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For Graduates: How To Negotiate That First Job Offer

May 23, 2011

Negotiating your salary

This guest post is part of a series for new grads, written by the career experts at our sister company, CareerBeam. Read on for tips about handling the negotiations for your first job, from Christa Juenger, a CareerBeam Career Management Fellow.

Christa Juenger, CareerBeam

By Christa Juenger

Congratulations, you have a job offer – but now what do you do? Negotiating in and of itself does not get relationships off to a bad start, but a poorly managed negotiation can cause unnecessary conflict. There is a protocol for negotiating that needs to be adhered to during the process.

Here are the guidelines to follow:

  • Do not accept the first offer immediately. Request that you be given time to consider the offer and discuss it with family. Ask how much time they can permit.
  • Do not expect them to give you a lot of time but do not offer to get back to them in a day if they will give you four days. Let them define the timeframe you have rather than imposing one on yourself.
  • Do not negotiate over the phone if at all possible. It is more difficult to judge the other party’s response to your negotiating tactics over the phone. Being able to read and react to non-verbal language is very beneficial in negotiation. When you call to schedule a negotiation meeting, say that you are pleased to have received the offer and reiterate your confidence in being able to make a significant impact on the organization. State that you have several items you would like to discuss in person.
  • Do not position your negotiation strategy on past compensation if your salary history is not reflective of the new salary you are trying to obtain. Instead, position your negotiation to address the value of what you can do for the employer and the value you place on your abilities. If your past salary has been confined to standard incremental raises that are not reflective of your actual performance, discuss your salary requirements as they relate to your ability to outperform and exceed expectations. Request a slightly higher salary than the one offered (typically 10-15% higher) and offer justification for this adjustment.
  • Do not negotiate more than once. If an employer meets your stated salary requirements, it is considered inappropriate to push for more. If the employer is unable to meet your stated salary requirements, inquire about possible adjustments that may be affordable in other areas of compensation. For example, if salary is non-negotiable, might there be flexibility regarding vacation, continued training, benefits or perks. Another way to reposition the negotiation process if your salary requests are not met is to request increased responsibilities to justify a higher salary or ask for a performance review within six months instead of waiting a full year.

It is more difficult to judge the other party’s response to your negotiating tactics over the phone.

There are certainly exceptions to the above guidelines. Some employers do not negotiate offers at all. When this is the case, employers will typically state this up front. They will also be forthright with the budgeted salary parameters. Some employers adhere to hiring procedures that prohibit negotiation for equal employment reasons. When you receive an offer from one of these employers, it is considered inappropriate to engage in negotiation strategies. The good news is that these employers will almost always make their policies known up front.

More Tips and Suggestions:

Negotiation begins the minute one side wants something the other side is not ready to grant.

You really begin negotiating when you present your credentials in a way meant to convince the employer to make the offer. They’ve got the position. You want the position. Once they’ve made the offer, they want the acceptance. You’ve got the final answer. They want the final answer.

You are not adversaries. You are collaborators. Your mutual goal is a win-win solution.

Once they’ve made the offer, they want the acceptance. You’ve got the final answer. They want the final answer.

Stephen Covey’s chapter on win-win relationships develops this work principle beautifully. Your goal is to work together with the employer to find terms that both parties feel good about. It can even work very well for you to voice this intention.

You do not need to close the deal in one conversation. Instead, seek to expand the conversation to explore possibilities.

Again, because the offer is often seen as the end of the process and not the beginning, there is a strong tendency to want to get it over with. Resist this temptation. A few more days of patient, focused work will bring rewards beyond dollars.

CareerBeam is the industry leader in Virtual Career Success Centers for colleges and universities, providing assessments, resume and cover letter development tools, search strategies and research databases and integrating them into one online portal.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Landing That Entry Level Work May 26, 2011 at 3:52 am

The first rule of negotiation is knowing whether you have anything of value to give to the trading partner to trade for what you consider valuable. The trading partner must consider what he's giving up to be of less value than what you're giving him in exchange for it. Graduates fail to see this picture only too often. They don't know how to trade, because they come to an interview expecting to receive rather than ready to give.

Until they learn to arrive to the meeting ready to give, give, give, they will not know how to ask or receive. They'll just take what's given to them.

So rather than thou shalt not's, there should be far more thou shalt do's.

Do demonstrate your flexibility to receive compensation in a variety of forms.
Do offer to do more than the job requires for the same base pay, but…
Do inquire how much flexibility there is in compensation and keep digging.

Offer to trade one benefit for another. Overtime for student debt relief, for example. Find a way to stand out during negotiations by giving in order to receive.


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