Grads Earn More When They Negotiate


Congratulations! They offered you a job. Forget waiting tables or reading phone scripts. You’re going to be making a difference. And you’re ready to roll. There’s just one item giving you pause…your pay.

Yes, you’re a new graduate with no track record. But you’ll barely scrape by on what you’ll make. Based on your research, you’re earning 10 percent less than what you’re worth. Still, you know many offers are “take it or leave it.” Do you really want to spoil the goodwill – or risk losing the offer? Then again, do you want to start your job already resenting your boss for taking advantage of you (intentional or not)?

That’s a quandary many graduates will face this year. In a new study by NerdWallet, a financial education website, nearly 75 percent of employers would be willing to increase their offer by 5 to 10 percent. What’s more just 10 percent have ever retracted an offer because a candidate attempted to negotiate.

Bottom line: The Class of 2015 could be leaving a lot of money on the table by accepting an employer’s first offer.



NerdWallet’s findings were based on surveys with 700 employers, along with nearly 8,000 graduates who entered the job market between 2012 and 2015. All respondents were members of Looksharp, an online platform that connects students with internships and entry level jobs at leading employers.

Here’s the survey’s biggest surprise: Employers expect candidates to negotiate. Just a third of employers surveyed “never” or rarely” negotiate with entry level candidates. At the same time, nearly half – 45.5 percent – are “sometimes” open for negotiation, while another 20 percent “often” or “always” negotiate.

In fact, employers have greater respect for candidates who do negotiate. 76.4 percent of employers perceive such students as “confident” compared to nearly 25 percent who consider negotiation as indicative of an “entitled” attitude. In addition, candidates who negotiated were described as “prepared” and “smart” by 37 and 26 percent of employers respectively.


Even more, employers draw conclusions based on whether entry level candidates negotiate. 71.5 percent of respondents assumed candidates were “happy with the offer” if they didn’t negotiate. Nearly half (47.7 percent) also believed these candidates had presumed that that negotiating wasn’t an option when they accepted an offer.

Lack Confidence

At the same time, failing to negotiate may also reflect poorly on candidates. 23.5 percent of employers stamped a “lack confidence” label on those who immediately accepted an offer. And nearly 10 percent of employers considered such candidates “unprepared.”

However, negotiation does carry some risk, depending on the employer. 16.4 percent of respondents admitted that attempting to negotiate could put an entry-level candidate’s offer at risk. That number jumps to 40 percent for interns.


So which departments are most open to negotiation? Not surprisingly, that would be sales, where give-and-take is a fundamental part of the job. 39.3 of sales department shared that they were willing to negotiate entry-level salaries. In marketing, another persuasive endeavor, 35.6 percent of respondents would negotiate. And nearly a fourth of respondents involved in business development – an offshoot of sales – were open to bargaining over starting salaries. However, graduates may be wise to avoid digging in and haggling over compensation in accounting or human resources. Here, just 11.6 and 10 percent of decision-makers signaled a willingness to negotiate.

(Go to next page to see how men and women compare in negotiations)

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