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How to Negotiate a Salary For The First Time and Get the Pay You Deserve

By Bianca Mendez

For some odd reason (Ed still doesn’t understand why!), people are hesitant to talk candidly about money. Sure, at first you’re probably just excited to have landed a job — that’s great enthusiasm — but it’s ok to ask for a little more money if the salary isn’t what you were expecting. “No one is going to offer to give you more money,” says Chandra Turner, founder and CEO of Ed2010 and Talent Fairy. “You have to fight for every penny.” Plus, if you don’t talk money, you could find out later that you were making way less than you should’ve been, and no one likes that surprise. “Not only will it make your job experience better, but it shows why you’re worth it,” adds Jennifer Goldstein, executive beauty and health editor at Marie Claire.

So hold off on signing that job offer and read our tips for negotiating the salary you want first!

Do your research.

“So, what are your salary requirements?” No one wants to be caught off guard with that question. So instead of randomly spewing out a number, figure out what the competitive salary is for the type of position you’re interviewing for before you walk indoor. Tools like and Ed2010’s salary board are great places to start.

“A the big publishing houses, you can pretty much figure the amount out because they’re standard,” says Goldstein. And, you could always ask former bosses and friends who’ve worked at the company you’re interviewing for to give you a good idea of the price range, she suggests.

But, if you’re really unsure, see if the online application lets you skip the question. “If you can skip the question, or write ‘N/A’, skip it,” says Turner. “When you’re at a junior level, you don’t want to get undersold, which is more likely to happen.” Do your research on what similar positions pay. If you’re truly at a loss, ask what the price range for this position is at the interview.

“You have to know that before the job offer comes through,” says Turner. Because you don’t want to be in the position where you nail the interview and the edit test only to find out that the job is 20 grand below what you’re already making. “They can’t afford you and you wanted to work there, everybody gets hurt. So you need to have that conversation early,” says Turner.

Another trick for whippersnappers getting into the industry is to calculate how much you’ll need to live and base your salary needs off of that — especially for those entry-level temp jobs!

Put Down What You’d Like to Be Making

Obviously, when you’re applying for a new job, one of your goals is to  make more money. Goldstein suggests telling your employers your current salary and then talking about inflating it a little bit. “I would say something like, ‘Well I currently make $60,000, and I’m looking for a bump. Is that in your range?'” Also, here’s an FYI: There’s a new New York City law bans city agencies from asking prospective employees about their past and current salaries. Just don’t go too overboard with your request.  “You can knock yourself out of the running if it’s too high and you really can’t come back down,” says Goldstein. “You want to give the highest that you think won’t put you out of the running.”

Never Accept the Job Right Away

Say you got the job — congrats! No matter how excited you are about the offer, it’s best to take a day to consider it before signing on the dotted line. That buys you more time to review your benefits, do some extra research on the salary, and to counter with a better offer if you feel you were undersold. “That way, you haven’t agreed to something you might not have been able to think through properly during the nervousness of the actual offer,” says Turner.

Be Professional and Calm

We were brought up not to talk about money, but keep in mind these conversations are normal for HR people. “Know that HR deals with this stuff all the time and it isn’t weird at all,” says Goldstein. Pick up the phone and use Goldstein’s trick where you pretend that you’re playing some badass, fearless character in a play. “Be that character for the next five minutes and get through the phone conversation,” says Goldstein.

Now… what to say? Both Goldstein and Turner agree to maintain enthusiastic about the job, but politely be honest about your salary expectations. Use language like: “That wasn’t the salary I was expecting, but I’m still interested in the job. I was hoping for X,” suggests Goldstein. And never use finite or threatening language. “If they don’t give you that money, maybe you still wanted that job,” says Goldstein. Politeness goes a long way!

Making the Offer

When countering an offer, keep in mind how much information they know, such as what you’re making now and the initial offer. Usually, you can try a 10 to 20 percent window where you could negotiate within, says Turner. “If they’re offering you 45, you could call back and say I’m making 45 right now. I would like to go up for my next move and make at least 50. You’re overshooting by a little bit, but chances are they’ll meet you in the middle. “Unless it’s an entry level union-type position, they’re probably not offering you the absolute top they can pay,” says Turner. But don’t go too far out of the window or they’ll think it’s ridiculous.

What Happens When They Deny Your Offer

Say the HR manager calls you back and says they can’t offer you any more money, while it’s best to just let it be, you need to decide if the job is really want you want or walk away, says Turner. Before you bail, consider other benefits you could negotiate: Vacation, working from home, flextime, a shorter workweek. “I had another job where I didn’t get additional money but I got a better title and an extra week of vacation,” says Goldstein. “So that’s still a good deal.”

While negotiating for the first time is imitating, it gets easier to talk as you move on up the ranks. Good luck!

This post originally ran in 2016 and was updated in 2019.

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