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How to negotiate a better starting salary

Janet Sun | March 17, 2014

After you’ve finished up your final days as an undergraduate, you’ll need to start looking for full-time employment to start you career. One of the most important aspects of finding work is the interview process, where you may find yourself in salary negotiations with the recruiter or hiring manager. These conversations can make or break your start in the workforce and it’s important to be adequately prepared.

Here are some helpful tips to guide you along the negotiation process.

Know your value
You’ve endured college courses and worked at viable internships, which have given you ample experience in the working world and prepared you for full-time employment. At this point, you’ve probably also sent out about three dozen resumes and applications to companies and are waiting to hear back from recruiters regarding your candidacy. By now, you know the skills and knowledge you can bring to a position in order to make a positive impact on the business’ performance. When you’re trying to determine your value for salary negotiations, you should take a few things into consideration. First, you need to know how much the company is willing to pay its top job candidate. From there, you can figure out how valuable your abilities are and place a rough estimate on the monetary value your skills are worth. Finally, you have to be personable and adaptable to new environments to successfully thrive in the workforce.

Research salaries
When companies look to hire graduates, they’re more than likely hoping to offer you a low-ball salary which is considerably less than the average pay at the position. Freshly graduated, they’ll believe you don’t know enough or haven’t conducted any research on typical starting salaries for a particular job. Prove them wrong by using websites such as Glassdoor and Indeed, which allow employees to anonymously report salary data for positions at their respective companies. These sites compile the information and calculate averages based on the data provided to them. From there, when you sit down for an interview, you can comfortably negotiate a better starting salary with the recruiter.

Have two numbers in mind
It’s a good idea to have two salaries in your head when you sit down to negotiate a salary for college graduate jobs. On the one hand, you have a minimum – the lowest amount you’ll accept. This is the salary you want to hold on to as a safety net in case the initial offer is far lower than what you expected. The minimum should represent the absolute least amount of money you need to get by financially, in terms of paying bills, rent or buying groceries. On the other hand, you have a target – the highest number you want. The target represents your high-ball salary that’s typically a few thousand dollars over what you really need. Think of it like your reach school – it’s a dream salary you don’t entirely expect to receive but still want to test the waters in case they accept.

Be confident
Recruiters and hiring managers make their living talking to candidates in one-on-one interviews. They’ve seen every kind of applicant come through their office and can read a person like a book. If you give any indications that you’re not confident in the negotiations, they’ll seize that moment of weakness and hold onto it. They’ll have the advantage knowing you’re not secure in your dealings and figure they can get your skills for a very small price. Whatever you do, emit as much confidence as possible when in salary talks. Maintain eye contact and speak in clear but concise tones while keeping your back straight and head up. Even make an effort to smile a lot. Discuss the expertise and knowledge you can bring to the role and the problems you’re looking to solve if given the opportunity.

Make it official
After all is said and done, you’ve got the verbal salary offer from the manager and are flying on cloud nine. But before you start to plot out your next financial moves, you need to get that official offer in writing from management. While most companies wouldn’t backpedal after making an offer, it can happen from time to time. To protect yourself from any possible mistakes, ask for an offer letter that clearly states the agreed upon salary and have it signed by the recruiter, yourself and a witness. It covers all of your tracks and solidifies your starting salary at the number you worked so hard to get. Don’t let it slip away – get it documented.

Category: Career News, Careers, College Life, Jobs

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