Graduate to a Higher Pay Scale by Negotiating Salary for That First Job

How to negotiate salary after college.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Good news for the the cap-and-gown crowd: You could get a pay raise before you even start your first job.

According to a recent survey by The Harris Poll, 74% of employers say they are willing to negotiate salary when extending job offers to recent college graduates.

And with the U.S. unemployment rate falling below 4% this month, that gives college grads even more reason to feel a bit more buoyant as they wade into the job market.

Even more good news for your pomp and circumstance: Grads heading into that first interview have a better chance of receiving a better initial offer, as 47% of employers say they intend to offer higher pay than they did last year, with a third of them saying they’ll offer $50,000 or more, according to a survey conducted on behalf of CareerBuilder.

But before demanding that a new employer needs to show you the money, career coach Loren Margolis, CEO of Training & Leadership Success in New York, has some advice that may sound familiar: Do your homework.

“You have to do your research,” Margolis says. “Know what the job that you’re interviewing for pays in other parts of the industry… and definitely do your research on competitors of that organization.”

When researching those numbers, grads should look inward — to their colleges, Margolis suggests.

You have a built-in network to tap into, so talk to your classmates, definitely talk to your professors and student clubs and of course your career-development or career-services office,” Margolis says. “And hopefully you will have already reached out to the alumni that are working at that company.”

Although alums may not want to reveal their specific salaries, asking about the industry and the company in general can give you a better idea of how your salary offer compares, Margolis says.

“The question could be like, ‘For my own edification, what would you say is the range for what a starting position in our industry would be?’” Margolis says. “And from what you’re seeing… is that a competitive salary?”

Check out even more scientifically proven strategies and tips for negotiating your salary.

Still a bit scared to ask for that salary bump before you start your first day? Consider delayed gratification, Margolis says.

“One of the things that you might want to negotiate instead of an end-of-year review is a six-month review,” Margolis says. “So instead of waiting 12 months to get a raise or to get your performance review, negotiate for it to happen in half the time.”

Maybe that tassel was worth the hassle after all.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She negotiates for additional cheese.