How Can I Negotiate A Salary If I’ve Never Had A Job?

Monica T

How Can I Negotiate A Salary If I've Never Had A Job?

Q. How can I negotiate a salary if I have never had a job?

A. Even if you are a new graduate or have never had a salaried position, you can learn how to ask for (and receive) a fair salary. Here’s how:

1. Research the salary range for the position.

  • See if the salary range is listed on the job description.
  • Look up the range on job/salary sites like Glassdoor and Jobitorial. Even if the company is not listed, learn ranges for listed companies within similar industries.
  • Look up the going rate for similar positions in your region on sites like
  • Ask friends who are past or current employees of the company or its competitors if they know or can guess the salary range for the position.
  • Ask the recruiter. For example, if he or she asks your salary expectation or history, ask him/her for the salary range instead. Say, “I’m sure we can arrive at a mutually agreeable salary. Can you please tell me the range?” If the recruiter’s range is acceptable, say, “I’m looking at positions in that range.”

2. Recognize your place within the range. If the range is $30,000-$50,000, realize …

  • Entry-level hires are typically paid in the lowest third of the salary range (in this scenario, starting at $30,000 up to around $36,666 for highly qualified entry-level candidates). If you are highly qualified, but new to the business world, ask for $37,000, but expect to be paid somewhat less depending on what you can negotiate. If you are not exceptional, ask for $35,000 but expect to be offered something closer to $30,000.
  • Candidates with 5-9 years of experience are usually paid in the second third of the range (in this scenario, between about $36,666-$43,334). If you are highly qualified or on the higher-end of the experience range, ask for $44,000 and expect to be paid a little less depending on what you can negotiate. Otherwise, expect to be paid closer to $36,000.
  • Candidates with 10+ years of experience (or with significant, relevant abilities) are generally paid at the high end of the range (in this scenario, up to $50,000). If you are highly qualified, ask for $50,000, but expect a little less. Otherwise, figure you will be paid closer to $44,000.
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3. Remind the company why you are worth more than its first offer. Reiterate your strengths that make you uniquely qualified.

4. Remain quiet after you’ve stated your case. Such a pregnant pause will be uncomfortable for the interviewer who may fill the empty air with words of negotiation.

5. Remember that the offer is about more than the salary … benefits, vacation and other extras can improve your compensation package by as much as 30 percent. Learn more about how to negotiate benefits at Resumehowto. Also ask the hiring company for an annual benefits statement to view a summary of its benefits offerings and costs.

6. Reinforce why you made the choices you’ve made.

  • For example, if you’ve been in school, say, “I elected to complete my engineering degree and two unpaid internships, so that I can be as prepared as possible for this position. Because I have the degree and the excellent experience of my two internships, my salary should be $40,000, not including benefits and other perks.”
  • Or, if you’ve been working in a survival position while job seeking, say, “I had two options: 1) Stay unemployed and wait for a salaried position in my field, or 2) Take the available position. I opted to take the position to keep my skills well-honed. The company has benefited greatly from having a top-notch pro handling the job, but I am uniquely qualified to handle the challenges of this position and should be paid accordingly.”
  • If the company representative dwells on your survival-job pay or your lack of experience, explain that you expect to be paid the fair market value for the position. Also emphasize that your survival job is a different position than the one for which you are applying (even if the skills needed are similar) and, therefore, the salary range should be different.
  • And, finally, provide an explanation for why you seek a higher salary, such as, “I’ve invested a great deal into my education and have the knowledge needed to excel in this position and should be paid accordingly.”
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7. Realize that the first offer isn’t necessarily a final offer. If the company makes an offer at the low end of its range, realize the offer is likely a negotiation strategy, not a final number. Counter with a higher number, but realize that your response doesn’t have to be your final answer either. Stay calm and remember that employers don’t want to play their final cards on the table before you do because they know you don’t want to be offered a position at the low end of their range.

8. Resolve to not take the salary negotiation process personally. Recruiters expect to negotiate. Ask for what you want and then work to arrive at salary that’s acceptable for your experience and abilities … doing so, well, can help you … Get a Job!

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