How to negotiate even if it's your first job

Most people are scared of negotiations.

They think that negotiating a salary will blow their chances at the job. They usually rationalize it by saying:

“I have to pay my dues. Then the money will come”

That used to be me too.

I thought my work would speak for itself and I would get a fair compensation soon enough.

Then I started noticing everything around me.

People with my same experience (sometimes even less) doing the same work (something even less too) were getting paid more than I was.

I also noticed that sometimes those people were getting better opportunities than I was. It was like they (management) valued them more!

Since then I’ve been better about negotiating. Not only have I negotiated my salary, but I’ve also helped others negotiate theirs.

Recently I came across a thread from someone in Big 4 wondering if they should negotiate their salary and I decided to write a response. The background info isn’t too important but I’ve included it for your benefit. If you want to get to my approach to salary negotiation, just scroll down for the info.

This email includes the exact scripts you can use to negotiate your own salary so it's very detailed.  

I am due for a promotion to senior at a B4 (large market) contemplating jumping to another B4 (same large market, same line of service but with another specialized group I want to get into – the very reason I’m leaving), possibly going in as a senior. I’m not so concerned about the title at this point since realistically, managers and senior managers don’t really care who gets the work done, but I do have a question about salary negotiation. When asked about my current salary, I was honest (and perhaps dumb) and put in my actual salary, which I know is under market by a good amount given the unique conditions when I joined. I can’t disclose too much without identifying myself, but my current firm tried to make it up to me by giving me huge bonuses to get me closer to what I should be getting (which I’d also reported to the recruiter). My dilemma is this: I understand that the base salary jump from staff to senior is usually quite significant, but the new offer coming in is roughly 10% lower than what I’d expect to get as a senior at my current firm. The new firm possibly just saw how low my current base is and thought that a 15% increase would be fair for anyone getting promoted to senior. For what it’s worth, the new firm seemed to like me and expressed their need for someone with my background, but I don’t know how much room I have when it comes to negotiating my salary. Any advice would be appreciated – thank you!

So for starters, there is always room for negotiation. Ideally when they asked you what you were making your response should have been “Before we start talking about salaries, I want to make sure we’re the right fit”

I personally have used the “Wait, this is like a first date. Let’s make sure we both like each other. Once we figure that part out then we can start talking about having joint checking accounts” with great results. It gets a chuckle to lighten up the mood and gets the point across.

Now, since you told them what you’re currently making, most companies focus on giving you a bump from your previous salary. In reality, they should determine what the going rate is for the job they need filled. It’s to their benefit that they pay you a small bump from your previous salary especially if that means it will be in the lower side of their range.

Once you’ve determined that they like you and you like them, then you can start the negotiation phase. So this is what you’ll do: 1. Determine what the salary range for this new job will be. You can do this by checking any of the websites out there (,,, etc.) If you’re comfortable with this then you go to step 2.

In step 2 you determine what is it that you really want. Most people will say more money since that’s an easy marker but maybe you determine what you really want is more days off. Or maybe you want to work from home. What do you really value?

Make 3 or 4 choices and quantify them. Do you want 5 days off and $10k more? Or would you rather have 1 work from home day? You determine what’s best for you and write it down.

A lot of the other posters have already told you that money isn’t everything or that in the grand scheme of things $10k isn’t a lot. And that’s true. Theoretically you will work at least 2,000 hours a year (40 hours * 50 weeks with the other 2 weeks as vacation). We all know that you’ll definitely be working more than 40 hours a week if you’re in Big 4.

So if our estimate is true, a $10k raise is $5 an hour. A measly $5 more an hour! You can probably steal more than $5 worth of post it notes if you wanted.

If you meet with an employer that balks at giving you $5 more an hour in the negotiating phase, a time when ideally you’re at your most powerful position, what else will they refuse once you’re working for them and you ask them to pay for CPE or to sponsor you for a conference?

Once you have part 1 (salary range) and part 2 (what would you like) together, it’s time to practice. Since you’re asking for advice I’m assuming you have limited experience negotiating. I suggest you practice in front of the mirror this script

“Hi Name of Recruiter!

I’m calling because I want to talk about the details of the offer letter. I’m excited to start working with you so I want to make sure we take care of this so there aren’t any delays later. “

At this point the recruiter will probably ask what about the offer letter you want to talk about and that it’s a very generous offer they’re making you.

Make sure you do this next:

“I have questions about the 1. The compensation and 2. Vacation days are you the correct person to make a decision on this?”

You can replace my #1 and #2 with whatever your top choices are. I’m just using those for example purposes.

You have to keep in mind most recruiters don’t have the power to approve salary terms. However they do have the power to tell you no. Make sure get to the decision maker and not a gate keeper.

The recruiter will then tell you who the person in charge is. If they don’t ask.

“Can you tell me who I should talk to then? Can I have their contact information?”

Once you get their info, email them basically the same script as above. Ask when would be a good time to talk for 10-15 minutes about it.

See script below:

Hi Boss of Initial Recruiter,

I recently received an offer letter and I am very excited about the opportunity. There are two issues I would like to discuss before I sign and I was told you were the appropriate person to talk to.

Let me know when would be a good time to speak on the phone for 10-15 minutes so we can go over the compensation package.

You can reach me via email or at XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Thank you!

Mr/Ms On My Way To Negotiating A Pay Raise

Once you get on the phone with that person make it clear what you want and the proof you have. This will include the salary range stated in the job ad where you found the job, your research on salary ranges, and what you want.

Start by using this script:

Thank you for taking the time to talk with me Recruiter Boss. I have some questions about my offer letter I’d like to go over with you. I see that the salary is $X. According to the research I’ve done, the salary range posted by you guys in the job description, and what I bring to the table, I was thinking that $X+1 was really more in line.

Pause and wait for a response. They will probably tell you that that’s where they start all of their new hires at. Continue.

I understand. However, I’m not just like any new hire. I have (start listing your qualities and what you’re bringing to the table). That is why I’m so excited to be working for Name of Big 4 Firm, because I know I will be treated fairly.

By this time they will probably start to believe it themselves that you worth what you’re asking and tell you that they have to run it by the partner first.

Thank them for their time and ask them when you should follow up again. And then follow up again at the agreed time.

They’ll typically come back with an updated offer closer to what you were asking. If you are satisfied with that, thank them and sign the offer letter.

If you’re not, consider if it’s a deal breaker for you. Yeah, getting experience is great and all, but you also have to be paid fairly.

Do you really want to work for a company that doesn’t value your work and time? The decision is up to you.

Also, many of these posters will try to scare you into believing that your offer will be retracted if you try to negotiate. I have never heard of any firm retracting an offer because someone started negotiating. If they did, it was probably for other reasons.

It’s time to treat your career like a CEO would. Do you think the CEO of your Big 4 Firm just went in and took whatever offer they gave him? I doubt it. So if he doesn’t, why should you?

Be Bold!


PS: Before you try to do this, practice in front of a mirror or record yourself with your phone. Make sure you sound confident and sure of yourself before you call.

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