Money is such an awkward subject to broach and discuss. Hairier still is the topic of salary negotiating. But what do you do if this is your first job? Do you haggle or take what you get offered? We found two great articles that argue the two sides of the coin. Read on then tell us which you agree more with or better yet, if you've gone through this, tell us what you did and how you handled it.
Entry-Level Salary (Probably) Isn’t as Negotiable as You Think
By Peter Vogt, Monster Senior Contributing Writer
Even in the best of economic times, salary negotiation is a risky proposition for most new college graduates pursuing entry-level positions.
Sure, you might have some bargaining leverage these days if you’ve majored in a hot field like accounting or engineering, or if you’ve developed some rare skill that is very much in demand among prospective employers. But in more cases than you probably care to acknowledge, starting salaries are basically set, and you just don’t have enough to offer at this stage in your career to make employers budge.
“You can negotiate if you have something extra special to negotiate with,” says Terese Corey Blanck, director of recruitment and placement for Corporate Interns, an internship and entry-level placement firm.
But a college degree and a couple of internships aren’t enough, Corey Blanck emphasizes. “If you’re bringing some special experience or expertise to the table, then give [negotiation] a try,” she says. “But nine times out of 10, the company has to invest more money just to get you up to speed, so negotiating an entry-level salary really shouldn’t be your first priority.”
Use Your HeadThat doesn’t mean you can’t attempt to negotiate an offer you’ve received, especially if you really do think you have something above and beyond to offer a prospective employer. But be careful -- very careful.
“You’ve got to have a rationale for why you believe you should be paid more,” says Sheila Curran, Fannie Mitchell Executive Director of the career center at Duke University and coauthor of Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads.
Moreover, you need to use your head when it comes to how you approach the negotiation itself, says Brad Karsh, president of JobBound and author of Confessions of a Recruiting Director.
“Try once, and only once,” Karsh says. “If they say, ‘We don’t negotiate,’ then end it right there. You run the risk of damaging your reputation -- and risking your offer -- if you go too far.”
Do Your Homework
If, on the other hand, the employer you’re dealing with appears to be open to some negotiation when it comes to your salary and/or other benefits (e.g., bonuses, relocation allowance, tuition reimbursement), feel free to take a shot at it. Know in advance, though, that you’ll need to have completed some pretty extensive research ahead of time to make a compelling case for yourself.
"The key to any negotiation is to do your homework," Karsh says. That means tapping your school’s career center, professional associations in your field and Internet salary sites to get an accurate sense of starting salaries in your industry, in your geographic area and at your level of education and experience.
"Know the market and whether you have the skills or experience that might warrant being paid differently than your peers," Curran says.
It’s also important to pursue your negotiation activities respectfully, employing thoughtful, strategic questions and not overbearing “show me the money” types of demands.
"You can’t go in with an attitude of 'I’m entitled,'" says Corey Blanck, "But, rather, 'I have this specific experience and expertise -- is this something that’s worthwhile to you and, if so, are you open to negotiating a higher starting salary?'"
You may not get what you want. But at least you won’t lose what you already have.
How to Negotiate a Top Salary for an Entry-Level Job
By Sunny Shakula Published September 28, 2010
Recent college graduates should not be frightened away from salary negotiations – even if the economy is sub-par. You think you know your stuff, and want your first entry-level job salary to match your strong skill set? Then brush up on your poker face, beef up your bullets and punch up your CEUs [Continuing Education Units] because you can negotiate the salary you deserve.
Entry-level applicants often have very little work experience to show when first interviewing, especially while applying as recent college graduates. But what graduates have to offer is usually more than just a list of previous employers – it’s about how they worked, and what strengths they can bring to potential employers. No matter what the economy is like, employers like candidates with strong cognitive skill sets, who can hit the ground running. If you are that candidate, make your strengths work for you with the following tips and advice on how to master salary negotiations.
Show Up Confident and Well InformedShowing up empty-handed to the negotiation table will not get you very far. It is imperative to have a “full hand” that includes knowing all details before making your salary request. "If you believe you are being taken for granted then hedge your bets and push for a stronger salary," says Joey V. Price, HR specialist and Founder of Push Consultant Group. "But your justification should include research on the market and what other companies in the industry are paying for your skill set. Market your skills and how unique you are. Think about what you offer that most candidates do not."
It is also imperative to make a business case for why your skill set deserves the pay you ask for according to Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a career expert, writer, speaker and co-founder of SixFigureStart. "Share market data that shows how much people with this skill make. Show how the skill will add to the company's bottom line. Focus on what you can do from here on and not years of experience. Keep the discussion centered on the skill as opposed to experience to maximize your negotiations."
