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Updated: 14 Dec 2020

Top 10 Crucial Rules for College Grad Interview Negotiations


Job interview negotiation tips for college grads who want a great deal

by Calum Coburn

If you’re fresh out of college and going for job interviews, chances are you’re at a big disadvantage. Why? Your interviewer is likely to have years of interview negotiation experience over you. Time someone leveled the playing field:

10. Aim High & Negotiate!

Does a sports coach tell his team to ‘take it easy and just hope for the best’ before they run onto the field or pitch? Not unless he hates holding trophies. So if a winning sports team runs out aiming high, then so should you in your job negotiations.

Lets face it, college resumes are typically lean when it comes to job experience. So one of the big factors your employer will be weighing in heavily is your level of confidence. How do you measure confidence? The value you put on your head and hands. Research market rates, and then aim higher. Be realistic, don’t be average, be S.M.A.R.T.

Yes, amazingly, just by choosing to negotiate, you’ll be raising yourself above 67% of your competition. A Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 8 out of 10 recruiters were willing to negotiate salary and benefits with job applicants. Yet only 33% of applicants surveyed said they felt comfortable negotiating. Don’t learn this lesson the hard way.

9. Inner Game

Who has the power in your interview negotiation: you, or the recruiter?
If your vote automatically went to the recruiter, you’re shooting yourself in the foot before taking the first step into their office. Most graduates worry about the thundering masses that are their competition. You can’t change your competition, so don’t lose a moment sweating it. Rather channel your energy into thinking of all the reasons your future employer WILL recruit you.

Whenever we recruit, there’s practically never just a small difference between our first candidate and second choice. There’s usually only really 1 real choice – the candidate we want. We’re devastated if we can’t get this person. So if you’re not that person, don’t sweat it, move on to find the right job for you.

8. Read

Most colleges teach technical stuff. Few learn the soft skills of how to market, persuade and influence effectively. Yet these are exactly the skills you need to get that job. You would have to live under a rock to avoid the constant bombardment of daily adverts and brands. Time to learn the tricks of their trade.

Start by reading the following superb books:

7. Lights, Camera, Action!

getting alongOn average, how long would you say it takes the average interviewer to decide to give you the job or not? Depending on which research you believe, between 4 and 90 seconds. This is VERY soon after you walk into the room. You’re likely still doing small talk. Not enough time for the interviewer to consciously assess your negotiation skills. So what are they assessing?

They’re mostly wanting to know if you’ll fit in there, and make them look good for hiring you. So your having short tidy hair, being clean shaven, appropriately dressed, friendly, confident and respectful enough help your chances. So think of the interview as a movie role you’re auditioning for called: “Typecasting: My Future Career”. The biggest part of the decision comes down to your being typecast.

6. Right Tree?

Is your ladder leaning against the right tree? i.e. are you interviewing for the right jobs? Have you chosen the right career path? Yes, after polishing up your resume and finally made it out of all those years of study, you just want a job to earn money and enjoy your independence (or pay off your loans). This is about the last question you want to ask yourself. It’s also the most important question you need to ask yourself.

U.S. statistics show that workers between the ages of 18 and 38 change jobs an average of 10 times. Government statistics is scarce on how many of these were career changes. So I’m going to stick my neck out (just a little) and say that most of these people changed careers at least once. Over 95% of clients on our procurement negotiation training and sales negotiation training courses started their careers in a completely different area.

Your first career job will give you foundation experience that will exert a strong effect on what other opportunities open up in your future. So before stressing over whether you’re negotiating right, first think long and hard about whether you’re negotiating for the right job.

How can you know if you’re chasing after the right career? We recommend taking some psychometric or thinking profile tests, like the Whole Brain Thinking Profile

5. Questions

Most graduates underestimate the value and power of questions. Yes, it’s worthwhile buying one of those ‘Toughest Interview Questions’ books. But you, just like everybody else likely knew that already. Read these books to survive, not beat the competition. So how do YOU stand out?

Prepare your own questions, write them down before the interview. What types of questions? Since you’re likely being hired to solve a problem or to prevent further pain, ask them where it hurts. Ask how / why the role became available / was created, and what not finding the right person would mean to them. If they give you straight answers, you’ve got the information you need to tell them what YOU can do to solve their problems and prevent their further pain.

