Balancing Priorities

How to boost that salary offer without annoying your new boss

Key Points
  • Negotiating salary on a first job out of school isn't easy.
  • Nearly 40 percent of employers are offering grads at least $50,000.
  • Roughly three in four companies will negotiate.

The Class of 2017 could be poised for a great financial start in the workplace — especially if they're prepared to negotiate.

Not only are hiring projections improved for this year; salary expectations are better, too. Half of employers plan to offer graduates higher pay compared to last year, according to a new survey from CareerBuilder. Nearly four in 10 companies expect to pay a starting salary of $50,000 or more, versus 27 percent which did last year.

CareerBuilder polled 2,380 hiring managers and HR professionals during mid-February to early March.

Pay for new grads

Expected starting salary Employers offering
Under $30,00023 percent
$30,000 to $39,99921 percent
$40,000 to $49,99918 percent
$50,000 and up39 percent

Source: SOURCE:

Even better: 70 percent of employers say they're willing to negotiate salary offers for those entry-level employees, CareerBuilder found.

Yet experts say negotiating for that first job out of college is generally tougher than doing so later in your career.

Millennial money moves

"Most people who are fresh out of college have very little leverage in the negotiation process, because you typically can't point to any concrete workplace results you've accomplished yet," said business consultant Dorie Clark, author of "Stand Out."

"You need to be able to make a strong case that hiring you, rather than someone else, will lead to more money and better results for them, and that a percentage of that value should come your way," she said.

Here's how to make your case:

1) Run the numbers

To get a sense of whether an offer is fair, compare it against numbers for comparable positions on salary web sites like, and Talk to friends and anyone you know who works in that field, too, said Clark.

"Even if they don't work at the particular company that's making you an offer, if they're in the industry, they'll have a feel for overall norms," she said.

2) Gather evidence

Once you understand what the market is paying, you need to build an argument for why you offer create more value for the business than they expect in an entry-level hire, said behavioral scientist Matt Wallaert, co-founder of fair-pay site GetRaised. That evidence includes skills and any experiences — from internships or side projects — that will make you more effective from day one.

"When a company hires someone new, the expectation is that they will need time to get up to speed," he said. "You want to make the argument that your skills will help you get off to a running start."

PeopleImages | Getty Images

3) Consider alternatives

If there's no wiggle room on salary, check to see if there are other levers you can pull, like more vacation time, flexible work hours or better equipment, Wallaert said. You might also ask for more responsibilities or opportunities to show the value you bring… and an appointment on the calendar to show your progress in a few months.

"You want to set the tone throughout your whole career at the company," he said.

4) Avoid personal pitfalls

"Here's the worst argument for a higher salary: 'I need more money because my rent or my college loans are expensive,'" Clark said. "Alas, your employer doesn't care about your personal financial situation. They have lots of choices and don't want or need to overpay; they can just move on to the next candidate."

Instead of talking about your needs, focus on the company's needs and what you bring to the table that justifies that higher pay, she said.