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Why You Shouldn’t Apply for a Job Before You Know These Tricks for Resume Writing and Negotiating Your Salary

Illustration of resumes

You might be an amazing blogger and you could have expertly negotiated your way into a later curfew at the age of 15, but writing a stellar résumé and negotiating your salary are two skills most young job applicants struggle with.

But don’t fear! These tips can help you get noticed and feel more comfortable talking about your starting salary.

Resume Writing is an Art Form

Before you hit send on your next application, ask yourself this question. Have you customized your résumé to that job application? Most people just make one résumé and blast it out to the four corners of the earth. This can be a huge mistake. A résumé should be a specific to the company or job description you’re applying for.

Read the job description carefully

Highlight the skills and qualities listed in the description and then find clear ways to link your experience on your résumé to these skills. When you’re done, you should have addressed all of the skills and experience requirements on the job listing within your résumé.

Spell it out

You might think it’s obvious that organizing a huge conference at your former job demonstrated leadership, but make sure to spell it out. Include a bullet point about how you took the lead and the skills you refined by being a leader. Do that with every skill requirement the company has listed.

Make your resume scannable

Create a short list of your skills and technological proficiencies at the top of your résumé. This makes it easier to read and hiring managers can immediately see that you have the skills they’re looking for.

Include volunteer experiences

Employers like to see candidates who are passionate and donate their time. Also, you might have gained valuable skills in your volunteer roles that could help you get the position.

If you don’t have experience that’s relevant in an area they’re looking for, be sure to mention that in your cover letter and explain why that won’t be an impediment to your success at the job. The last thing you want is for them to think that you won’t be able to handle a part of the job and for you to have no opportunity to convince them otherwise.

Don’t be afraid of negotiating

There are many reasons you might want to negotiate your salary. For example, you might have gotten another offer and you want the company to match it. Also, not negotiating could cost you. Companies may expect candidates to negotiate, so their initial offers may be intentionally low. It’s estimated that if you never negotiate your salary, you could miss out on almost $1 million in wages over the course of your career.

But how do you know if you can negotiate? If you’re being hired into a union job, your union usually does any negotiating for you, but otherwise most jobs have wiggle room. You can always ask and find out.

Fear may be the one thing that makes most people bad at negotiating. They think, “The company might retract the offer and then what?” But after the interview process, the company picked you and likely doesn’t want to go through the hiring process again. That should give you some confidence.

Before you start negotiating, make sure to affirm your interest in the company, and tell them how excited you are to start working with them.

Next, figure out what a reasonable counter-offer is. You might want to ask your former classmates what kinds of offers they’ve received, or look to see if the company’s pay scales are listed online.

Once you have an idea of how much you want to ask for, clearly outline what you want. If you have another offer from another company, you might ask them to match it. Just be sure to once again affirm your interest in working for their company.

Here’s some tips for how to respond to some common (or feared!) scenarios.

1. “We can’t increase the salary.”

Response: “I understand. I’m wondering if there is any flexibility on things like vacation time or work scheduling? I’d be able to accept a lower salary if I could work from home one day a week, or get an extra week of vacation.”

2. “We can’t increase your salary by 10%, but we can increase it by 5%.”

Response: “Thank you so much. I really appreciate your willingness to negotiate the salary. I also understand that there are other benefits other than just salary. Can we go through your benefits package, or your mentorship programs so that I can better compare your offer to the others I’ve received?”

3. “The fact that you want to negotiate makes me question your interest in the position.”

Response: “I am very interested in this position. I’m sorry if my wanting to negotiate made your feel otherwise. I agree that you’ve made me a fair offer and understand that you cannot negotiate on salary. I need some time to think about it and get back to you.”