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Career Advice

Salary Negotiation Tips for UK Graduates

Posted by Andy Agouridis

Director of CareerHigher

Last Updated 23 Sept 2022
|6 min read

Undoubtedly, negotiating your salary is one of the trickiest stages of the job application process. Even more so if you are fresh out of university, looking for your first job, and don’t have any idea where to start. Hence, most graduates just choose not to do it because they don’t want to jeopardise the opportunity now that they’ve got their very first job offer. In fact, according to research, 62% of fresh graduates who have just been hired didn’t negotiate their salary at all. However, this may not be a smart move because you might be leaving money on the table.

As a fresh graduate, you may think you don’t have the right to ask for a higher starting salary because of your lack of work experience. But this may not necessarily be the case. While some jobs like graduate schemes or internships come with fixed compensation, individual entry-level roles are typically negotiable.

In these cases, every job seeker has the right to negotiate and seek fair compensation based on their worth. While it may feel intimidating, failing to do so can negatively impact your lifelong earning potential. So, in this article, we’ve created a useful salary negotiation guide for UK graduates so you won’t fall into the trap of taking whatever the first offer you get.

Conduct salary research

Having a good understanding of how much you are worth is important when you need to enter a salary negotiation. Walking into this stage of the job application process unprepared, you’ll either leave some money on the table or request way too much from what the employer had in mind and risk knocking yourself out of the race. So, to prevent this from happening, the first thing you must do is conduct salary research. Start looking at the average salary rate for your target job, company, industry, and geography. This will give you a sense of the range you should be asking for and allow you to properly articulate your value to prospective employers.

There are several ways to get the information you need. You can look for salary surveys that can give you an indication of how much you should be earning in your target role with your qualifications and experience level. Also, you can ask your network for some advice, especially if they are in the same line of work, industry, or geography. Lastly, you can take advantage of our Salary Calculator to help you understand your market value and get paid what you’re worth.

Establish your desired salary range

Now that you know how much you should expect to earn in your target job, it is time to establish your goal pay range and identify exactly what you want. After all, you cannot just pitch any number during the negotiation. In addition, having a target salary in mind will help you manage your expectations during the negotiation process and provide you with a guide when asking for an increase in your starting salary. 

As a general rule of thumb, your range should be slightly higher than the minimum amount you would be willing to accept. If you aim for less, you will leave no room for negotiation and may appear inflexible. Also, while you could try aiming for more, you may risk pricing yourself out of the job. As a fresh graduate, this could raise a red flag, for you may come across as someone more interested in the pay than the job. So, make sure to set a realistic salary range based on the data you’ve collated from doing your homework.

Negotiate only after receiving an offer

Unless the employer asks you about salary early in the process, don’t begin discussing it or negotiating until you actually receive the job offer. Remember, timing is everything. Starting the conversation too soon may cast suspicion on your intention and may send the wrong signal that you are after the compensation alone. For this reason, you may end up not receiving the job offer at all.

Keep in mind that salary negotiations typically take place right after an offer has been made. While it can be tempting to ask about salary early on to get a sense of whether their offer is within your expectations and fits your needs, you must refuse that desire. As a general rule, it is best to wait until the employer brings up the topic. You probably wouldn’t want to miss your chances of getting your very first job offer, right?

Make a business case

Negotiating salary is not just about saying, “I want more”. Of course, you need to give employers reasons why you deserve what you’re asking for. Being able to justify your expectations can help you demonstrate to employers that you did your research to make a reasonable request. However, fresh out of college with less to no working experience, proving your case can be a bit more challenging. So, how do you ensure employers see you as an asset worth paying your desired salary?

The answer is simple. Sell your strengths the same way you would have from the start of your job application. Highlight your technical expertise and the transferrable skills you’ve gained throughout your education. Relevant experiences, such as internships, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities, can also boost your employability, so don’t fail to mention them. 

Think wider than just salary

Employee compensation may include more than a salary. It may involve bonus payments, incentives, and various perks and benefits. However, in most cases, salaries are the only thing job seekers negotiate to their satisfaction, while they can also negotiate for non-monetary benefits – perhaps more easily than salary. In fact, these benefits are also particularly good alternatives if ever an employer can’t adjust their salary offering in your favour. Here is a list of the additional benefits that are also worth considering negotiating. But before you do so, we suggest taking your time to think about what can be valuable to you in the long term.

  • Flexible working 
  • Extra vacation days
  • Development/growth opportunities
  • Health insurance coverage
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Contribution to retirement savings plans
  • Relocation assistance
  • Better job title

Be prepared to compromise

No matter how prepared you are before entering the salary negotiation, employers may still end up saying no. While this can make you feel frustrated, try not to react negatively. At this point, you can accept the original offer for the time being. Then ask for some time to further analyse the job offer and weigh your options. This might be a compromise between the employer’s existing offer and your initial counteroffer that gives you the most value. If they think you’re worth it, they might meet you halfway. However, if they can’t really meet your requirements after a few more discussions, know when to wrap up and just focus on opportunities that better match your salary expectations.