During my years in college, I never learned how to negotiate a salary, so it came as a shock to me when I was interviewing for entry level positions and was asked by hiring managers, “What are your salary expectations for this position?” I was like a deer in the headlights because I was unsure of how to answer the question without pricing myself out of the position. Don’t be like me; do your research and come prepared with an answer to prove your worth. 

Do your research 

In recent years, there has been a greater push for pay transparency among employees. This is beneficial for everyone because it helps close the gender pay gap, builds trust, and increases retention. Due to this change, it is easier to research where you fall in the salary range for different positions. Glassdoor, Payscale, Indeed, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Salary are platforms where you can research salaries, or simply ask them what their salary range is for the position. This will give you a better understanding of what the company is willing to pay and, based on your own qualifications and experience, cost of living and other benefits, you can negotiate the number. 

When to negotiate 

It is important to note that there are times when you should and shouldn’t negotiate. You should negotiate once you have an offer letter detailing the salary and benefits, not during the interview. If the employer asks you for a specific number during the interview, politely explain that you are flexible and would be open to discussing pay after discussing the details of the position. Once you know the details, if you have a unique skill set that sets you apart from other candidates, consider negotiating. You should not negotiate if you are applying for a government job, your offer is well below your expected range in comparison to other offers, and if it is a genuinely generous offer. Some companies offer a very competitive salary and benefits package, well above the industry average. If this is the case, is it better to leave it as-is than ask for more.

Your first counteroffer 

If you do decide to counteroffer, develop a strategy for how you will advocate for yourself in terms of unique skill sets, needs, and industry standards. Setting yourself apart and explaining why you will be an asset to the company will help them understand your value. When you send your counteroffer, start with a figure that is no more than 10-20% above their initial offer for an entry level position. If the starting offer is in line with the average pay, consider a range 5-7% above if you have skills that set you apart. When heading into the negotiation, be confident and remember that both parties need to be collaborative to come to a mutually beneficial compromise. 

Negotiating your first salary can be very stressful if you don’t have experience, but if you have the opportunity to try it then you will gain more confidence. Also understand that many employers expect to receive a counter offer. A CareerBuilder article stated that 73% of employers are willing to negotiate, but 55% of employees don’t try. If you believe you are qualified for a position, then advocate for yourself to get the salary you deserve. 

About the Author:

Amelia Wampler is a senior at Grand Valley State University, graduating in May of 2022, majoring in Advertising and Public Relations with minors in Marketing and Spanish. She is currently a media relations intern for American Family Insurance and plays for the GVSU women’s soccer team. She is a former Programming Director and current Account Associate of GrandPR. In her free time, she loves hiking, rock climbing, and anything outdoors.