Survey: Only 36% of candidates negotiate salary when offered a job

64% of respondents to a survey said they didn’t negotiate their salary on the last job they took, accepting the first offer given to them.

Photo: Getty Images

So you’ve got the job, and it’s time to talk money. Do you see the first offer the company gives you as the one you must accept? Or have you done your research on salaries in your market and region and are prepared to ask for more?

According to a new survey, the majority of job candidates choose not to negotiate – a mistake that could cost them a bundle in lost income over the course of their career.  64% of respondents said they “accepted the first salary offer they received the last time they were hired,” according to the ZipRecruiter Annual Job Seeker Survey, which involved 50,000 job searchers. (That percentage almost exactly matches research from Robert Half earlier this year that found 61% didn’t negotiate didn’t negotiate for a higher salary once they got the job).

  • 84% Gen Z workers aged 18-24 accepted the first salary they were offered, making them the group the most likely by far not to negotiate
  • 74% of Millennial workers aged 25-34 accepted the first salary they were offered
  • 59% of Gen X workers aged 45-54 accepted the first salary they were offered
  • 59% of Boomer workers aged 55 to 64 accepted the first salary they were offered

The younger an unemployed worker is, the more they feel “financial pressure” to accept the first job offer they receive, according to the survey.

With unemployment at a record 3.7%, job candidates should use the tight labor market to their advantage, experts say, and should start negotiating for a starting salary early in their careers.

A job seeker’s market

“The historically low unemployment rate means job seekers have a prime opportunity to ask for a higher wage,” said ZipRecruiter SVP of Human Resources Amy Klimek. “Negotiating for even a modest increase in compensation at their first job impacts earnings through the rest of a job seeker’s career.”

Women reported as being less likely to negotiate for higher pay, at least at the last job for which they were hired. 31% of women negotiated at their last hiring as compared with 40% of men.

Want more $? Here’s how

Conversely, for a group in which the majority wouldn’t negotiate more income for themselves from the get-go, the ZipRecruiter survey participants were found to be very driven by pay. The survey also found that participants were motivated the most by money as the most important “form of compensation,” over benefits, 401k, and vacation. 50% of participants actively trying to change jobs said they would stay in their current jobs for more income.

Many people are uncomfortable negotiating because they don’t have much experience doing it or are afraid the offer will be pulled – so make sure to arm yourself with knowledge.

Here’s one story of how someone negotiated their offer upwards by $15,000 without even naming a number. And here are some salary negotiation tips from an expert, and for younger employees, if you forgot or were too intimidated to negotiate at the offer stage, here’s how to negotiate a promotion or a raise at your first job.

Sheila McClear|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at smcclear@theladders.com.