Two women having a job interview. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Posted April 20, 2017 by

How to negotiate salary: Must-read tips for female college grads [infographic]


Many recent college grads are unprepared to negotiate salary during an entry-level job interview. And in the long run, they pay the price – financially, that is.

According to a recent Paysa study, younger workers, or those with only 0-2 years of experience, are 42 percent likely to be underpaid. The same Paysa data also found that women in markets across the U.S. are 45 percent likely to be under-compensated while their male counterparts are only 38 percent likely to be under-compensated. Paysa is a Palo Alto, California-based company that uses proprietary artificial intelligence technology and machine learning algorithms to analyze millions of data points, including compensation information, to help employees understand their market salary.

Scroll down to see an infographic that compares the STEM gender gap among all 50 states.

But the reasons for these gender salary discrepancies vary based on a number of factors, however, says Chris Bolte, CEO of Paysa. In many cases inexperienced job seekers – including female recent college grads:

  • Do not know what their value is at that company
  • Do not know how to have a conversation about salary with the hiring manager
  • Are uncomfortable/afraid negotiating for more money due to any number of factors, including being new to the workplace, concerned the offer will be revoked, or because they are interviewing with an intimidating manager.

But there is one glaring difference between young men and women, according to Sylvia RJ Scott, Founder of Girls’ C.E.O. Connection™ (Girl’s Creating Enterprising Organizations), a for-profit social enterprise dedicated to engaging and equipping females as entrepreneurs. In February Scott spoke to a group of young women who were members of the Theta Beta chapter of the Delta Delta Delta sorority at Colorado University Boulder. She discussed the topic of salary negotiation with the group, all juniors and seniors, and will be sharing a salary negotiation reminder checklist before they graduate this spring. Scott says female college grads are often too timid or afraid to boast about their academic, athletic, internship, or related work experiences when negotiating salary during an entry-level job interview.

Their male counterparts? Not so much…

“Males are not afraid to promote their accomplishments,” says Scott. “Women need to do the same. Be confident without being arrogant.”

During an interview, females should focus on explaining how internship, club experiences, or extracurricular activities are relevant to the job, says Scott. Providing employers/interviewers with examples about what was accomplished in those experiences that can be transferred to the real world is key.

“Know what you bring to the table from other experiences in college,” says Scott. “Be prepared to express to the employer how this background fits the job description. Do not hold back on tooting your own horn.”

But keep in mind – most entry-level positions have a set salary, leaving little room for negotiation, says Deb LaMere, Vice President of Employee Experience, Ceridian.

“Gaining a realistic expectation of entry-level salary amounts within similar industries, or the range for entry-level positions – through research and due-diligence – is a first step to determining what a reasonable salary might be and whether or not one has a strong case to negotiate further,” says LaMere.

As women embark on the entry-level job search, they should be prepared to advocate for themselves.

“Define your goals and ensure you have a solid understanding of your current capabilities in comparison to the role you are seeking,” says Linda Taylor, HR Manager at FedEx. “When negotiating or advocating for yourself, be confident that your voice is important. Whether it’s your gender, education, or skills, tap into your unique point of view and showcase how you can help the company succeed.”

When you’re just starting out, it can be difficult to express your ideas or have the confidence to ask for what you want, says Taylor. But women should search for employers who celebrate differences and encourage all team members to be themselves.

“Push yourself to be confident by practicing with little steps that can pave the way to big victories,” says Taylor. “Raise your hand in a big lecture class, ask a question at your first meeting, or conduct proactive research to see how your job offer compares to similar roles at other organizations. As you prepare for a first job, make a commitment to think and act like you would in the role you’re seeking, and stick to this mindset during the interview and negotiation stages.”

Data driven discussion should drive salary negotiations

So how do female college grads overcome obstacles to a fair entry-level salary? Start with research.

Figure out what others like you are making at that company. Paysa offers tools that help job seekers understand what they should be paid at a specific company. Job seekers can also use salary calculators like the one College Recruiter offers.

