If you’re in the market for a job, you have hopefully been doing your research on the best ways to apply, succeed at interviews, and do everything you can to be a successful candidate. Assuming that all goes to plan, during the interview process, your future boss may well ask for your thoughts on salary.
Salary negotiation is a tough thing to navigate, especially if you’re in an entry-level position and/or new to the process of having a job. However, there’s no shame in being unaware of what you can negotiate.
Read on to learn about the best ways to negotiate a salary as an entry-level applicant.
How Much to Negotiate Salary?
The main question, before even determining how to negotiate your salary, is how much to negotiate for. While you don’t want to undersell yourself, you don’t want to overplay your worth either.
As a general rule, it can help to give your prospective boss a range for your salary—take the average from Glassdoor (or other sources) and give a range that is plus or minus 10%. That can put the control in your boss’s court, but means you won’t be stuck with a salary much lower than generally offered in the current market.
Keep in mind that, as an entry-level applicant, you shouldn’t let your expectations get too high. Most businesses will try to pay you on the lower end of typical price spectrums on the basis of experience.
It can also be a good idea to consider perks, benefits, and bonuses as part of your salary negotiation. These can include things such as medical coverage, holiday entitlement, and insurance.
So, now you’re likely wondering… how can you succeed at salary negotiations?
What to Know Before Negotiating Your Salary
Read on to learn about some of the best ways to negotiate your salary.
Know Your Worth
One of the most important things to consider when negotiating a salary is knowing how much you’re worth. Just because you will be in an entry-level position doesn’t mean that you aren’t worth the additional expense. If the salary that your prospective boss comes back with seems too low, there are ways to continue negotiating.
Use specific examples of what you’ve done and the accomplishments you bring to the table. You can also use evidence of your strengths to try and find a higher number that you can compromise with. Barring that, see if you can talk with your prospective boss to come up with some ideas for a benchmark period. If, for example, after six months you’ve managed to do x, y, and z, they will give you a raise.
Negotiating a salary doesn’t always have to just be a one-and-done sort of experience, so make sure you’re prepared to think outside the box when it comes to handling your salary negotiations.
Know Your Range
We’ve mentioned the importance of researching salary ranges. Whatever they may be, you must also make sure that they meet your personal salary range. This means you need to have an idea of how much you would like to make and how low that number can go.
This is called defining your low point. In other words, it’s the salary you need to make ends meet in your life. How much would you be willing to accept from this job if there was absolutely no better offer to be considered?
The next step is to define the midpoint. This is the value that you could accept making and which would leave you comfortable. Relatively, it will also be in the range of an average salary for your position.
Finally, define your high point. You guessed it—this is the price you would receive if you could have everything go perfectly and the offer is above that usually indicated for the position. While being realistic, this is the price that would allow you to feel like you already managed to impress your boss and get a raise, just for existing.
Now you get to play the fun game of erasing the low point from your brain. The salary range that you will want to strive for is between the midpoint to the highpoint. Use this range when you’re talking to your prospective employer.
How to Negotiate Your Salary as a New Graduate?
Of course, feeling confident enough to negotiate better pay—especially as a starting salary—might seem daunting as a new graduate. If you’ve just left college or university, it’s likely you won’t have much in the way of accolades and skills to show off to your interviewers. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate.
Just because you don’t have the skills (yet) doesn’t mean that you have nothing to bring to the table. After all, they’ve considered you worth interviewing in the first place. Be clear about your work ethic and your enthusiasm for the job. Even if you feel you have nothing to offer or argue for regarding your prospective salary, it’s still considered normal to try to negotiate for a 10% raise right off the bat.
The more confident you feel about negotiating a new salary, the more likely it is that you’ll find success. Practice your speech/pitch to make sure it sounds seamless when the opportunity arises.
Don’t Be Combative
Remember, this is a negotiation, not a battle (even though it might feel like the latter). Do your best to come off as determined, but also reasonable. You don’t want your boss to think you’re difficult to work with when considering whether to hire you. That means being respectful, but without appearing as if you lack a backbone. It’s a fine line to balance, but if you manage to make yourself likable enough to your boss, you will have an easier time of it.
Be polite and don’t demand, ask! No matter if you’re talking to an interviewer, hiring manager, or the boss, you don’t want to step on any toes. Hurting their feelings will quickly lower the success of your negotiation.
Understand What They’re Working With
You may want to negotiate a higher salary, but you might also need to realize that certain places can’t accommodate them. If you’re working with a startup or a smaller practice, it might not be in the budget for them to negotiate. If this is the case, see if you can make up for that lower salary with other benefits, such as working from home some days of the week, extra vacation times, or even signing bonuses.
Research the company and its constraints so that you don’t look like someone who is asking for the moon. Remember, you want to come off as likable and accommodating without accepting simply anything offered to you (especially if it’s lower than what you’re expecting).
Don’t Give Ultimatums
There are very specific situations where an ultimatum is a viable option, but as an entry-level employee at a new job, this will almost certainly not be one of them. If you give an ultimatum, not only does it show the employer that you might be hard to work with, but it also gives them a very easy way to make a decision and tell you ‘no thanks’.
People don’t like being told what to do, and even though negotiating with a potential boss might be seen as a show of strength (especially if you don’t have other options), it isn’t a smart card to play. If they give you an ultimatum, keep in mind that it might be a hard line at that moment. Just because they can’t negotiate your salary as much as you want right then, that doesn’t mean there will never be room in the budget for a raise.
If you enjoy the idea of working at the company and you’re relatively happy with the pay, keep in mind that a “no” at the negotiation table isn’t a “no” for all time.
Tips to Duck Around the Subject
Now that you know ways to handle the negotiation, we’ll briefly look at ways to handle the exact moment you’re asked for your salary range.
Even if you know that you’ll be asked about a salary, when a prospective boss asks you, you might still freeze. It happens, so don’t worry. However, there are certain questions and statements you can make to buy yourself some time to think of a proper answer.
If you’re stuck and not sure what to say, these should help:
- Don’t say that you’d accept any salary. That’s a surefire way to receive a lower-than-average one.
- Turn it around on the interviewer and ask them to give you a range that they have in their budget.
- Don’t give a specific answer too early—especially if you’ve not researched how much you should be making in your position.
- Ask if the salary is negotiable in the first place.
- Ask if there are things you can do/certifications you can gain to increase the salary going forward.