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TL;DR: how likely a company accept a counter-offer for a graduate role?

Hi, I'm currently in my final semester of my master degree in IT. One of my final courses is a project which is supervised by companies. My group's company stated that they could offer a position once the project has finished. And they have been doing it for 2 semesters. (with acceptance rate of 8/10 students got the position).

My friend has a acquaintance who got offered the position and worked there currently. He discloses the salary to us (informal while hanging out). I was not satisfied with the offer, but it's better than my current casual job.

the scenario below is not real as I haven't been offered the role as of now. But I believe that most of my group will receive it

If they are offering the same amount to me, I'm thinking to make a counter-offer which is 30% higher than their offer. However, this is a graduate position, so I don't know if it's possible at all.

I have some factors which can helps me (or not. I need guidance on this.):

  1. While my technical skill is not as good as the supervisor who managed us, I believe I'm ahead of my peers. This is supported by having a relevant certification for the business that they're in, having to work casually for 2 years (20h p/w) in IT industry plus some freelancing before that, and by having worked with my peers, I can feel that I'm ahead of them.
  2. I'm not in a financial crisis. I have a job which have 30% lower rate than the offer. And I'm confident that I'll be working full-time for my current employer. This way, I think I can find other opportunities later on without having to worry financially. **however, I believe that I can't learn much (relevant skills) in my current job.

However, there are some factors which can back-fire me (it's purely my opinion as well. So I don't know if it's relevant)

  1. Technically I'm a graduate. And I'm working while studying so in the paper, it seems like I have a track like this: High School -> undergraduate -> postgraduate. However, I've freelanced while doing my undergraduate and I have a casual job (still doing it) while doing my postgraduate.
  2. I'm afraid that as it's a graduate role, it's non-negotiable and all graduates will have the same salary. (at least in that company. Though this is just me thinking.)
  3. They can see me as being greedy.

How likely will they accept my offer given above circumstances?

UPDATE 1: I got the offer this morning and to my surprise, it is lower than what I expected. Much lower. It's basically lower than what I'm having right now. So, I'm going to negotiate the salary and I'm ready to walk away if everything goes south. I'll update this question once I've received the final offer.

  • "I'm afraid that as it's a graduate role, it's non-negotiable and all graduates will have the same salary. (at least in that company. Though this is just me thinking.)" - if true, then HR will simply tell you this when you make the counter-offer. They're not going to say, "Psych! Now you get no offer!" Absolute "worst" case, they simply say it's non-negotiable, and you have to choose whether to accept it or not. – Kevin May 10 at 20:20
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First of all, I'd say, wait for the actual offer to be made - you might be surprised to see the amount.

That said, it's good to have a backup plan in place. Getting to the question

how likely a company accept a counter-offer for a graduate role?

only the company (relevant authorities) can tell. But you'll never find out if you don't ask.

One thing I say always: Never accept an offer knowing that

  1. You don't absolutely need it (i.e., Financial problem)
  2. You'd not be happy with the benefits. (i.e., the long run outcome)

It's not only the paycheck, consider all the perks and benefits that you'd get with the job, compare it against other offers (if you have) or against your expected bucket of benefits, and make the call.

When you ask for the negotiation, it can be seen as self-awareness and having the knowledge about the industry you're in. You need to present your arguments tactfully - never mention being "better than peers" - that's not your job / scope. You mention

  • How your skills are relevant for the company / business and how they will have a positive effect on the company
  • What all positive feedback you've got
  • How you feel your pay scale should be adjusted to match with the industry / market standard.

Let them reflect back on that. At most, your proposal will be rejected. Be prepared to handle that situation - whether you want to work with the previous pay structure which would be offered initially and or look for opportunities elsewhere.

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Your salary should reflect the value you bring to the company, so it should certainly be possible to negotiate for a different salary. The important thing is to understand how much your value differs from others and propose a value that reflects the difference.

As a new graduate, you are being compared to two different groups, the pool of other graduates like you and the current employees of the company. You are proposing to ask for 30% more, so you need to be able to justify that.

While you may have additional skills compared to the other graduates, are you really 30% more valuable? That is a very significant difference and you would have needed to really standout against your project peers to even entertain a value like that.

Assuming last year's hires are making that kind of money, do your extra skills offset their work experience within the company, where they have learned more about the business domain and other non-technical aspects of the job? There is so much more to the the job than just your technical skills.

There is no reason not to negotiate for a higher salary, however you need to be able to justify your increased value and understand the market of candidates for that role. Be careful to not price yourself out of the market, if there are plenty of candidates, you chances may die right there.

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I would approach the negotiation by defining first the amount of salary that you'd be comfortable accepting for this position. You want something that makes you feel like you're not taken advantage of, and that you're be passing up on some better future opportunity.

Then, wait for them to make an offer. If it is above, take it. If it is below, you can say something like: "For this type of position, and given my experience, I probably wouldn't be happy with the salary level that you're proposing. I was expecting something more like [minimum amount you want + 10%]. Would you agree to reconsider the offer accordingly?"

Then, you might see how they react. Some comments make it sound like there is nothing to lose by asking, and I have to say that's probably the majority case, but I do know of some people who have lost offers while negotiating for compensation increases. Where this might happen is if there is another candidate just behind you who takes up the same offer, no questions asked and there's no more jobs to fill after that. But if that happens to you, that's ok because you wouldn't have been happy with the low salary anyway!

If the offer is just below, I'd say don't sweat it because you can probably make up the difference offer time e.g. with promotions.

If the offer is well below your acceptable numbers, you can say the same thing, but also be prepared to say no, since at some point you're also wasting your own time.

Finally your negotiating position is weaker as a new grad than as a recent employee: even if you feel like you'd perform better than the peers you've met there, your employer probably isn't convinced of that yet, and they don't have a lot to lose by moving to the next person. But say that they do employ you, and that after a few months you end up doing a stellar job — now they know your value, and they also don't have a straight replacement if you left, because by then you'd know more than external hires about the company's operations. So it can be also a good strategy sometimes to take the job with the intent of getting a raise afterwards, either because they recognize your value, or because you'll be able to get another offer somewhere else and renegotiating then.

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