Mustering the courage to negotiate salary is hard enough for seasoned jobseekers, leave alone new ones, but the right advice can make the task vastly easier. Once the employer has made an offer, it is up to you to agree to the terms mentioned in the offer letter. That is the right time to take up the issue of salary.
One of the biggest conundrums facing new jobseekers is whether it is acceptable to negotiate your first salary. After all, quoting too much may lead the employer to pick someone else, while agreeing to a number too low may leave you feeling frustrated.
The Monster My First Job survey reveals that the desire to earn more money is the second biggest reason why people to quit their first jobs (26%).
So should you or should you not try negotiating your first salary? The answer depends on several factors.
When is it okay to negotiate your first salary?
While experienced employees are generally encouraged to negotiate their pay, the same rule does not apply to first-time jobseekers. A couple of factors must be taken into account. Many companies have a fixed starting salary, in which case there is little choice but to accept the offer. Other companies may have fluid salary structures, allowing some scope for negotiation.
A good rule of thumb is to negotiate only if you think the pay is low. Don’t negotiate for the sake of negotiating. Secondly, it is sensible to enter into talks only if you have some leverage, like a rare skill or a specialised degree. No one is going to pay you more for a regular college degree and internship experience.
How to negotiate your first salary
If you have a strong reason to believe you deserve more than what is being offered, don’t hesitate to ask for it. But ensure you are well prepared when you sit down to negotiate. Not being able to justify yourself could provide a strong reason to your employer to withdraw the offer.
Do your homework
Your success at the negotiating table depends on how well you can argue your case, which in turn depends on the homework you have done. See that you base your arguments on solid facts rather than any kind of sophistry or sentimentalism.
Find out the average salary for your position by consulting an online database like the Monster Salary Index or approaching your college placement cell. This should give you a good idea of what to ask for. Secondly, try and ascertain the challenges that your hiring manager faces, and how you can help him/her solve those issues. Pitching yourself as the solution to a problem is an effective way of convincing someone that you deserve more than what is being offered.
Look beyond salary
Many jobseekers ignore the fact that remuneration means more than just salary. Perks and benefits form an important part of your overall package and should be included in the talks. This becomes especially pertinent if the employer rejects your proposal for a monetary hike. Have a clear understanding of what is important to you and ask for those benefits if the salary component can’t be increased. For instance, perks like auto or taxi fare, Metro card, gym membership or restaurant discounts could be useful. You may also want to ask for additional training opportunities as a perk or benefit—it will not only impress your manager, but reap rich dividends for your career.
No matter how your interaction goes, remember to be respectful at all times. Employ strategy and tact, not belligerence and aggression. And be prepared to hear a ‘no’. Rejections and compromises are an essential part of any negotiation, and the sooner you learn to take them in your stride, the better. Being rude to your hiring manager is the surest way to lose your job offer, so don’t slip up on that count.
It is a mistake to evaluate an offer based solely on remuneration for first-time jobseekers. Factors like job role, the experience you hope to gain, the reputation of your manager and the company name could be more important than income at this stage of your career. Finally, it is vital to back your negotiation skills with merit. Since a pay hike will put you under the scanner as far as your boss is concerned, performing well is obligatory when you start on the job.