I asked a recruitment specialist what advice she would give to a new graduate about negotiating their salary for the first time and she said, “A graduate should not try to negotiate their salary on their own – especially if they’ve been sent to an interview by an agent.”
Missed part 1? Read it here: How to negotiate salary basics – part 1
Of course I was completely taken aback by her statement. So I leaned in closer and listened intensely. She told me of a story of a newly graduated accountant that she sent for an interview with a client. This young lady was so desperate to find work that when asked by the employer how much she wanted for the position, she rushed to give them a figure she thought would impress them and improve her chances of getting hired. In the end the company decided to give her more than what she had asked for, but that still wasn’t the highest amount they were willing to pay her for her services.
The company paid her more than what she asked for because they felt bad that she didn’t know what she was really worth. The figure she gave them was nowhere near what the market was paying and far below what they had budgeted for that role! Her advice is simple: “Never give an amount. Wait until you get an offer.” This means that salary negotiations are probably more complex for someone fresh out of college than they are for someone with more experience.
In most cases, rather speak to your agent openly and honestly about your expectations and take their advice into account. They’ll be able to tell you if you’re setting the bar too high or too low. But what do you do in situations where you’re not meeting with an agent?
What can you do to improve your salary negotiation skills when you’re going at it alone?
- Plan and know your budget well - You need to have a clear amount in mind for yourself. How much do you actually need (leave out the fancy cars, cell phones etc.) to earn to cover your monthly expenses?
- Study the market - I can’t stress this point enough. Don’t just Google jobs and their amounts. Read the job description and make sure the skills are the same or similar before you settle on a figure.
- Talk to people - who can help you understand how salary packages in companies are structured (ask anyone whose worked in HR/Payroll). Though a role may appear to offer you less cash in your bank account at the end of the month, you could find that the company makes up for that through the benefits and perks they will add (e.g. medical, pension, travel etc.)
- Consider your career goals – Working for a small organisation allows you to learn new skills fairly quickly making it easier to climb the career ladder. On the other hand working for a larger organisation, offers greater exposure to different areas of specialisation and the opportunity to change departments until you find your perfect fit. This, by the way, is great for a new graduate who’s not yet sure where their talents will be best used in their industry.
Most important of all, you will need to beef up your softening, listening and questioning skills. Negotiations are delicate dealings. First aim to build rapport, then soften every question you have using phrases like “just suppose” or “I’m curious to know.” Connect with your employer first and gently present your suggestions to them in a relaxed way. Go with the flow. You may not have enough experience to engage in a money-for-skill value conversation, but you can always aim to showcase your work ethic, dedication, flexibility and your willingness to add value as their employee.