Yes You Can! Negotiating Your First Job Offer

By Aubrey Bach

Negotiating Your First Salary

Photo credit: 401K Calculator / Flickr

Most college seniors and recent grads are shocked to find out that they can indeed negotiate their first job offer. Early salary negotiations aren’t just nice to have, they’re vital when it comes to your long-term financial well-being, your overall career path, and the way your employer looks at you from day one. Negotiating your first salary isn’t easy, but when done correctly, it’s something that you’ll be thankful you did for the rest of your career. Here are xx facts about negotiating your first job offer that might surprise you, but definitely will help you earn more money at your first job.

1.) Recruiters and hiring managers expect you to negotiate.

Negotiation is part of the hiring process, no matter how much or how little experience you have. Almost every time you receive a job offer, there is a little wiggle room built in for you to negotiate that number up. Occasionally you will find yourself with an offer from a company that has extremely limited budget, or simply doesn’t budget at all on starting salaries, but those are the exceptions to the rule. And even if you don’t end up getting the increase you ask for, but end up taking the job because you think it’s a good career opportunity, negotiating your offer to ensure that you get a fair salary shows your new employer that you are a business-minded, skillful communicator who does their research. That is a valuable skill no matter what you are doing.

2.) Employers don’t rescind offers because you negotiate.

One of the most common questions I come across when I speak to college students about negotiating is “But what if they get mad that I ask for more money and take back the offer?” I’m here to tell you that that is pretty rare. Salary negotiation is a normal, accepted part of the hiring process, and most of the time, the worst the recruiter or hiring manager can say is “No, we can’t pay that much.” As long as you are professional and polite, and asking for a well-researched salary number (based on a PayScale Salary Report), you won’t hurt anybody’s feelings just for asking. If you ever do find yourself in that situation, you may want to question whether or not that was a good place to work in the first place.

3.) You can (and should) take time to think over an offer.

Getting your first job offer is exciting. It’s a huge life step! So the last thing you want to do is take that leap without thinking it over. When you receive a verbal job offer, take a deep breath and ask how much time you have to accept. Always ask for the job offer in writing so that you can carefully review all of the details with a clear head. And if you have any questions about the offer, ask. If the salary they offer is less than the number you researched, use the waiting period (usually between one to three business days) to practice asking for the salary you do want.

4.) Negotiate your total compensation.

What does “total compensation” mean? Total compensation includes salary, bonuses, benefits, equity, your schedule and vacation time and education and growth opportunities. If an employer doesn’t have the budget to pay you more in salary, they may be able to move resources around for what HR professionals call variable comp, like a signing bonus or a bonus based on your performance throughout the year. You can also ask for more paid time off, since that doesn’t cost them more money and improves your quality of life. If you are ambitious and in a role you think you will excel in, you can even ask to have your reviews more often so that you will be eligible for a promotion or raise sooner.

Finally, don’t forget about educational opportunities. These can range from further education (some employers will pay all of or part of the cost of an advanced degree or certificate) to the opportunity for training on specific skills or to attend key conferences. These may not increase your paycheck immediately, but will make you a more valuable employee who commands a higher salary at your next review.

5.) Don’t throw out the first number.

It is totally normal, and should be expected, for a recruiter or hiring manager to ask you how much you want to earn in a job early on in the application process. However, it’s also totally normal, and highly recommended, that you try NOT to give the first number. If you name a salary that is too high, you might unintentionally throw yourself out of contention for the job. If you name a salary that is too low, you just gave them a lower starting point for their eventual job offer.

Recruiters aren’t the enemy, but they are experienced negotiators, so may make it difficult to avoid naming a salary first. Additionally, many online applications make desired salary range a required field, and those are pretty challenging to overcome. If you absolutely cannot avoid disclosing a salary range, use PayScale to determine a number that makes sense.


Author

Aubrey Bach is the Senior Editorial and Marketing Manager at PayScale.com and writes for PayScale about salary, higher education and career strategy. She is a recovering Diet Coke addict who grew up on the mean streets of Orange County, CA, but since coming to Seattle in 2007 has embraced everything the city has to offer (except, of course, the weather).

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