New Grads Failing to Negotiate Salaries

050815_NegotiationsDespite having earned a college degree — even from some of the nation’s best colleges and universities — most recent graduates don’t bother to negotiate their salaries in entry-level positions.

That’s the findings of a recent study by NerdWallet, a personal finance website, and Looksharp, a job site targeting new graduates. After surveying nearly 8,000 recent college graduates, they found that only 38 percent of those who started working in the past three years negotiated their job offers.

More than 84 percent of the employers who were surveyed said that job candidates wouldn’t risk losing their job offers if they attempted to negotiate their starting salary. In fact, three-quarters of employers said that they typically have room to increase their first salary offers by 5 to 10 percent during negotiations. Ninety percent of hiring managers said they never retracted an offer because an entry-level candidate attempted to negotiate and nearly 76 percent of employers surveyed said they felt that entry-level employees who negotiated appeared to be confident.

“This is a really strong signal that the opportunity is there but students don’t know about it,” said Abbey Stauffer, general manager of the education team at NerdWallet. “We felt that we had an obligation to tell recent gradates that they have this opportunity and it comes straight from the employers’ mouths.”

For many recent graduates such as Walter Hudson, he did not know that salary negotiation was even possible in the early stages of his career.

“I thought that the rule was that you couldn’t ask for more money or perks until you were seasoned and had years of work experience under your belt,” said Hudson, who recently graduated from Wilmington University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. “I think, as young people, we’ve been conditioned to think that the economy is so awful that we should simply be happy if we’re lucky enough to find any job. But now, I know that’s not necessarily true.”

The findings are particularly interesting in light of the fact that more and more college graduates have become increasingly saddled with debt and have found it difficult to make ends meet on their own. About a decade ago, industry experts found that the guardians of many college graduates — also known as “helicopter parents” — were quite active in trying to negotiate on behalf of their children. But their involvement in helping to secure bigger salaries and better benefits appears to have waned in recent years.

Stauffer said that of the students and graduates who asked for a higher salary, 80 percent were at least partially successful in getting more money. She also said that there was a significant gender disparity when it comes to salary negotiations. For example, 29 percent more male graduates are negotiating job offers than females.

The survey found that only 34 percent of female students and recent graduates negotiated, but 44 percent of men did. Experts have said that women are not only less likely than men to negotiate first job offers, but they also report being more uneasy about negotiating salary. When it came to asking for more money, 42 percent of the women surveyed said they felt anxious. Of the men, 53 percent said they felt confident, the most common choice among males.

The study also revealed that sales, marketing and engineering departments within their companies were most willing to negotiate with potential employees.

Before entering the job market, experts from NerdWallet and Looksharp recommend that recent graduates should do the following:

Research the salaries of others in positions similar to the one you’re applying for. That way, if a hiring manager offers you a salary below the market value of the job, you have the research to back up your request for more.
Sit down with a friend, mentor or your college career counselor and practice how you’ll respond once an employer makes you an offer. Make sure your approach is respectful, thoughtful and objective, focused on what value you’ll bring to the company.
If your employer isn’t willing to budge, consider asking for other perks such as stock options or the ability to work from home one day a week. You can also suggest you revisit the conversation in six months, once you’ve proven you’re a great employee.
Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at jwatson1@diverseeducation.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson.