Negotiating a Better Package for Your New Job

It takes a lot of courage to negotiate money matters with your recruiters, but with enough research and practice, you should be able to engage in an informed discussion to settle on your financial worth.
The gradsingapore Team
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Talk to graduate applicants about negotiating salary, benefits, and remuneration packages, and you’ll often get a range of responses along the terrified lines of “What if they decide not to hire me because I asked for more?”

Salary, benefits, and remuneration packages can be a pretty tricky issue, especially when you’re applying for a job for the first time. New graduates are not sure when, how, or how much to push for; and if done wrong, it can result in an unfavourable position for them.

In order to negotiate effectively, you’ll have to do some homework and investigation if you want to convince your recruiter to agree with your appeal. “Because I’m worth the price” isn’t going to cut it!

What is your price?

Most recruiters will have a range of price that they are prepared to pay instead of just one dead-set amount, and they’ll usually start off with a lowball fee first. It is then up to you to persuade them into agreeing to a higher amount.

Typically, there are no hard and fast rules about how or when to negotiate your salary, but you need to adapt your expectations according to the type of job that you’re applying to. For instance, you might want to be more reserved about your negotiation in extremely structured jobs, such as management consulting jobs; or jobs where there is an enormous amount of supply. Take note also of the culture of the organisation and industry: how much are most applicants to this company requesting during their negotiations?

Research the employer and the market

You’ll need to begin by familiarising yourself with the company, the industry, as well as the regular range of salary and compensation packages that are usually offered or requested. If you know that the company you’re applying to generally start new employees off on SGD2500-2700, then you’ll know that you are overpricing yourself if you requested for SGD3000.

Doing research is only one part of it, though. While you know that most applicants will negotiate for X number as their starting salary, you can’t request for it unless you can justify your demand. Telling the recruiters that you’re entitled to that amount because “it’s the market price of a graduate” won’t cut it. What this means is that you’ll have to promote your available skill sets and how you can help develop the company better than the other applicants.

Done correctly, you’ll be able to convince the recruiters that they should invest in you, even if it means having to fork out that bit more money to hire you.

Five avenues for researching your salary

Some of the avenues where you can start your research include:

  • Online adverts/Job listings. Compare the range of packages that are offered for similar positions by different companies. This way, you’ll know if you’re being given a fair deal and how much more you can up your price. Remember to also keep an eye out for other benefits being offered as well, such as travelling opportunities and other allowances. Consider visiting sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn to help you decide.
  • Family and friends. Speak to the people in your professional and personal network. These people may not necessarily be in the industry that you aim to enter, but they can give you advice on the general recruitment trend that’s ongoing. For instance, what are the best techniques for a fresh graduate to negotiate, etc.
  • Contacts in the industry. These people should be able to help you get specific information that are related to the industry, such as the range of salary that is acceptable for you to target and other additional benefits that you can request.
  • Careers services. Your advisors can be very helpful as well, especially if you need help in practising your negotiation skills.
  • Professional unions. If you’ve acquired professional qualifications that automatically affiliates you to a professional union, make use of that link. These organisations often have information on acceptable salary ranges for your profession.

Discuss salary as late as possible

In most cases, you should leave any discussions of salary to the end, when you’re offered the job, because both yourself and the employer will need to assess your suitability for each other first. However, there are also recruiters who will ask you for your salary expectations at the beginning, using those as an early screening criteria instead.

If the recruiting company/industry that you’re applying to is known to do this, then spend some time researching about the salary range that you would like to request. Be sure to weigh it against your long-term career objectives, the experience that you want to gain, and the company culture that you will be working in. For instance, would you mind taking a low starting salary if it lets you work in the company that you’ve always aspired towards?

Always make sure to quote a figure that leans towards the higher end of your salary range because it gives you more space to negotiate with your recruiter. Adapt your negotiation strategies by assessing other factors as well, such as your competitors. If you know that you’re competing with someone’s equally qualified but is willing to work for less, then you may have to rethink your stance.

Consider the whole package

While the amount on your payslip is one important factor in helping you decide on your offer, don’t forget about the other extra things that an employer throw in to sweeten the deal as well. Some companies have been known to reduce their salary offer because of their enviable compensation package, and you will do well to consider long-term benefits instead of just numbers!

Among some of the compensations that you may be offered could include things like private health cover, pension rates, the provision of a car, commission rates, the quality of your technology assistance, or even yearly bonuses. Discuss each of these in detail, and be sure to check for any attached terms and conditions.

For example, when discussing about bonuses, be sure to ask about the basis on which the bonus is paid. Some companies may spread the payment of the scheme over a few years in order to tie their employees with the company, and this can put off some applicants. Training and education opportunities can also be binding contracts, so make sure to clarify these before signing your agreement!

Don’t forget also about tax implications and maintenance charges. Will you be taxed for the health insurance offered, or charged for the maintenance of the car? Ask experienced family and friends about what to look out for before you go for your interview!

Explore the boundaries

Sometimes, employers may not agree with your proposed number even after several attempts at negotiation. If you find yourself in these situations, consider if you want to negotiate an early pay review instead. For instance, you can propose a list of criteria that is fair to yourself and the company, and if you manage to achieve these criteria in a set period of time (e.g. in a month, three months, or half a year), you should be appropriated a pay raise.

This will mean doing thorough research on the company’s needs and objectives, and you will also need to have a basic outline of how you intend to achieve the criteria. Come prepared with your outline, if possible, as it indicates thorough preparation on your part. If the recruiters agree to your proposition, then you’ll have to make sure that the information is clearly reflected in your contract of employment.

Conversely, there are also some recruiters who advertise the salary as a “negotiable” matter, which usually means that you’ll have to propose number to the recruiter, and the negotiation will be done based on those numbers instead. Don’t attempt to jack your price up just because you’re given the opportunity to get the ball rolling.

Common mistakes in salary negotiation

  • Not researching. Graduates often have the impression that there is a general starting salary that applies across all industries and positions – except it isn’t true. You will have to do your own research to find out the range of salary that you can negotiate for, as well as rationalise your request for it.
  • Bluffing. Don’t create fictional job offers just to pressure the recruiters into giving you the amount that you want. More often than not, they will know, and it will be worse if they find out about your lie after they hire you. If you do have an actual offer, though, then make sure to inform them so that they know how desirable you are.
  • Being too eager. Graduates sometimes lose the negotiation battle because of their overenthusiasm for the compensation package than the position that you’re applying for. While recruiters understand that money and compensation is important, someone who focuses too much on those may come across as insincere about their job and money-minded. That said, don’t be too laid back or indifferent either! That may be interpreted as overconfidence instead.