I will be finishing my B. Sc. in about 2 months. I started looking for an entry level position. But i am not sure how i start about negotiating a starting Salary, in what level one can negotiate. I also took a look at sites likes Glassdor, but i already have a relatively big book of projects i finished, technologies i am familliar with etc.

Starting salaries in my field of interest range widely from 45k to 55k. I heard though from recruiters, HR and management folks i spoke with, that with the experience i already have i can easily get something in the 60k+ range. Should i push this?

I also have the favor that the field and surrounding fields, which i am interested in, have a clear lack of candidates a lot of positions i have applied to have been open for over 6 months.

  • Are there any tricks or things that give away i actually reached their maximum and they are not "playing games" anymore
  • Should one start by making an offer, should one wait untill they offer a salary
  • Is there a rule of thumb how much i could go over the usual market rates, regarding to existing experience

I also thought about staying at the company with whom i wrote my thesis, are there any downsides regarding my negotiation position? Any additional tipps regarding my first real job negotiations?

Related: Should you negotiate your starting salary on your first job out of school?


The key to successful salary negotiation for people who are freshly starting in an area is having alternatives. The practical problem you face is asymmetry of information - the company is in a far better position to know what they pay lot of other people, and they are also likely to have inside information on what other companies pay their people as well. This is not something most people can overcome directly - you would need insider information, which you presumably don't have access to (or realize you have access to).

Instead, the way to learn what you can get is to get actual offers. If you only get one offer, well, that's what you were able to get. If you need a job ASAP and can't afford to play the waiting game to see what you can get over multiple months, or you just don't want to do that, you will rely on randomness based on market conditions to set your offer.

There is no salary game that has proven to be more effective than being able to say "that's too low", and mean it. Every other tactic is playing around the edges. You can ask if they would consider going higher, given your previous experience, and maybe they'll bump you up a little. But you have no way of knowing just how flexible they are willing or able to be in your offer, because you don't have access to that information. You don't know what the other applicants are like, you don't know what the policy of the company is, you don't know what the real current market conditions are, you don't know how hard it is to find another person with your skills - you are mostly flying blind.

In practice, the largest variability in salary you can tap into as a job applicant is between businesses and job titles, not within a single offer, especially as someone with limited professional experience. Thus the goal is to apply broadly to positions where you have some reasonable fit, and to not be in a rush. Since most new graduates are in a rush, the optimal strategy becomes applying as well as you can in a short period of time, taking the best offer with only minor negotiation tactic (ask, try to use multiple offers if you get them), and then after a reasonable period of time (which varies by industry and region - 6 months to 2 years is close to the world-wide range) apply for other jobs.

Since you'll already have a job and relevant experience, and ideally good references, a potentially better understanding of the market (if you stay active beyond just doing the minimum to get the job done), and a proven ability to hold relevant employment, you'll have a lot more to gain than any gimmick can get you now.

So: apply hard, do your best to get multiple offers, try to pick the one that seems like the best opportunity, softly ask for more and see what they say, walk away if you have good reason to think you can do better and have the financial flexibility to do so, and then set yourself up for greater success on the next round where you will try to have more time, more flexibility, and more negotiating room.

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Be cautious about what you are selling for the extra money! So many things make your a happier person other than your salary. Find the best people, not the best pay.

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  • I am aware of that, but i have had a lot of college friends who got severly underpaid because the did not negotiate and got taken advantage off bei the recruiting people. – joachim Jun 26 '19 at 19:48
  • Understood, I graduated in 2015 - and I just accepted a position at my 8th new job since then - you are never stuck if your unhappy with your pay. In my experience, it's easier to get multiple offers, and take the highest offer, than it is to negotiate your way up more that a few thousand dollars. A much more seasoned professional than myself recently shared with me his tactics for delaying offers in multiple processes so that they are all on the table at the same time. – Paul Davis Jun 26 '19 at 21:28

A general rule of negotiating is "He who speaks first loses". When they ask how much you want, respond with "It's negotiable". Don't suggest a number, because it might be so high they won't talk, or so low you lose out. Let them offer first, then go from there. Don't be afraid to ask for a bit more.

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Keep in mind, you have basically no work experience. You have college experience, a github maybe, and a small portfolio of school projects or internships, and thats it. Based on the numbers you are throwing out, I'm assuming you are not in the bay area and entertaining offers from FAANG. You are untested, you have no real world job references, and you are a dime a dozen (no offense) since you are a graduate.

You can get picked up for around 45k at a decent company and get 2 years of experience easily. You immediately jump ship at 2years because the market typically will value a 2yr experience person at almost double what you were making as entry level. There is almost no way your current company would have given you 50% increases 2 years in a row. Now you are making 80-90k at 2 years, and you have experience, you maybe have written articles, done trainings for your staff, and other cool stuff to brag about.

Don't get bogged down in grabbing an extra 10k right out of school. You should have basically no expenses other than loans and rent at that point, and you frankly have no leverage over a company to ask for another 10-15k when you're an entry level employee. In my opinion, get a foot in the door, get cozy with a few seniors/manager for referneces, and get the heck out after 2-3 years for a way higher salary at a new company.

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  • Spot on. Good advice. – solarflare Jun 26 '19 at 22:54

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