“Having a respectful, data-driven discussion with the recruiter or hiring manager that highlights your desire to take the job, but also starts the negotiating process, is important,” says Bolte.

Highlight positives of position

During the interview/negotiation, job seekers should cover key points and focus on positives by:

  • Expressing that the job with the company is an awesome opportunity.
  • Expressing how the company mission and values fit your goals.
  • Expressing that you see great learning and growth opportunity and are ready to make an impact/difference.

Present your salary talking points – based on data

Then, when discussing salary, tell the recruiter/employer the following:

  • That you want to be sure to get a competitive market compensation package.
  • That you’ve been conducting research, talked to other recruiters, companies, and professionals in the same industry/type of position, and “it seems that your offer is not as competitive as it needs to be. Specifically, it appears to be approximately <20% – insert real number from research> under market.
  • “What can you do to close that gap?”
  • Wait and listen…..

“At this point, the recruiter or hiring manager may ask you what it will take to close the deal, so to speak,” says Bolte. “I would recommend going back to whatever the broad number is you learned from your research.”

The company will likely get back to you with:

  • An adjusted compensation package the is somewhere between their original offer and your ask.
  • Your full ask.
  • A statement saying that their original offer is the best they can do.

Confidence is key, and also be realistic

“These conversations with managers can seem intimidating/scary but they don’t’ have to be,” says Bolte. But it takes research, dedication and practice to succeed. “Go get it done,” adds Bolte.

When a recent college grad (regardless of gender) is starting out in their career, they may think – through lack of experience – that they should be making more than what’s being offered. But remember, that first job, or entry-level job, is a starting point, says LaMere. If there is room to negotiate on salary on an entry-level position, be reasonable and sensible.  It is important not to price oneself out of the market.

During an interview, when a potential employer asks what would be an ideal salary, a good answer would be: “I would like to learn more about the position first,” putting the onus on the potential employer to be the first to name a number. Once a salary number is on the table, use Bolte’s advice above to approach the topic. Once a final offer is presented, don’t be afraid to take a day or two to think through the position and the opportunities that it offers, beyond just the pay, says LaMere.

“While salary negotiations may be daunting for some new grads, as long as they do their homework about the job and pay range, are reasonable in their expectations and prepare themselves for the process, they will ultimately achieve the success they are seeking – both from an entry-level learning experience to start their career, and their salary compensation, for their efforts,” says LaMere.

Additional salary negotiation and job interview preparation tips for female recent college grads

Like any aspect of the job search, being able to successfully talk about salary, or negotiate salary comes from preparation. Scott offers these salary negotiation tips for female college grads:

  • Reach out to alumni from your school, sorority, or industry-related clubs who have previously held similar entry-level jobs and ask for advice or tips.
  • Get advice from a college career center counselor, many who have resources or experience helping college students and recent college grads with salary negotiations. They also may have contacts within their network who can help.
  • Get advice from female instructors and adjunct professors who know or still work in the industry.
  • Understand cost of living factors: Location and cost of living may play a factor in the salary offered. An entry-level job in San Francisco or New York City may pay more than a job in Biloxi, Mississippi, for example. But make sure whatever salary is offered is relative to the cost of living pending on location.

Female college grads need to know their worth going into the interview/negotiation and show it. Do so by following these tips, from Scott:

  • Walk in with confidence, dress professionally no matter what the position. This is true even if the company is known to dress casual.
  • Practice in front of a mirror and watch the body language. Ask someone to role play as the person doing the negotiation. Try to find a female that has gone through the process, and get her feedback.
  • Be prepared to discuss what else can be negotiated to increase the compensation package if it does not meet expectations/research. Does the company have a tuition reimbursement package, flexible work schedules, more vacation time? It’s worth asking.

The infographic below was created by Hazel Garcia at InvestmentZen. Garcia notes that despite finding women leaders across the U.S. in STEM fields, there is still a fairly large and well documented gender gap between women and men in these lucrative professions.

Which States Have The Smallest Gender Gap In STEM Occupations?


Want more salary negotiation and job search advice? Stay connected to College Recruiter by visiting our blog, and connect with us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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