7 Salary Negotiation Tips for First-time Jobseekers
Salary negotiations can be wrought with anxiety, especially for first-time jobseekers.
Follow these seven simple tips to stay calm and negotiate a salary and benefits package that makes you comfortable and happy with your new position.
Set realistic expectations. First-time job seekers should make a budget to figure out realistically the salary they will need to earn to get by. If you've just graduated and are brand new to the workforce, start with your living situation and what it will cost each month. Do you plan to live with your parents rent-free, or are you moving to an expensive city like San Francisco or New York with a roommate? Understanding what your financial needs will be can help you figure out how much you'll need to bring in.
Assess the value of your skill set. One of the trickiest parts of negotiating your first job is figuring out what the skills you've worked so hard to amass are actually worth in the job market. Online salary calculators are an invaluable resource for any jobseeker but are especially handy for those who don't have a lengthy work history. By inputting the title of your new job, your geographic location, your level of education, certifications and other items, these salary calculators will provide a salary range for your skills that is specific to your location. Other resources, like your college or trade school's career services department, LinkedIn connections, and friends and family can also help you figure out the going salary for your role and how to negotiate a salary and benefits package that will work for you.
Once you have an offer in hand, take a deep breath. Being offered a job means that you are the company's top pick, and now you have the leverage. With this in mind, once you have the job offer in hand, ask for some time to think over the offer. Usually, a prospective employer won't have a problem giving you a couple of days to think over an offer. Crunch some numbers. Calculate the value of other perks, like health insurance, a 401(k) and other fringe benefits, like a company-paid cell phone. These benefits add up and increase the value of the package.
Ask for more. Once you've done your homework and know the value of the package you are being offered, it doesn't hurt to ask for more. Asking an employer for a slight bump in salary isn't greedy or rude; in fact, negotiating is expected at this stage of the game. Remember, the company has spent time and money interviewing candidates to find the perfect person: you. And, since you are the best of the best, the last thing they want is to lose you to the competition.
Don't forget about raises and bonuses. If a company is holding firm on it's salary offer, there are other ways to ensure that your earning power increases year-over-year. Ask about having your raises and bonuses written into your contract. Adding a 3% cost of living increase each year and up to, say, 10% of your salary in performance-based bonuses can increase your wages rather dramatically in a short period of time.
If you are nervous, negotiate by phone or email. For some people, negotiating a salary – especially your first salary – can be extremely stressful. If a face-to-face negotiation is difficult for you, write an email or a telephone script to refer to during a phone call. These negotiations can be especially hard if the offer is legitimately too low but writing out what you need will help you stay on track and ask for what you need. Here's an example of what you might say:
"I am honored that you'd like me to join the company and I am excited about the opportunity, however, I did my research and the salary is less than I expected for this role."
Come prepared with a salary in mind and make it slightly higher than you'd accept. For example, if you need $5,000 more dollars a year in salary, ask for $10,000 more. This is a salary negotiation, after all, and the company will likely make a counteroffer that is lower than what you ask for.
Remain enthusiastic. Even if your negotiation falls apart, stay upbeat and show gratitude for the offer. Sometimes you just won't be able to find a happy medium during negotiations but it shouldn't put a damper on the fact that you have just received your first job offer. Take pride in the knowledge that you are a jobseeker with a strong skill set. Thank the hiring manager for the opportunity and hold your head up. The right role is right around the corner.
Additional Salary Negotiation Resources