Stephen Rooney


It is important to consider your salary expectations when applying for graduate jobs. If you ask for an amount that is too low, then you may find that your starting salary (and all subsequent increases) do not fully reward you for your work. If you ask for an amount that is too high, then you may miss out on a dream role for the sake of a modest amount. 

1. Clarify your salary expectations at the early stage of the process:

It is important that candidates consider their salary expectations as soon as they begin researching career choices. You should speak with recruitment consultants, peers, read online salary guides and view many internet job adverts to get a feel for a realistic 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. Candidate’s 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.

Our advice is to research salaries, set a realistic band and to “pitch” yourself as “ideally” looking for the upper end of your chosen salary band.

2. When to negotiate and when to accept an offer:

There are some employers who have a set salary structure, are unwilling to negotiate on their remuneration levels and regard a graduate who attempts to negotiate as being too demanding. Other companies deliberately offer less than they are prepared to pay in the hope that the candidate accepts the offer, but they are more than willing to pay a higher amount if asked. This makes it very hard for candidates!

Recruitment consultants are often in a position to advice candidate’s which bracket the employer is likely to fit in and their advice can prove valuable. If you are negotiating with the employer directly then 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 this is the case then it is probably better to accept an offer if it is in line with your expectations. If this is not the case then you can ask if an offer is “negotiable” and state your “ideal” salary.

3. 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.

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.

4. 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.

Summing Up:

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


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