There is salary – and then there is everything else

Marianne Bom & Rie Jerichow, Publicér

As an inexperienced person on the job market, it can be tough to weight salary in relation to what else lies in the job.
A senior consultant in recruitment agency Randstad guides you through a good job interview.

The more you can dig up on the company, you are interviewed by, the better, says Anne Christine Møller. You can do this on webpages, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Also look at the seniority of the employees. If it is high, it is generally a sign that employees are happy. Picture: Nikolaj Henum.

When you stand with your diploma in your hand and your first job within reach, it can feel anxiety-provoking when the talk turns to salary and conditions of employment. And that is with good reason – because you need to choose your words carefully.

“In this situation, it is crucial to have a silver tongue. If you say the wrong words, it can come across greedy or braggy. But if you speak eloquently, you can show that you have sight of your own career, which is in the company’s best interests. You can show that you are ready to do 1,000% to make it, for the sake of the company,” says Anne Christine Møller, senior consultant in recruitment agency Randstad. Part of her job is to make newly graduated applicants ready for interviews in engineering companies.

Focus on the possibilities in the future
When the conversation goes to salary, she always asks: what do you expect? And the answer is often that the recently graduated expect an amount somewhat equal to what they read on IDAs webpage. If that is not doable, many have a hard time bouncing back.

“I have met a lot of recently graduated engineers, whose verbal competences are not as great as their engineering competences, and that can make it hard to elegantly express that they are not completely satisfied. You could for instance say: ‘I think it is at the low end, and that is not what I expected. But can we agree to discuss a raise, if I deliver what you expect from me, after a year?’ It’s about turning what you say into something positive, where you can show that you are ready to knock it out of the park,” she says.


More than salary
It is of course important to get a satisfactory salary from your new job. But it is a good idea to look out for other factors than salary. Money is not everything, and it is a good strategy to have focus on the long-term possibilities within the job.
“You rarely get your dream job in the first round. Therefore, it is interesting what kind of evolving possibilities the job gives you, which can get you the job you want in five years. Are you, for instance, interested in strengthening your drawing skills, or construction competences, or gaining experience within project management? In that context, free phones, lunch arrangements, and other pleasantries are not nearly as interesting. It will be taken positively, if you ask about how the company organises career development – or when an applicant says: ‘This is where I want to be in five years. I know it will be hard work, but I’m willing to do what it takes.’,” Anne Christine Møller says.

Thorough groundwork
It can be completely natural and very human to be interested in vacation time, lunch arrangements, health insurance, and social arrangements. But maybe you should refrain from asking so directly. “During the interview, you can ask the recruiter to tell you about the company culture without any issues, and then they might tell you that you eat breakfast together on Fridays, or that there is a fitness arrangement. You can also ask if the company has a personnel handbook, where you may read about lunch arrangements, Christmas parties, and company parties,” says the senior consultant.

You have to be careful what you ask, because you might reveal that you have not done your groundwork well enough.
“The majority of all engineering businesses are part of a convention, where you, as an applicant, can find the answers to a lot of questions – for instance vacation and pension agreements. It is my experience that many young people today barely know what a convention is. You have to look into this, so you don’t come off as unprepared. Last year, I helped hire a young engineer. He called me and seemed upset a couple of hours after he was hired, and said: ‘It says here they can fire me any day for the first three months’. And I just told him that that was completely normal. It is the same terms I was hired under,” says Anne Christine Møller.