Graduates: 4 Tips for Salary Negotiations

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You’ve graduated and now you are looking for a job. Part of the job hunt is the salary negotiation.

This is a vital part of the process, and you will need to be ready for it. Remember: Your starting salary will form the basis of every other salary you get in the future.

Don’t be unreasonable with your salary negotiations, but don’t sell yourself short either.

Here are 4 tips that can help you make the most of your salary negotiation:

Research First
As they say, knowledge is power and the first step in any negotiation is to gain more knowledge through research.

You need to research comparable salaries and have a firm understanding of your value in the marketplace.

What is typical for employees in your position, with your experience, and in your local geographic area? Each piece is crucial in the negotiation process.

You can’t go into a salary negotiation with a small company in a small town and expect the same pay that you would get at a large firm in New York City.

The cost of living is different, the company size is different, and your role may be different.

There are a number of web sites, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to to, and, that can help you get a realistic idea of what to expect in terms of salary.

Knowing this information can be a huge benefit to you during negotiations.

Negotiate During the Interview
Your first opportunity to negotiate your salary is during the interview. Your goal in an interview is to demonstrate your value to the company.

You must do what you can to help the company to recognize that value and arrive at a compensation package that is commensurate to what you would bring to them.

Avoid revealing what you were paid at your last job. It’s not relevant, especially if this is your first job out of college and your previous jobs were minimum wage jobs and low-skill jobs.

If asked, simply deflect and say that you don’t want to focus on what you were paid at the last job but instead want to discuss what value you can bring to this company.

If you are pressed for an answer, only bring it up after you’ve felt you’ve exhausted all discussion of what you bring to the table.

You don’t want your salary needs up against their preconceived notions of what you offer; you want it up against what you actually offer.

In this case, bring up a range with a $10,000 to $15,000 spread that would make you happy.

Remember, demonstrate value and make sure you’re compensated for it. Don’t let them simply slot you into a position.

Negotiate After a Job Offer
If and when the company offers you a job, get that offer in writing. A verbal offer is a nice courtesy but you will always want an offer in writing so there is no ambiguity.

If you intend to counter, remember that it’s important for the company to understand your counter offer is an informed one.

When you counter, be sure to cite some source of information that became the basis of your counter.

For example, the company offered you a salary for $50,000 a year.

Based on your research, someone with your skill set and experience would typically expect a salary in the range of $60,000-$70,000. Your counter would explain that you wish a higher salary in line with market rates.

The reasoning is crucial. Remember, the hiring manager isn’t spending his or her pocket money; they’re trying to fill a role given the budget constraints.

If you’re the best person for the job and they have room, the reasoning and research (and your demonstrated value during the interview) will give the manager some ammunition to fight for a pay raise.

Simply saying “I want more” will never work.

Remember Total Compensation
Finally, a salary negotiation is about more than just your salary. In some cases, the employer may not have a lot of room to negotiate on the salary because the budget is set.

Make it clear that you are willing to negotiate the benefits package as well. Some of the benefits to consider when negotiating include health care, flex time, and vacation days.

If you can get good flex time, or the ability to telecommute once or twice a week, it might be worth a slightly lower salary.

Ultimately that’s up to you to decide but it’s important to remember these fringe benefits when comparing offers.

Keeping these four tips in mind will help you have a smoother negotiation process and get you a bigger salary.

Good luck!

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