerably lower than what you're hoping for? Do you negotiate, or accept it for what it is?

Of course, it's not uncommon to go the former route and ask for more money. Plenty of workers do it all the time. But whereas older workers can fight for higher salaries by showing what they've previously brought to the table, entry-level folks have a clear disadvantage in this regard. After all, how do you prove how valuable you are when you have virtually no job experience to show for?

Smiling young woman


Though scoring more money as an entry-level employee is a challenge, it's also something that can be done. Here are a few tips to approach that negotiation.

1. Highlight your skills

Maybe you didn't increase sales at a company last year because you were stuck in marketing classes rather than working. But that doesn't mean you can't play up your academic accomplishments. If you won awards for your exceptional grades, say so, because that speaks to your work ethic, which will apply to any job you take. Furthermore, if you rocked your unpaid internship, tell your prospective employer about all the valuable things you did there. If you're able to prove that you're the sort of exceptional candidate the company in question can't afford to lose, you just might snag a little extra money out of the deal.

2. Sell yourself as an investment

It costs money to onboard employees and bring them up to speed, and as an entry-level worker, that's something you can use to your advantage. When you sit down to negotiate that job offer, remind your prospective employer that you're looking to grow with the company and add ongoing value year after year. Since you're only first starting out, and therefore have your entire career ahead of you, it's conceivable that you might stay on board for a number of years before thinking about moving on, and if you make that clear during that conversation, you might get rewarded financially.

3. Know your worth

You're more likely to get additional money out of a potential employer if you can prove that the offer on the table isn't nearly as generous as it could be. So before you go into that conversation, do some research to see what similar jobs are commanding. Job site Glassdoor has a particularly helpful "Know Your Worth" tool that allows you to compare salary data by job title and geographic region (keeping in mind that compensation can vary based on what part of the country you live in). If you're able to unearth enough data showing that the typical local worker with your role earns several thousand dollars more than the offer on the table, your prospective employer might be willing to budge a little.

4. When all else fails, seek alternatives to cash

Maybe the company you're dealing with has a limited budget, or is only willing to give an entry-level employee so much money. If you're unable to boost your salary as part of the deal, try negotiating for other benefits in lieu of added cash. You might, for example, ask for a few extra vacation days to start off with, or the opportunity to earn bonuses based on performance. You never know what a company might agree to if it's eager to bring hire someone.

Remember, being an entry-level worker doesn't mean you have to settle for a salary you're convinced is unfair. If, despite your best efforts, you're unable to eke out more money, you may want to think twice before accepting the offer regardless. It could very well be that there's a better opportunity right around the corner, and one that puts a few thousand dollars extra in your pocket.

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