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Most fresh graduates shy away from salary negotiation. In fact, a study revealed that 62% of candidates who recently graduated did not negotiate their salaries. This is despite 74% of hiring managers saying they had room to increase the first salary offer by 5% to 10%. Many fresh graduates fear putting the job offer at risk if they attempt to ask for higher pay. But this is not always the case.
While some companies have set starting salaries, there are some jobs where you may be allowed to negotiate. This is a unique opportunity to exercise your negotiation skills and position yourself as a valuable asset to the organization. In this article, we will share some tips on how to negotiate a higher salary as a graduate when an opportunity arises.
1) Research the market average salary for your target job
Braving to ask for a higher salary is one thing. But how much should you ask for? As a fresh graduate entering the workforce for the first time, you probably have zero ideas how much you’re worth. Even if this is the case, quoting a random figure during a salary negotiation is a no-no. If you intend to walk away with a better salary offer, it’s essential to be prepared by researching the market average salary for your target job.
Market average salary information is the foundation required for successful salary negotiation. This will provide you with the right data that will enable you to set realistic salary expectations. In turn, your chances of achieving a favorable negotiation outcome increase. To understand your worth, you can utilize platforms like Glassdoor, Salary.com, and PayScale. These platforms offer salary details that fit your candidate profile and target job.
2) Avoid negotiating until you receive a job offer
When it comes to salary negotiation, timing is important. If you mention salary too soon, you run the risk of creating the wrong impression that you’re after the paycheck only. Candidates who seem to put money first are less likely to impress employers. So before discussing salaries, you need to display suitability for the position and make sure the job is right for you.
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to leave salary discussions until you receive a job offer. The only exception is if your potential employer asks about the salary you’re looking for sooner in the interview process. When this happens, here are some of the effective ways to respond.
- Deflect the question by asking the company’s salary range for the role.
- Give a realistic salary range based on your research.
- If the interviewer does not demand a hard-figure answer, you can provide a broad response such as being flexible or open with salary negotiation.
3) Build a strong business case
Employers are looking for good value for their money. They want to make sure they get the right person for the job and are willing to offer a fair salary to someone who meets their requirements. As an entry-level candidate, it’s important that you demonstrate that you are worth the employer’s investment during salary negotiation. You can do this by highlighting your unique selling points and using the data from your research to back up your arguments.
Work experience is one of the essential factors affecting compensation. However, don’t worry if you lack the experience required. You can bridge this gap through any work you may have done during your studies, whether that’s paid or unpaid work. Some specific examples include internships, projects, voluntary work, or extracurricular activities. Use this information to build a strong case that would convince employers that you’re worth the investment.
To give you an idea of what a business case looks like in practice, here’s an example.
“Thank you so much for the job offer! I am really excited about joining Company X. However, I would like to discuss the salary. As discussed during the interview, I not only meet the job specified criteria, such as [mention key job info], but I also have [name some of your unique qualifications]. According to my research, the average salary range for an entry-level professional with similar qualifications is $XX, XXX. If you’re able to move the figure to [your desired salary], I’d be happy to accept.”
4) Practice salary pitch
Your salary pitch is an opportunity to convince your potential employer that you are deserving of the salary you are requesting, even if you’re fresh out of college. Apart from a compelling pitch, how you communicate the message is also critical in giving yourself the best chance of success. This can be a challenging task, especially if you have zero to limited salary negotiation experience. Hence, developing your ability for business conversations through learning and practice is imperative. Doing so helps increase your confidence and chances of getting the salary you deserve. Below are some of the effective ways you can practice your salary pitch.
- Practice out loud. This helps you remember your pitch and deliver with more confidence.
- Rehearse with a co-worker, friend, mentor, or career expert who can act as a decision-maker and point out your improvement opportunities.
- Practice in front of a mirror to see firsthand how you present your pitch.
- Use your phone to record your salary pitch. Doing so will enable you to assess and enhance your delivery style.
5) Think beyond the salary
Negotiation does not have to be all about salary, especially for a first job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, benefits make up more than 31% of an employee’s total compensation. So, it’s also important to consider what’s on the table besides money when evaluating a job offer. If your prospective employer is unable to offer higher pay, consider negotiating the setlist of non-monetary benefits they offer and think about what might be worth it to you in the long run. You can negotiate as long as you stay within this list. Some examples of benefits an employer may offer include:
- Flexible working schedule
- Work from home arrangement
- Learning and development opportunities
- Additional vacation time
- Healthcare Benefits
- Employer contributions to retirement savings accounts
6) Be flexible to create a win-win agreement
Even with the best salary negotiation strategies, your first offer may still end up being rejected. When this happens, avoid responding negatively. Instead, take the offer as is in the interim and ask if you can have some time to think about it further. Most employers do offer that timeframe window, so make use of it to review the job offer and evaluate your options. This could be a middle option between your potential employer’s current offer and your initial counteroffer that would provide you with the optimum value.
If the employer believes your initial offer is too high but is not on a tight budget, they may be willing to meet you in the middle. However, if you are unable to establish a mutually beneficial agreement with the employer, it might be wise to walk away. Even if this is the case, remain professional and express your gratitude for the opportunity. The company will appreciate your professionalism and might even consider contacting you in the future if another opportunity that suits your criteria arises.
Your first salary plays a critical role in your long-term earning potential. While salary negotiation can be challenging, it is essential to boost your chances of getting the best first salary offer possible. If you still don’t feel confident negotiating for the first time, you can always reach out to us.