One of the more daunting tasks to do when you enter the job market – especially if you’re new – is negotiating your salary. In Malaysia, graduate trainee programmes and internships normally have set starting salaries, but when it comes to graduate jobs, you’ll need to exercise your negotiating skills. If it helps, think of this experience as a unique opportunity to position yourself as a valuable asset in an organisation and the negotiation skills honed will be useful in the long run!
There are many ways in which fresh graduates can estimate their worth to negotiate a better package for themselves, from the skills they honed to the part-time experience they’ve gathered. Finding an anchor of a salary value as early as during your job search can help you to answer salary expectation questions in job applications and interviews. However, to establish a price for yourself is one thing, but to negotiate with your prospective employer for your estimated amount to get is another! Here’s what you need to know.
Salary Negotiation – A Sensitive Topic
Most graduates with zero working experience are afraid to negotiate their salary, ultimately selling themselves short at a job offer. It’s a hard conversation to have with your prospective employer – you’ll need to test the waters without offending the hiring manager and at the same time ensure you walk away feeling satisfied with the offer.
To begin the negotiation on the right footing, it’s important to consider being transparent regarding your major expenses that your future salary needs to cover, such as monthly rent, transport, medical bills, postgraduate student loans, car mortgage, etc. This helps the other party to understand your situation and come up with a more acceptable and complete offer. If you have another offer, be candid about what you’re being offered (without giving away the organisation’s name).
Although being transparent about your financial situation may justify you for a higher salary, it’s crucial to not lie about your financial health. You have to be prepared to show documentary proof of your loans to substantiate your claims.
When Should I Negotiate My Salary?
It’s best to leave salary discussions until the point at which you receive your job offer – unless you’re prompted the question earlier.
Recruiters may pop the question of salary expectations and details of current salary (if you’re planning to switch companies) as early as during the application stage. Hence, you may need to dedicate some time to research the salary range for employees with similar skills and experience to yours before giving an initial offer. On the other hand, you can put TBD (to be discussed) in your application form about your salary expectations or NA (non-applicable) for your current salary if you wish to disclose it later during the interview. Nevertheless, you should still be prepared to discuss salary expectations later in the process.
Keep in mind, it’s not recommended to bring up salary in the first interview or during assessment centres unless you’re asked about it. At that stage, employers are still trying to get to know you and your qualifications better before striking up an offer.
Do Your Homework
Determining the negotiating price for your salary is not a piece of cake. But by investing time to research on a salary that suits your qualifications and skills, is on par with the average market value, and aligned with what the company would usually offer, helps you argue your salary aspiration logically and professionally. Here are some tips for your salary research and anchoring a value:
- Approach industry peers to get information on the salary range for your specific job
- Look at the range of packages offered for similar positions in the adverts online or on jobs pages, such as Jobstreet and gradmalaysia
- Be realistic about your skillset, experience and education when setting a salary benchmark
- Make use of websites such as Glassdoor that provide salary information from previous or current employees of companies.
Going Through The Negotiation
After getting a sense of what your estimated worth is, it is time for you to head into the negotiation confidently. But before that, remember that a successful negotiation often comes down to practise, so before pitching during an actual interview with a prospective employer, run it through with career coaches if you’re able to, or just with your trusted friends.
Every negotiation situation is different and each employer will have its own set of thresholds. It’ll be beneficial for you to understand the context in which your negotiation takes place and be mindful of the company’s culture. That way, you’ll position yourself sensibly throughout the negotiation.
Here are some dos and don’ts for smooth salary negotiation:
- Be calm and assertive in your arguments
- Be flexible and open-minded
- Be prepared to compromise
- Ask for the agreed terms and conditions to be confirmed in black and white as soon as possible if you succeeded in your negotiations
- Keep a note on the agreed terms and conditions, in case you were misunderstood and were offered a position that you did not ask or interviewed for, and would like to bring this up again to the recruiter – writing it down immediately after the interview when memory is still fresh would be good!
- If the salary offered is less than what you hoped for, try venture for an early pay review instead. For example, if you demonstrate your worth against certain criteria in the first six months of your employment, they will agree to a particular salary increase. Ensure that the criteria are clearly set in your contract of employment.
- Appear too confident or too laid back. Either approach can portray overconfidence or a lack of professionalism and damage your case.
- Skip on your research. You should never head into battle without your battle gear. You’ll appear ill-prepared and unprofessional if you can’t provide a rational argument towards why you think you are worth a higher pay than what is offered.
- Seem more interested in the package than in the role you are being recruited for. Every employer knows that you will want a fair deal, but you need to demonstrate that your financial concerns are balanced by a genuine desire for the job.
- Neglect other forms of compensation. If a recruiter offers you a lower amount than what you wished for but is able to offer training programmes, additional claims and off-days, etc., it might not be a bad idea to consider the offer.