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You can lose a lot by not negotiating your starting salary.

Advice and Tips

Four tips on how you should negotiate your starting salary.

Modified: Dec. 1 2023

You should negotiate your starting salary, otherwise you could easily miss out on thousands per month.

Perhaps you have finally received an offer for your dream job? As a recent graduate, it can be tempting to just accept the job offer right away. But if you skip negotiating your starting salary, you could quickly miss out on a few extra thousand per month.

Bernt Almbakk
Legal advisor at Tekna, Bernt Almbakk believes everyone should negotiate their starting salary.

In that case, you’re not alone in thinking this way. Many people find salary negotiation scary. Half of Norwegian workers accept the job before they even ask about the salary. This is revealed in a survey conducted by ManpowerGroup. This could turn out to be a misstep, as it is often precisely when you are in a strong position to negotiate salary.

“When you’re on your way into a new job, you often get the biggest salary jump. Even though you have the right to an annual salary review in many jobs, it can take a long time to work the payout up to the level you want if the starting salary is low,” says Bernt Almbakk, legal advisor at Tekna.

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Almbakk emphasizes how common it is to negotiate salary, and how important it is that you dare to do just that.

“If you skip negotiating your starting salary, you quickly miss out on a few extra thousand per month. And that over several years,” he says.

Use the information you have available

Each year, Tekna publishes a starting salary guideline, which shows the average starting salary for recent graduates working in the private, governmental and municipal sectors.

“You can use this as a guide for what you can expect to earn in your first job. You can also use it as a bargaining chip if you get a lower offer,” says Almbakk.

He also says that many of the companies that hire keep an eye on this recommendation and pay accordingly.

“However, there is a big difference between companies, and startups, for example, often have lower salaries than larger companies. This recommendation does not mean that you should not negotiate if you are offered more than the average salary,” he says.

If you are very unsure about what you can expect in salary, you should contact the elected representative in the company.

“The elected representative negotiates salary every year for Tekna members in the company, and can therefore answer what you can expect to earn. If you are unsure whether the company has an elected representative, you can contact us at Tekna. We will put you in touch with the right person,” Almbakk explains.

You do not need to worry about someone finding out that you have researched this in advance.

“The elected representative has a duty of confidentiality towards the members, and will of course not gossip to the boss that you have researched this before the negotiations,” he reassures.

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Get help to review the contract

As a legal advisor, Almbakk works to assist the elected representatives in the companies with negotiations. He also has contact with the individual members of Tekna through the legal hotline.

This is an offer to all members of Tekna, and you are welcome to call here if you have questions about the job offer.

“If you are unsure about something in the contract, you can send it over to us, and we will go through it with you. We can also help evaluate the salary offer. In addition, we can give you some tips on how you should proceed in a possible negotiation,“ says Almbakk.

Something you should check is whether the agreement gives you the right to full salary during illness and parental leave.

Here, the National Insurance Scheme covers up to 6 G, which today is approximately 670,000 kr (you’ll find an updated and correct value for G here (in Norwegian)). Many Tekna members will quickly exceed this in salary. There are very many employers offering this to their employees. If you do not have this, you should therefore try to negotiate it in.

Here’s how you negotiate - 4 tips

By now, you’ve probably understood that you should negotiate your salary, but how exactly do you do that?

These are Bernt Almbakk’s four best tips on how to proceed:

  1. Make a phone call: If you’ve decided to ask for a higher salary, you should call rather than send an email. This makes it easier to gauge the mood, and you ensure that there are no misunderstandings. Start by saying how pleased you were with the offer, ask some questions about the job and your position, and make sure the tone between you is good.
  2. Ask questions: Instead of demanding a higher salary, you should rather ask questions. You could say, for example: “I thought the salary was lower than I had imagined. Is there any more room here?”
  3. Prepare well: The employer has determined that you are the right person for the position, and there is a reason for that. This is your best bargaining chip! Highlight what you know the employer will benefit from by giving you the job, and why you should therefore get a higher salary. If the employer asks you what you expected in salary, you should have thought through an answer to this in advance. Ask the employer if it is possible to make a new assessment. Most will answer yes to this.
  4. Use the statistics and information you have: Feel free to refer to the starting salary recommendation if you have received an offer that is lower than that. Use the information you have available to substantiate why you should earn more.

You should also prepare for the fact that questions about expectations can come as early as in the job interview.

“It happens that an employer asks during a job interview about what you expect in salary. Then it’s important that you keep a cool head, and don’t give them a number. If you say 630,000, you will most likely not get more than that. And it’s a shame if they actually had the opportunity to give you 670,000,” says Almbakk.

He has a piece of advice for you who find yourself in this situation as well:

“Work towards getting an offer from them first. Feel free to say that you expect a competitive salary, but be polite and nice. It is the employer who has created the position, and they certainly have some thoughts about what they have the opportunity to give you. Ask if they can come up with an offer they think is suitable, and you can take it from there,” he says.

If you do not succeed

“Often it pays to try to negotiate, but in some cases there is no room for more. If the employer does not have the opportunity to give you more at startup, you can ask if you can have a new salary assessment when your probation period is over. This should then be included in your employment contract. Then you get the opportunity to show what you are good for, and an even better bargaining chip when the probation period is over,” he says and adds:

“You can also try to ensure that you are part of the regular salary negotiations from the first year you start in the company. If you start in June, but the salary negotiations are in January, then you are guaranteed an increase then. This way you avoid waiting another year,” says Almbakk.

Salary is only part of the package

What if you do not succeed in getting the salary you dreamed of? Then you should first be very proud and satisfied with yourself because you tried to negotiate, and then you should look at the other benefits - because although salary is important, it is not everything.

Something you should check is how much you get in pension. For example, pension savings are an important part of the benefits you get from working, and should actually become your salary when you get older.

“Most people have a deposit pension scheme, which means that a percentage of what you earn is deposited into your pension account. These rates vary from 2-7 percent for income up to 7.1 G,” explains Bernt Almbakk and continues:

“If the pension scheme is poor, you must be able to save up enough pension on your own. Therefore, you need a higher salary. You can use this as a bargaining chip.”

You should also map out what kind of insurance schemes and fringe benefits the company has.

“Good coverage means that you can save a lot of money by not having to buy these insurances privately. It also helps with the calculation if they cover mobile, as well as broadband and mobile bills,” says Almbakk.

Before you make a choice, you should look at the whole of what you are offered. Working hours, tasks, workplace and the environment at work are also very important and should be part of the basis for your assessment. When all is said and done, only you can decide what is good enough for you.

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