‘How do I Negotiate My First Salary?’ The Best 10 Salary Negotiation Tips for Recent Graduates

By Patrick Banks

Posted 4 months agoGROWTH

As a graduate, you may recoil from asking for a higher salary when negotiating your job offer because you’re afraid you’ll come off as greedy and demanding. You might also be scared of not having enough training and experience to justify a higher salary in the employer’s eyes.
How do I Negotiate My First Salary- the Best 10 Salary Negotiation Tips for Recent Graduates

Salary negotiations can be daunting. Especially when you’re a fresh-faced graduate with limited work experience or internships, and without negotiation training.

So how can you approach negotiating for a better salary?

Conduct Research

You’re setting yourself up for failure if you go to an interview with insufficient research. When asked what kind of salary you want, when you aren’t prepared, you might give vague answers, leading to appearing unprepared and unsettled. The hiring manager may pick up on your discomfort.

To avoid faltering and hedging, it pays to do your homework. The research could be as easy as talking to a friend in the same industry. If your friend holds a similar position to the one you’re applying for, ask about their salary. You can be subtle by asking for a salary range instead of an exact figure.

Use sites like Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, and Payscale.com to check how well the company pays for that position. Also, check the typical salaries of competitors and other companies that hire for similar types of jobs.

You can also delve deeper into the company you’re interviewing with. For how long have the employers been looking to fill the position? Find out if the company has had recent layoffs. It may be unwise to ask for a large salary raise when the company has been making huge budget cuts. So, it’s important to base your expectations on what is reasonable.

Asses Your Value

Ask yourself, “What do I have to offer?” The most critical information hiring managers care about is your input into the company. Justify your salary increase with a satisfactory reason. Maybe you have post-graduate training relevant to the position, or you have transferable experience from a previous internship.  

Find ways to explain what stands to make you one of the company’s most prized assets despite a potential lack of job experience. Show the recruiters the critical areas in the company that you can improve with your skill set, degree knowledge, fresh approach and personality traits which should not be underestimated. 

Practice

It’s important not just to have your points prepared, but to rehearse them to perfection. While you want to appear natural when you speak, it’s important to know your arguments well to ensure this part of the interview runs smoothly. 

When composing your salary negotiation speech, be concise and avoid the fluff. Make sure your salary request is brief, straight to the point, and delivered tactfully.

To increase your confidence for when the time comes, act out a simulation with a friend. Having a friend help you prepare can allow you to discover potential objections the employer might have. Simulating the interview allows you to create reasonable responses for each complaint. 

Show Confidence

Asking for an increase in salary is an act of confidence for a recent graduate. When well-executed, boldness shows you’re sure of your abilities and know the value that you’ll bring to the company. In many cases, the perception is that outstanding performers negotiate, and the poor performers don’t. 

The secret to building confidence is to appear confident, even if you’re scared to death in the moment. The more you act confident, the more you begin to feel confident. 

Fake It Until You Make It – Body Language Tips to Seem More Confident:

  • Maintain an open posture. Lean in and listen actively
  • Hold eye contact to avoid looking uneasy and anxious
  • Ease the tension by smiling
  • Fix your feet to the ground to show resolve
  • Relax your body. Avoid fidgeting
  • Speak slowly to project calmness and confidence

If you exude confidence, you’re more likely to leave a lasting impression on the recruiters. Your show of confidence through your body language could lead to your salary request being granted.

Avoid Making Demands

Sometimes the offer may be way too low for you. Feeling that you deserve better compensation, you might feel frustrated. In such a situation, it’s important to be positive. Aim to be persuasive but not too desperate. Use a calm but firm tone. 

Too often, graduates make the mistake of framing requests to sound like ultimatums. When delivered poorly, a request for higher pay may come off as greedy or entitled. 

Leverage on Your Past Experience

You probably have more relevant experience beyond your new academic qualification. Life experiences and supplementary courses such as professional licenses, military experience, on-the-job training, or sales training can add value to your resume. 

Even the summer job you had in high school can boost your chances by showing you have a work history and work ethic. Use these past experiences to market your skill sets. Demonstrate to the recruiters how past experiences developed your skills and expertise.