4. One Size Does NOT Fit All

aim highHave you sent your resume to tons of companies? It’s called the ‘Spray and Pray’ approach. The up-shots are:

  • Lots of interview experience
  • More chances of landing a job

The challenges:

  • Your time and energy will be sucked up into interview city
  • Hard to remember what you said to who
  • Little time to prepare for each interview

To have the ‘spray and pray’ work to your advantage, make sure you follow these 2 nuggets of wisdom:

  1. First build interview experience (i.e. ask stupid questions, experiment by giving stupid answers, practice telling stories) in the job interviews you DON’T want. Then use your new experience in the later job interviews you’re interested in.
  2. Research and prepare for the jobs you do want. You need to stand out. Luckily for you, most candidates won’t even read the home page of the company they’re interviewing for. Read up on their mission statement, financial results, goals, and of course check out recent stories on google news or yahoo news.

3. Tell Stories

Tell true stories. You can’t bore your way into being memorable and hired. Yet this is exactly what most graduates end up doing. Since any half decent interviewer is going to ask you about a problem/project you worked on that you’re proud of, you would be nuts not to prepare your stories before the interview.

Why are stories so important? Your interviewing sees tons of dry boring resumes. They talk with the (mostly) dry boring guys who write these resumes. So how are they supposed to remember anyone? By the stories they tell. We all love stories. Stories provide the coat hanger to rest your memories on. So get good at telling stories and you’ll stand out and be memorable. Tell a good story and you’ll be interesting and come across as competent. You could have the best technical skills in the world, but unless you can get this across in a story, how else would the interviewer know.


  1. Choose stories that are relevant to your prospective employer.
  2. Edit the stories to relate them to your employers’ challenges.
  3. As much as possible, include numbers. So either dollars or time saved.

So write out your stories. Edit your stories. Rehearse your stories.

2. It’s all about the Money – NOT!

Why do most people stay in or leave a job? If you guessed because of their poorly negotiated salary / pay level, you would have missed the mark. Most people stay or go for non-monetary qualitative factors. So for the companies you’re really interested in, invest time finding out about these other factors. Get to meet your future colleagues and boss. Check out the canteen. Ask about flexitime and working from home. Ask about getting a laptop, personal organiser, cell phone, paid for subscriptions and membership fees, paid for study, courses, time off for study etc. Managers usually have more flexibility over these value adders than over salary level. Companies often differ wildly in this area.

1. The REAL Power Chips

Graduates ask us for interview tips and tactics. More powerful however are your interview negotiation strategy and your integrity.


Question: How do you get the power chips in your job interview?
Answer: Get competing job offers on the table.

When you have 1 job offer, you’re stuck. With 2 job offers, you’re in a dilemma. With 3 or more job options, you start to have real choice. So ask your interviewers to put their offers in writing, and get details – including salary.


Your technical skills can only take you so far. Self Development and Personal Growth will determine your longer term career success. So cut into your TV or party/social time to work on your people skills, your emotional intelligence and your integrity.

People Skills – How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie; NLP Training Courses and books

Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman’s books

Integrity – 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Steven Covey

Be careful about using negotiation tactics in your interview. If you’re not coming from a place of integrity, then the tactics won’t work, and you’ll likely burn your reputation and soil relationships. It’s worth learning tactics though, so that you can counter them if someone tries to fool you.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 StarsRate this Article
4.8 out of 5 from 4 responses
  • 7
    Dr Piotr Jednaszewski on

    Grads need tools to go smoothly through the interview. There are many factors they do not take into consideration or are just simply not aware of. This article should be read by every grad. I am often asked by my students: How do I prepare for a job interview. What are the possible questions? Should I say this ot that?
    The article gives the right light on interview preparation.

  • 7
    Tyler on

    I am a senior in college graduating with a degree in Human Resource management, I am currently working in the HR department of a fortune 500 company. I’ve been working here for a little over six months and have learned a lot in the way of recruiting, interviewing and hiring, and I would like to compliment the writer or writers of this article. The information is right on, and full of insight. Cheers and good luck!

  • 7
    Rosy on

    I’m interviewing for my second job, and reading that we’re being typecasted into jobs took the pressure off. This was so true for my first job. I’m always sweating that I’ll say the wrong thing and blow it. In the end I got on well with my first boss, so he wanted to hire me, and I got the experience I needed. In reality it came down to good chemistry, plus having a relevant degree.

    Yes, I had prepped my own questions and told stories. Wished I’d talked about the non-monetary benefits more! It’s mostly about chemistry in my experience.

  • 9
    Justin Holmes on

    Been doing the interview rounds thing. Am tired of fielding the same stupid questions as if I heard them the first time. In the end, I still feel like ‘they’re’ holding almost all the cards. Mostly I don’t get called back or told that the position was filled. It’s like a full time job just finding a job. Just feels to me that without years of experience behind me, I’m going to be treading water. Articles like these are encouraging. Then I have to get back to trawling the job sites.

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