Show ‘Em Your Stuff
Quite often people overlook strengths and skills that they’ve acquired through internships and part-time college jobs. The key to impressing a potential employer is to make the case why your skills outmatch your competition by showing them why and how – even if you have to volunteer your time.
"An extreme tactic that I've seen executed with great results is to offer your services for free," says Tyson J. Spring, VP & Sr. Consultant at Élever Professional. "Let's be honest, you just got through school on your parents' dime, or have paid your own way living on hot dogs and instant noodles. Three weeks of working pro bono won't hurt much. With this offer, make sure a clear plan for conversion at the end of the trial period is defined, make sure your understanding of the objectives is clear, and don't offer such a deal unless you're certain that you will either get an improved financial package or title offering at the end of the trial, or it will get you a position that you were not likely to get otherwise."
Recent graduate and Gen Y entrepreneur Leon Horn knew exactly what to look for while hiring for his recent startup Socialsci.com. "After closing our first round of funding, we began to recruit people to join our startup. We interviewed a wide range of people for technical and non-technical positions. The ones who stood out were not the ones with a wonderful, packed-to-the-brim resume, but rather ones who could demonstrate their skills in the now. The technical types we hired all had viewable code online and the marketing/sales types were able to demonstrate their prowess by making a call during the interview, or showing a current campaign they were running. If an employer is able to see what you could do for their company, it is easier for them to justify your pay."
Kill Them with Kindness
Hostility only seems to work when negotiating on nighttime soap operas. Wear a smile, and leave the aggressive behavior at home when negotiating. "Keeping negotiations friendly and smiling through the process will get you much farther than using aggressive negotiating tactics," says Adriana Llames, veteran career coach, professional speaker and author of Career Sudoku: 9 Ways to Win the Job Search Game, "Aggression can backfire and cause you to actually lose the offer all together."
Richard S Deems, PhD, co-author of 'Make Job Loss Work For You' recommends responding with enthusiasm when an offer is made, "This is great, and I'm excited to be part of your organization. It's a place where I can put my skills and experience to work for you..." Deems adds that the candidate should follow up by telling the leader they're "excited about the offer, but need a couple of days to think it through," then set a time to re-connect.
Think Outside the Set Salary BoxBelieve it or not, many people are motivated by more in life than just money, including when negotiating a salary. Sometimes schedule flexibility, additional vacation time or work-from-home options have more value than an increase in salary. Show up with alternative plans that have more options built in, instead of just focusing on figures.
Gina Kleinworth of HireBetter suggests requesting to take the original salary with the stipulation that they will accomplish "a, b, and c" within a certain amount of time. "If they meet those demands, they would be eligible for the increase they were requesting." Kleinworth adds, "Another option would be to request the higher salary in lieu of benefits for the first 6 months. If the candidate exceeds expectations, then they would then become eligible. As with everything these days, job seekers need to be creative. Figure out what is the most important things that cannot be compromised on and then have a list of things that may be negotiable – there is always a middle ground where everyone can be happy.”
Llames also suggests that candidates look for other concessions such as a better title, flexible schedule, work-from-home option, additional time off or vacation days, earlier performance appraisal date, performance-based bonuses, benefit co-pays, or 401(k) contributions.
Understand the Power of "No Thank You"
How did nerdy tycoons like Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates make it big in life? Like most members from the "school" of tycoons, they know exactly what they want and they know how to say "no" when an offer doesn’t suit them. According to Spring, nothing will prompt a hiring company to stretch the budget more than your ability to say "No thank you" with an open-ended walk-away.
"It takes a great deal of confidence to do this, but you can accomplish this confidence by working hard to develop multiple offers from companies of similar interest to you," says Spring. "Be strategic about your schedule of interviews; know when the process starts and finishes, and try to stagger your interviews so that they conclude and offers come within reasonable time from one another. Make sure when you turn down a position that you do so with confidence in your backup plan, and that you set some parameters of what it would take for you to reconsider, and ultimately accept the position. If your walk away doesn't clearly define the companies' criteria for appeasing your needs, they are unable to make adjustments, and no chance for an agreement exists."
"What’s your best alternative if you can’t reach an agreement? The better this is, the stronger your negotiating position will be," says Michael P. Daugherty Founder of Bespoke Row, "Therefore, if possible, you should try to get an offer from a company that you don’t care too much about before negotiating with the company you really like. How much would it take for you to not hesitate before saying yes? Anything above that level is what you’re aiming for." Daugherty adds, "Take the number at which you’d be happy to say yes and multiply it by 1.3. This is approximately what your first offer to the company should be. Don’t be afraid that it’s too high; if it is, they won’t take away the offer, they’ll just come back with something a little lower.”