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Stephen Rooney

Negotiating your graduate salary is a common part of the recruitment process. But in 2018, just 38% of recent graduates negotiated their salary upon receiving a job offer. That’s despite three-quarters of employers saying they typically have room to increase their first salary offer by 5 to 10%.

It’s an important part of the interview process and one you will learn and improve on in the future. But, for now, we’ve put together a useful guide that will help you to negotiate the graduate salary you want and deserve!

Clarify your salary expectations at an early stage of the process

It is important to consider your salary expectations as soon as you begin researching career choices. You should speak with recruitment consultants, peers, read online salary guides and view internet job adverts to get a feel for a realistic graduate salary.

It is often hard to know how realistic your expectations are, but if you are looking for £19,000 to £22,000, then it is better to state that your “ideal” salary would be “around” £22,000 when asked by recruiters and employers. This shows that you may be negotiable but gives you the best chance of receiving a better salary.

Candidates that say they want “at least £19,000” and are then offered exactly that are in a tough position. It appears that they are changing their expectations if they are disappointed with an offer that matches their “minimum” expectations.

TOP TIP: Research salaries, set a realistic band and to pitch yourself as ideally looking for the upper end of your chosen salary band.

When to negotiate and when to accept a graduate salary

There are some employers that are tricky to approach with graduate salary negotiations. They may have a set salary structure and therefore be unwilling to negotiate on their renumeration levels.

However, other companies deliberately offer less than they are prepared to pay in the hope that the candidate accepts the offer. In reality they may be willing to pay a higher amount if asked.

These two conflicting processes make negotiating a graduate salary very confusing for candidates. Recruitment consultants, however, are often in a position to advise candidates which bracket the employer is likely to fit in and therefore their advice can prove invaluable.

When negotiating directly with the employer, you should consider whether the role has been advertised at a set level, whether your experiences are in line with the requirements and whether the salary appears to be the market rate for the area.

If, after you’ve assessed it, the offer is in line with your expectations, it is better to accept it. However, if this is not the case, then you can begin by asking if the offer is “negotiable” and state your “ideal” salary.

Always be prepared to justify your expectations

If you ask to negotiate on a salary, then you may be asked “why”. You should be prepared to justify your salary expectations in a way that is reasonable and demonstrates your potential value to the company.

By way of an example, imagine candidate A stating that they want £25K rather than £20K on the basis that the role is in Sheffield and they live in Leeds. The company may well feel that they are being asked to pay a premium for a candidate because of where the candidate has chosen to live. If candidate A asks for £25K on the basis that he has experience within the sector gained through a year in industry, then the business may see that there is a business reason for the salary expectation.

TOP TIP: If you are negotiating on salary, then you should be prepared to discuss why you feel your demands are reasonable and what you can offer the company in return.

Make decisions with a long-term focus

Whilst it is easy to focus on the immediate starting salary, candidates should consider the bigger picture. You are making decisions that will affect the rest of your career and some companies can provide you with an opportunity within your target industry along with training, support and opportunities to progress. These should be the most important factors in your decision making and it is often better to accept a low basic in return for outstanding career prospects.

Candidates should, however, be warned! The level of salary offered by a company can indicate the future opportunities within the firm. If a firm relies on hiring unpaid interns and pays lower than the market rate for graduates, then you should see this as a possible indicator of things to come. 

Looking for a job with a better salary?

It is clear that graduate salary negotiations, like many aspects of the working world, are ambiguous and challenging. However, we hope that our guide helps you approach this aspect of your job hunt with a little more clarity.

If you’re currently looking for graduate jobs, check out our careers page or submit your CV online and let one of our talented recruitment consultants find you your dream job today!


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