How To Negotiate – Tips for Recent Graduates
By Priscilla Beth Baker
How exactly do you learn to negotiate? Negotiating anything does not come naturally to most of us, least of all recent graduates from college who are ecstatic just to have a job offer in hand. What follows is some overall advice to pass along to your children regarding how best to negotiate salary offers they receive from employers:
First, make a budget for your overall expenses. Then, ask yourself, “What are my value-statements to pose to an employer? What am I bringing to the table that is unique to my background? What is reasonable and fair based on my research for this field in this part of the country?” Do your homework and figure out the going rate for someone in a similar position with your background.
The very first question to ask a potential employer is, “Is this negotiable?” Sometimes it’s not because the employer has done their research and/or they are offering a fair salary or at the top of their cap.
The second question is “Tell me a little bit more about how you arrived at this number.” They might have forgotten some piece of your background or what you can specifically offer them. You will get a sense of how hard you can push based on their answer.
Consider salary versus the experience you are going to receive with that employer. It may be worth it to take a slight pay cut if the experience will mean you are able to launch into other better career opportunities later.
You need to negotiate when the offer comes out initially – you cannot accept an offer and then hope to negotiate. And the danger in not negotiating is far-reaching, potentially leading to gender, diversity, and minority salary-gap issues. Assert yourself all across the board, but make sure you do so professionally.
It is perfectly reasonable to ask (particularly if they can’t bump up the salary) for added benefits such as a signing bonus, relocation expenses, more vacation time, the option of telecommuting, technology (laptop/phone), a raise in salary contingent on a 6-month performance review, etc. You can also use the fact that you have another offer on the table as a negotiating tactic. You do not need to give all the details of the alternate offer.
Consider how you would handle the question: “What salary are you expecting to receive?” Your answer can be flipping it on them: “What do you think is fair compensation for what I am bringing to you?” or you can say, “I have done some research on the market value and have found the range to be X to Y.” You do not want to give a number that might end up being way too low or way too high.
Keep in mind: you don’t want to run the risk of an employer pulling an offer off the table based on your behavior while negotiating. It absolutely does happen. If you handle it well, it shows you have good negotiating skills and professionalism and that you are comfortable advocating for yourself.
You cannot blame the company for a low-ball offer if you don’t proceed to have a conversation about it. They expect that conversation. And make sure that conversation is in person or on the phone and not via email. There is too much room for misinterpretation. Have talking points ready on paper in preparation so you make sure you cover everything you want to say and to combat the potential anxiety associated with negotiating.
Remember: it is both unethical and unprofessional to accept an offer and to continue looking for positions. It not only makes you look bad, but it makes your university look incredibly bad and that company will be unlikely to post positions there in the future. And companies talk, so if you burn bridges and want to change jobs in the future, it is entirely possible that your actions will affect you later.
And finally: always ask for more than you want (without being outlandish in your request) – you are going to settle somewhere in the middle!
Some helpful sites to use for research on salary data:
Comparing offers? Use online paycheck calculators to better understand your paycheck:
How does the cost of living affect your salary?
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