To negotiate or not? Are entry-level salaries negotiable?

Young graduates often shy away from negotiations or sell themselves short while negotiating their first salary. Who would blame them? They are just newbies, confused as what to do. They probably want to be perceived as modest beings or don’t want to jeopardize their chances of getting hired by making a high salary demand. Yes, you can actually negotiate your salary even if it’s your first job!

Most companies will not tell you straightaway what salary they are willing to pay but you can be sure they already have one because entry-level starting salaries are basically set. However, they will give you an open cheque to state your salary expectations. Usually, at this stage (entry-level), most candidates don’t have enough to offer that will make an employer budge. Nevertheless, if you are certain that you have a bargaining leverage (for example, you majored in a sought-after field, have a good internship experience or you have developed some rare skills very much in demand among employers), put some value on it and prove that you can deliver! If not, stick with the set starting salary.

How do you make sure you don’t shoot yourself in the leg while negotiating?

You don’t need to be a born negotiator to be good at it. Here are 3 smart ways you can fetch yourself a better deal:

  1. Research and know the appropriate salary range for the role you apply for beforehand. To do this effectively, you need to fully understand the job description and expectations. If possible, find out the overall salary structure of the potential company. This will help you decide what you want to earn and the least you are willing to settle for. Practice your negotiation in advance.
  2. If the hiring manager does not initiate salary discussions, subtly ask if there are any rooms for that, then go ahead and tell them your expectations for the pay package. Asides salary, you can also consider the full compensation package e.g. benefits, bonuses etc. If the offer is below your expectations, do not express your disappointment rather follow up with the third point below.
  3. Make a strong case that proves your worth to the hiring manager. Show them why it makes sense for them to give you a higher salary. Go to your interview prepared to tell them or answer questions about your achievements, competencies, qualifications, etc. and how those will help you add value to the company. Remember they are not just interested in your stories but how that will translate into value for the company. Try not to sound conceited while doing this.

Word of advice: If they say no, how far you are willing to push? Pushing further after you have been turned down might not be necessary. You should either accept the offer or walk away and find another opportunity that will pay you what you deserve. But if you are going to accept the offer, ensure that it is something you are comfortable with. You don’t want to be frustrated later when you realize that you can’t meet your basic needs. This can affect your productivity at work.


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