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How to negotiate your first job offer

Published April 2, 2024| minute read
Dhara Singh

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    Congratulations! You're hired! You've just received that long-awaited job offer from a hiring manager. However, despite your excitement, you look at the salary and can't help but wonder, "Can I ask for more money?"

    To many, negotiating a job offer may seem like a sensitive subject. This may be particularly true if you've just received your first job offer, or you're fairly new to the working world.

    On the one hand, you may want to show your prospective employer that you're grateful for the job opportunity. But on the other hand, you may wonder if you can get a higher salary.

    If you feel shy about negotiating your offer, know that you're not alone. In a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 60% of employed adults said they didn't ask for higher pay when they accepted their current position, and 10% didn't remember if they did. However, of the 30% that did try to negotiate higher pay, many did end up receiving more pay than what was initially offered.

    Another thing to keep in mind as you seek to negotiate a job offer is that there are other things you can consider negotiating beyond just pay. Items like the flexibility to work from home, the hours that you work, your vacation days, your benefits package, and stock options are all potentially on the table when it comes to negotiating a job offer.

    When should you consider negotiating a job offer?

    If you're wondering whether you should negotiate a job offer, here are a few signs that maybe you should, once you have a written offer in hand:

    • Your offer is lower than the market average 
    • You have a competing offer
    • Your offer is below the normal salary range for the position you'd be filling
    • Your offer is below the pay of other employees with similar experience at the company making you the offer
    • You have a strong pitch about the value you'd be able to bring to the company and the role
    • You want more flexibility (like the ability to work from home) than the job offer provides for
    • The benefits or vacation days being offered don't match industry standards
    • The title you got offered doesn't match your experience level
    • The cost of living is high where the job is located

    When should you consider not negotiating a job offer?

    Deciding to negotiate a job offer is a personal choice. That said, there are some circumstances where negotiating may not be best.

    One of these circumstances is if you've already accepted the job offer at a lower number. At that point, it's usually not considered a best practice to try to negotiate. Another instance is if the job offer is presented as the best offer a company can make. In this instance, you may decide to stay away from the bargaining table.

    And lastly, though many decide to try to negotiate their job offers, you don't necessarily have to. In fact, if you're pleased with everything you see, from the base pay to the bonus terms to the remote versus In-person office flexibility, among other factors, you don't have to negotiate.

    How to ask for more money after you've received a job offer

    If you've never negotiated a job offer before, there are some steps to consider taking as you embark on doing this.

    Don't negotiate too early

    Career expert Stacie Haller told CNBC that she recommends against negotiating pay too early in the job interview process.

    "You're in no position to negotiate with your salary until they fall in love with you," Haller shared.

    With this advice in mind, consider waiting to negotiate your pay until after you've received an official offer letter. When you receive a job offer letter, consider expressing your gratitude to the employer and then ask for a few days to evaluate the offer. This'll give you time to review, research, and follow up with a counteroffer you feel good about if you ultimately decide you want to negotiate.

    Research the market

    While it's likely that you have limited to no access to what other people are being paid at the company at which you've been offered a job, you can research the self-reported information on the internet from past and current employees in similar roles to gauge the salary range for your role.

    To find this information, look at company review websites and databases. From there, research the market, and what employees in similar roles may be making at other companies. As you do this, be mindful that one title at one company might not mean the same thing as that same title at another company. For instance, at one company, the role of director could be a senior position, while at another, it could be a mid-level role.

    Figure out the cost of living

    Cost of living often gets factored into salaries. For example, a publicist working in Dayton, Ohio, may earn less than a publicist of similar experience in New York City. This doesn't mean the publicist is any less qualified in Ohio than in New York, but New York City's cost of living (food, shelter, transportation, among other expenses) is higher.

    As you set out to negotiate a job offer, consider utilizing one of the many cost-of-living calculators available online. The number you come up with can factor into your salary negotiation conversations, particularly if you feel that the offer you've received didn't account for the cost of living.

    Put together a strong pitch

    Victoria Medvec, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, shared a sample negotiation script with Harvard Business Review, which is as follows:

    "I know from publicly available information that this role pays up to $190,000. I'm at the top end of that pay range because I'm uniquely positioned to do XYZ and confident in what I bring. But I'm also comfortable in getting a base salary of $160,000 with a $50,000 annual bonus when I achieve the objectives that are important to you."

    If you want to negotiate any other package parts, such as stock options, remote flexibility, and benefits, consider bringing these items up in this conversation, too.

    Consider approaching the negotiation in a mutually beneficial way for both you and your employer, which might yield a better result.

    After the negotiation, bring closure to the situation

    If you're ultimately successful in negotiating to your satisfaction, consider expressing your gratitude for the opportunity through email or another communication channel at the tail end of it. On the flip side, if you aren't successful, use your best judgment on whether to accept the offer or not. While you might receive a more competitive offer elsewhere, there's certainly no guarantee.

    Final thoughts

    Negotiating a job offer won't come easy to everyone. Know that, like with anything, you can improve with practice. And even if you aren't successful when it comes to negotiating, you may still applaud yourself knowing that you took a brave step in asking for more. As the saying goes, "If you never try, you'll never know."