If you’re a fresh graduate navigating an interview for your first job, negotiating your remuneration will likely be one of the biggest hurdles you may face. How do you measure your worth in numbers, or push for higher pay?
Without a doubt, negotiating your salary is tricky work and it doesn’t necessarily get easier as you move from one job to the next.
It’s important to ask for a sum that is commensurate with what you bring to the table, without coming across as arrogant, demanding or deluded.
These useful tips could steer you in the right direction, but remember: no advice is one-size-fits-all, so go into bargaining your salary with an open mind.
1. Research the average wages in your industry
It’s important to know your worth, and helpful to know what the “market rate” is.
To start with, do some groundwork before stating your expected salary. Check the Glassdoor or Payscale pages of companies in your industry, or make an appointment with a career advisor at Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) Careers Connect Centre. Asking friends in the industry for a salary range is a good idea, too.
If you aren’t a first-time job applicant, most companies are willing to offer a salary increment of between 10% to 20%. This is especially so if your role is more specialised, or if there is great demand for your position, or if you can value-add in a way that few others can.
Which brings us to this: could you opt to leave out your last-drawn salary altogether?
In Singapore and several other Asian markets, it has become quite common for companies to request for your last payslip as a way of verifying your previous salary. It is legal for employers to request for this, but there are no rules that say this is mandatory. Then-Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo also said in Parliament in 2020 that employers cannot insist that job-seekers declare their last-drawn salaries when applying for new roles. But, the fact remains that most employers would prefer to know — simply to determine if your practical experience matches up to your asking pay.
Read more: Financial tips for fresh graduates
2. Be humble, but don’t undermine your abilities
If there’s one trait most employers would appreciate, it’s humility. A positive, humble candidate would naturally be more likeable than an arrogant, pushy one.
If you’ve been offered a job with a less than satisfactory salary, try negotiating by again drawing on your work experiences. Help your potential employer understand why you are worth their investment, but don’t just say you want more. Just like we were taught in school, it helps to show and not simply tell.
Perhaps highlight a project you initiated during a recent internship, or how you contributed to a company’s growth in some way. All these will help make your case and justify why you have a higher ask.
And if things don’t work out, don’t burn the bridge before it’s been built. You never know when this interview might come back to reward you – or bite you.
Express your openness to future positions and always view job interviews and the negotiation process as an opportunity to hone your skills.
3. Meet halfway
Let’s say you actually, genuinely want a job, but the offered salary falls far below the mark. How should you then straddle this tricky predicament? You could attempt to meet halfway by asking about full-time employment benefits. You can negotiate your remuneration package depending on benefits like health, dental and wellness benefits, conditional stock options, equity and bonuses
Alternatively, it wouldn’t hurt to propose a salary review after achieving a certain milestone — whether it’s passing your probation, or something slightly more ambitious, such as growing a website’s organic traffic by 20% within the first six months.
Bargaining chips like these are a good compromise, and give you and the company breathing room to prove your worth.
But remember not to get too fixated on money. It helps to remember that our jobs are a lot more than just the dollars and cents that get credited into our bank accounts. Think about the whole package too: flexibility, travel, perks, and even the people you’ll be working with and for.
4. Ask for some time to weigh your options
Here’s the other thing: you should know your worth, and therefore not sell yourself short. If you aren’t sure about the job or offered salary altogether, it’s perfectly okay to ask for two to three working days before making a decision. Accepting a job, after all, is a big decision and you should spend some time deliberating and asking yourself some questions before deciding.
Be sure to also discuss career progression opportunities. Employers generally wouldn’t offer a fixed timeframe for promotions, since these are very much pegged to your performance in the workplace.
Promotions are also often dependent on the type of company you’re looking to work for. Larger corporations tend to have a more structured hierarchy of roles, so you might expect a promotion from Executive to Senior Executive, for instance.
Conversely, start-ups generally run on a flatter structure, so promotions could include moving you to a different vertical altogether — such as being promoted from Content Strategist to Product Marketing Manager.
No reasonable company will withdraw an offer just because you asked for some time to consider, but it’s also important for you to know when it’s time to call it. If both sides aren’t able to get on the same page after a while, it’s best to wrap things up – politely of course – and move on so as not to waste each other’s time.
Read more: How to craft the perfect resume
5. Know what matters to you and don’t be afraid to walk away
At the end of the day, salary isn’t everything. But that depends on what you value most in a job — or what you think might keep you going. Many factors come into play here: are company culture, career progression and the work itself more important to you than your monthly paycheque?
If it’s the latter that you care about most, set yourself a base salary — or the lowest possible sum you’d accept from a company — and negotiate your case. If push comes to shove, and working for less simply isn’t your style, then be prepared to walk away.
Politely decline the offer with a response such as : “After great consideration and thought, I’ve decided to turn down the opportunity to work for [insert company name].” It shows consideration for the company’s time, and is an effective way of closing a chapter on good terms.
6. Practise your pitch
We often rehearse a speech or presentation before we make one, and negotiating our salary is no different.
Find a trusted friend with whom you can practise delivering your pitch. It helps to hear out loud what we already know in our minds to say, both in terms of ease of delivery and in growing our own confidence. If you sound sure and comfortable making your ask, your potential employer would also be that much more convinced.
You can even get your friend to try asking you some possible follow-up questions so as to prepare you for more difficult questions that might come.
Read more: Why you missed out on that raise (and what to do)
Negotiating your salary is never easy, but arming yourself with these tips could set you up for better pay — so good luck! Be sure to also manage your money with these 5 important personal finance rules, and figure out how much to set aside using this emergency fund calculator.