negotiateMany new graduates question if they should negotiate their first professional job offer. They worry an employer will withdraw the offer, be offended, or think they are greedy. In reality, salary.com research shows eighty-four percent of employers say they expect job applicants to negotiate their salary/benefits/conditions of employment during the interview stage. A well-conducted negotiation provides the new graduates the opportunity to showcase their listening, research, critical thinking, and presentation skills.

Four things you should know before you begin a negotiation

Know your numbers: What do you need to take home, after taxes and deductions, to cover your living expenses? There are additional expenses you might begin incurring after you graduate: medical/dental/vision insurance and expenses, student loan payments, and the cost of having a job (transportation, clothing, and office events). This is a great time to develop your first post-college budget.

Know the salary range for the type of position you are seeking: Use a tool like payscale.com to determine the salary range. Use a job board like Indeed.com to find job descriptions for similar positions in the same geographic area and note the salary ranges listed. Government jobs almost always list a salary range; use the information for the state where you are applying to build your database of salary information.

Know the employer’s number: Determine the salary range the employer offers; this is easy if salary information is included in the job description. If the salary range is not posted, network to find the answer. Connect on LinkedIn with past company employees and ask the salary range for the position you are considering and the employers willingness to negotiate. Use a site like Quara.com to ask about the company’s salary range.  Salary.com is another good source of information.

Know employers want your counter offer to be all inclusive: Make sure you totally understand the offer: salary, bonuses, 401K plans, health benefits, vacation policies, start date, work location and hours. Ask questions about any aspect of the offer you do not understand. Ask for a day to consider the offer before you give the employer your answer. Compare the offer to your salary/benefit/conditions of employment expectations. If everything in the offer meets your expectations and requirements, your research leads you to believe the employer does not negotiate salaries, let the employer know you have reviewed the offer, feel it is fair, and accept the offer as presented.

If you need to change your start date, take vacation time during the first twelve months, adjust your work schedule, or think your salary should be higher, ask for what you want. Present a counter offer in a positive, friendly manner. If you are asking for an increase is salary refer to the salary research you have done and your qualifications. Provide reasons for non-salary requests emphasizing how the accommodation will help you become a top performer. You may not be able to get everything you want, but you won’t know without trying.

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