Negotiating the best starting salary

Discussing salaries can be uncomfortable, but talking about how much you will be paid with a potential employer is a crucial conversation.

The main thing for any job candidate is to be realistic, both in terms of what you are worth and what kind of sums the role you are applying for can command.

Know your value

“For a farm job, knowing what you are worth can be tricky,” says George Gordon of relief and contract staff provider LKL Services.

“You can ask friends and neighbours what they earn to give you some indication, but they might not be willing to share.”

Historically the Agricultural Wages Board set farm salaries, but its abolition means starting wages are not so cut-and-dry.

“The other alternative is to look at other job advertisements and call and ask what the salary is, or talk to companies like them to find out what your value is on the marketplace.”

Establish a target salary, but be realistic

Deciding on what salary you want to earn and what you are willing to settle for before you enter negotiations over a role can be helpful.

But be careful that you don’t miss out on a good opportunity by having a fixed salary in your head that you won’t stray from, warns Grace Nugent of agricultural recruitment specialists DeLacy Executive.

“When we go around universities talking to graduates, we tend to find they have quite a fixed salary in their minds and they can have tunneled vision,” she says.

“They don’t see that there’s more than the salary. Having certain companies on your CV is a massive investment in your future and there’s a lot of money in that in itself.

“If you take a job and the company has to invest time in getting you to a certain standard and giving you training, then that’s a big investment in itself which shouldn't be overlooked.

“When we interview candidates for roles, if they realise it’s not all about the money it makes us think more favourably of them,” she adds. “If they just want to know about money it’s usually not a good sign.”

On the other hand, you do have to be realistic about how much you deserve, particularly if the job requires you to relocate, or if you will have large travel costs.

“You have to survive, so you have to strike a balance,” says Miss Nugent. “If you can justify a higher salary, there is always room for negotiation.”

How to negotiate

Discussing salaries shouldn’t be a confrontation. Make the employer feel you are working together to find a solution that makes everyone happy.

If you genuinely think you deserve more money than is on offer, explain why you think the salary should be increased.

“If it’s between having an ideal candidate and losing them for the sake of a couple of grand, most companies might be willing to invest,” says Miss Nugent. “But you do have to justify that extra payment.

“Relocation in particular can give room for negotiation, so it’s not always set in stone.”

Companies will usually want employees to prove their worth before they are given a higher salary, so if you are unhappy with the figure on offer but you do want the job, ask for a review.

“I would advise taking the job at a lower salary but get it written into your contract that after three or six months you would like to look at a salary increase,” says Miss Nugent.

If you cannot negotiate a salary you are happy with and you feel you do need to turn down the job offer, make sure you do it on good terms.

Treat every offer graciously and don’t burn bridges with potential business contacts who you may well come into contact with in the future.

Finally, if you do get the offer you want, make sure you get it in writing - including everything you have agreed.

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