Negotiating your first salary – a beginner’s guide

So, you’ve graduated, got the grades and you’ve landed yourself an interview. Everything is going great until that dreaded question – “What’s your expected salary?” For years, students have fallen at this hurdle, with some going too high, some going too low and some acting downright rude without realising it. A friend of mine even attended an interview for a non-graduate entry-level role and asked for a whopping £7000 increase on the salary because she was a graduate. Safe to say, she didn’t get the job. How do you do it right then?

Research the salary they’re offering

This first tip might sound obvious, but you might be surprised how many people go into an interview without knowing – regardless of what the role is, check what the advertised salary is. If you can’t find one, contact the company you’re applying to, and they’ll be happy to give you a number. If you have this base number in mind, then you know where you’re starting from and their expectations, and won’t be asking to be paid £25,000 a year for an £18,000 role.

Suss them out – is the salary up for negotiation?

It’s also a good idea to do your research on the company online, as some businesses have a strict no-negotiations policy and might find you a little bit presumptuous if you just ask outright. Good practice in the interview is to wait for them to ask you about salary and your expectations, which is a good sign that negotiations are on the table. If they tell you the salary and move on, it’s probably not up for discussion. If you feel the need to bring up salary yourself, make sure you leave it until the end of the interview. Nothing will get you out of the door quicker than starting with your salary expectations.

Come across as interested in the job and the company, not the money

The big buzzword now is ‘career progression’, so make this the focus of your discussion rather than the actual salary number itself. If you come across as interested in how your career would develop while at the company, as well as the pay structures and tiers that come along with that, you will make yourself seem more employable, and hence make it easier to negotiate a salary in a way that doesn’t make it appear as though you’re just looking for the money.

Finally, make sure you have a reason for wanting that higher salary

Unfortunately, just saying that you’re a graduate won’t quite cut it for this one, as you must show your interviewer why exactly you are so valuable to the company that it justifies you asking for a higher wage. For instance, just leading with your degree isn’t reason enough for a company to want to hire you on a bigger wage, but perhaps you’ve had experience in a similar area on a work experience placement, or there’s a certain skill you acquired through your degree that makes you more useful to a company instead. Remember, if you’re asking for more, you’ve got to have the skills to give extra back.

So, those are the top tips for negotiating a higher salary for your graduate job. However, there’s one top tip which trumps all those above – learn how to read the room. If the interview is going great and you’re getting along with the interviewer, then follow these tips, be respectful and do your research, but don’t push it if you think you’re struggling. Remember, it’s all about career progression, and if you work hard you’ll soon be making your way up through the pay grades!

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