Negotiate Perks and Benefits

For today’s graduates, the pay package is not always about the salary. Yes, more money is satisfying, but there’s a lot more to a job offer package than just cash. Explore if there are any:

  • Relocation allowances
  • Paid vacation days
  • Flexible hours
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Training opportunities
  • Bonus schemes

Perks and benefits can mean you gain value by either saving money elsewhere or enjoying convenience and rewards. Find out what’s relevant to you, and consider if there’s room to negotiate these perks in your favor. 

If you’re not happy with the working hours, then negotiate for more vacation days, fewer hours, or a day per week of working from home. Phrase your words well, or risk appearing uninspired and lazy for asking for more vacation time. 

Ensure you back your requests up with reasoning. So, you might explain how working from home one or two days a week can increase your productivity as you will be spared a long commute on these days.

Be Prepared to Make a Compromise

Some companies only increase salaries of working employees and not recent graduates or other new employees. 

In such a case, propose a semi-annual review instead of the annual surveys that most companies have. If the company is impressed by your work, they could consider you for an increase sooner than had you not requested a review to be brought forward.

Making a compromise can accomplish two things:

Gives the company enough time to review your work and time to get you up to speed with their demands.

Shows the recruiters you’re focused on advancing your career and confident in your skills.

Request for More Time

You’ve made your offer. You want a 7.5% increase, but the employers are only willing to offer 3%. You’re confused. It’s an increase, but it’s not exactly what you wanted. Do you accept or reject the lower offer?

Neither, at first. Whether you’re negotiating in person or by other communication, it’s important to ask for more time. 

In reality, recruiters expect you to take a few days to think about the offer. Don’t be in a hurry. Think about your needs. Is the salary offered enough to fulfill your needs until the next annual or semi-annual review? 

In some cases, the company needs to fill the position quickly. Maybe an employee quit unexpectedly, and normal work needs to resume. In such a case, don’t keep the recruiter waiting for too long. Still, ask for some time to avoid impulse decisions. Even 10 minutes in the hallway can work to clear your thoughts before committing. 

Prepare for a “No”

You might use all the above steps well. The company might express the desire to hire you, but on terms you find unfavorable. You might even try to meet the interviewer in the middle and make them an alternative offer. Yet, the interviewer may still decline your request. It’s normal. 

If you get a “no,” express your gratitude for the opportunity and be positive.

Look on the bright side. You have gained some additional experience in negotiating your salary. Keep in mind that the right company is out there. After all, you don’t want to toil in a job where you might feel undervalued for years.

Having an alternative can give you the courage to decline an unfavorable employment contract. Negotiation trainers refer to a best alternative to negotiated agreement (BATNA) as a way of lining up a backup plan. Some BATNAs you may have as a recent graduate may include:

  • An option to go back to college for advanced studies
  • An opportunity in academia rather than in corporate careers
  • A family-owned business that can accommodate your skill sets
  • A business plan to start your own venture

Even where you don’t have a ready alternative, submitting your job application to competing firms keeps your options open. Walking away from one offer can provide you a realistic figure on which to base your next salary negotiation. 

Final Thoughts

Consider that the cost of living is rising every year and that each raise is calculated as a percentage of your previous salary. By negotiating for a higher starting salary, you’ll probably end up better off than your colleague who didn’t negotiate in just a few years. 

After your first salary negotiation, you may get the confidence to negotiate more and more. You likely won’t accept a meager salary anymore, and you won’t work a job you don’t enjoy. 

Salary negotiation can be more than how much money you take home. Negotiation may make the difference in what kind of on-the-job training you receive, how fast your career grows, and how much you enjoy your job. The salary for your first few roles usually determines your salary trajectory for the rest of your career.

About the author Patrick Banks

Patrick is a Berlin-based dating advisor, motivational speaker, a huge fitness and vegan diet enthusiast and the main editor at Wingman Magazine, specialised in men's health. His ultimate goal is to share with men around the world his passion for self-development and to help them to become the greatest version of themselves. He believes a healthy body and successful social interactions are two main keys to happiness.

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