Salary Negotiation can be tricky for most OPT, STEM OPT students, even for H1B Visa or H4 visa holders.
About five years back, I was helping a recent graduate on F1 Visa and OPT with the interview process.
He was looking for a job as an entry-level Mechanical Engineer. I help him get more money! But how? I will share the story later in this article. Keep reading.
More often than not, people don’t negotiate their salary and agree upon the salary offered to them by the employer.
The critical thing to remember is to at least ask for what you want.
But, you know it’s not as easy as it sounds. Right?
When you get a new job offer, negotiating your salary can make you feel anxious and awkward if you have never negotiated before.
- Would they deny my job offer if I asked for more salary?
- I need a job and am happy to get a job offer. Why negotiate the salary.
So we asked our members if they negotiated the salary when offered a new job. Following are the interesting responses we received from them.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for More Salary
Don’t be afraid to negotiate your salary; it’s quite a common practice.
However, before you negotiate, be prepared. Research multiple platforms such as Glassdoor, Fishbowl, and Level.fyi, h1bdata.info to present some actual facts that make your case strong and justify why you deserve more salary for that position than offered.
This will help you draw a picture of how much people are making for the given salary at that location in that particular company. Also, this will make sure you are not leaving money on the table.
Avoid petty excuses and baseless justification. Recruiters and hiring managers spend so many resources, time, and energy before extending an offer, so they take it as a positive sign, showing your interest in that position.
Also, be professional and flexible, and not be adamant about a specific number or over a minimal amount. See the bigger picture. Finally, be sure you know the rules of a good negotiation.
2. Salary vs. Green Card
Some tips from my personal experience:
- No one rescinds an offer because of negotiation. Worst case, they’ll say no to your ask. So always negotiate. You have nothing to lose.
- There is always a 10 to 15 percent wiggle room.
- If you have competing offers, never forget to use them for negotiation. I’ve seen folks hiding competing offers. Not sure why.
- For international folks: Always clarify the GC Sponsorship policy of the company. I’ve seen some people not caring about this because they don’t have their H1Bs. Don’t do that. Once you have your H1B, the sooner you start the GC process, the better.
3. Ask 10 to 15% More
Recently I negotiated my offer letter.
If you are employed, you have time to negotiate it, ask them to increase 10% or 15%. You can also request for sign-on bonus or relocation package.
I asked them for 10% above my actual salary they offered 20% above my actual salary. So then I requested for joining bonus and received 5%.
You have nothing to lose. Don’t be afraid to ask more and explain to them it, use your reasons.
4. Ask for More Salary Upfront
My first conversation with a head hunter or a recruiter is to ask what’s the company’s policy on H1 Transfer. If yes, my next question is to provide them with a salary range, stocks, and joining bonus requirement that I’m looking for in the offer.
If they agree on that range, I agree to interview. If not, it ends right there.
5: Don’t Be the First to Ask for Salary
This is what I’ve learned so far. First, I had three offers when I was nearing my graduation.
- Never start negotiating from your side first. Instead, let the employer send you an offer.
- List your priorities- visa, base pay, equities, leaves, other benefits, etc.
- Email HR with your offer with sufficient explanation to support your claims.
- This process is different from case to case and can vary based on the employer. So it’s better to reach out to connections working in that company beforehand before jumping into the waters.
Now, you have read how five readers recently negotiated the salary.
It’s easy for me to advise you on how to negotiate your salary.
It’s tough when you are on the spot to ask for more.
Pro Tip: You have to negotiate. Ask and you shall be rewarded.
It would help if you mustered up the courage to ask for more salary and have answers to back it up.
Few minutes of work = Additional Money
About five years back, I was helping an entry-level graduate on F1 Visa and OPT with the interview process.
He was looking for a job as a Mechanical Engineer. But, as an entry-level Mechanical Engineer, you can’t expect a salary like a software engineer.
He happens to find the CEO of a small firm in upstate New York, and after the initial conversation, he was offered a job.
It was like a 10-person company, and he was offered around $48,000 as starting job.
Typically, there will not be room to get 5% or 10% more salary with smaller firms.
So, you have to get what you can. He asked if the employer would sponsor and apply for H1B Visa. Employer agreed.
He was happy to accept the offer.
“This is my first job offer after searching and applying for hundreds of jobs. They will sponsor H1B. What more can I ask for? So, let’s take the offer.”
He pinged me that he had tried his best and was about to accept the offer.
- 10 Months. 968 Jobs Applied. 704 No Responses. 12 Interviews. 1 Job Offer – Life of International F1 Student
I spoke to him over the phone and asked him to write an email and what should be in the content of the email.
He sent a draft of the email. I suggested a few edits.
Later in the day, he pinged me to tell me that he got $2500 for relocation.
A two-minute phone call and 10 minutes to compose an email netted $2500 in relocation expenses.
Pro-Tip: Job Search is a skill. Each aspect of a job search is a skill that can be acquired.
Salary negotiation is a skill that’s hard to master. I agree.
Course in Thermodynamics, Java Programming, or Molecular Biology doesn’t teach you how to negotiate the salary.
If you take a course in business school on negotiation, you can get good at it. But most folks are not in business school or taking a negotiation class.
Plus, you get to do that maybe just a few times in your career, and you do not get real-life experience every day.
How many jobs did you change in your career? Especially as someone on OPT, H1B Visa, where the green card process takes for years, folks tend to stay in their jobs longer.
So, when an opportunity presents itself, then make use of it.
Here’s in an expert form the book Bargaining for Advantage by G. Richard Shell
I said, salary negotiation is a skill, and you need to learn it.
What if HR or a recruiter asks about salary in the first phone call?
How do you respond to the question about the expected salary?
In the advice given by readers, I do not agree with the recommendation that I will ask more upfront!
Salary negotiation should never be part of the conversation until the employer makes the offer.
I meant by preparation and why you need to be ready to face such questions and respond with an answer, they find acceptable.
At this very moment, you are thinking, how can I respond.
What should be the correct answer?
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson
So, it is easy to visualize how you could answer, but when you are on the spot, can you respond with the perfect answer?
You could say and try to deflect the question.
HR would come back and ask, “we can’t continue with the interview process without knowing the salary range!”.
Now, you are thinking!
I’m on OPT.
My unemployment days are counting.
I need a job ASAP!
I will take any salary they will offer!
I need a job today!
In other words, you give in to the HR’s request and let them dictate the job offer.
That’s what I meant by preparation. So, how can you prepare to negotiate?
To master the art of negotiation, you should learn about psychology and the art of persuasion, not just salary negotiation.
Here are a few books that you can get started with the art of negotiation, and then comes the salary part.
- 71 Brilliant Salary Negotiation Email Samples
- Never Split the Difference Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It.
- Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In
- Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive
And before we wrap this up. Salary is not the only component you can negotiate. Each and every aspect of the job offer could be negotiated.
I have listed a few books (affiliate link) above. But, in reality, what happens?
You will try to read a few articles about just when you expect the job offer.
If you want to learn how to negotiate, it’s a work in progress, and you need to start learning not the day or hour before you are going into the job interview.
You have to start early, then put in enough time to practice because you do not get ten opportunities to negotiate. Maybe ten jobs in the next decade or even more than that. So, be ready, put in the work today for a job you will have to negotiate later in your career.