12 August 2016

How to negotiate your first wages?

Conscientiously browse the internet for job offers and only want one thing: your first job interview. The prospect of a job is a real prospect together with your future financial independence. But what wages are you planning to negotiate? And what advantages, in particular fringe benefits, do you think you will obtain?

How much do you want to earn?

At job interviews there is nearly always one question which arises: “How much do you want to earn?” To avoid being taken unaware, prepare your answer.

Interesting info:

In Belgium, the net monthly wages for a first job is approximately 1,139 euros. If you have a university degree, this amount is 1,424 euros. Also bear in mind that a salary depends on the sector where you work. So enquire about the average wages for a first job in your line of business.

“When I go to a job interview, I always have an idea of an amount", says Oliver who has just graduated as a lawyer. “It is rather an indicative amount than a real objective. Nevertheless, from thinking about it and talking with people who have similar jobs, I now have an idea which enables me to make a realistic proposal.”

Gross or net? How much will you have in hand?

Make sure that you are speaking the same language as your employer. Are the wages expressed as gross wages? If they are, how much is left over once charges have been deducted? You can easily find the tools on the internet to calculate the gross net ratio of your wages. Here is an example (FR)*.

More than simply wages

In addition to the wages which reward you for the work you deliver, there are many benefits. Lindsay has a degree in Dutch literature and language and is looking for a job in the communications sector. “I am happy to earn wages and to have an electric kettle at the office. But a train season ticket and luncheon vouchers would also be welcome.”

Fringe benefits: always worthwhile!

In addition to your wages employers can grant various advantages which can be appreciable: a smartphone, plus the subscription, a company car, a fuel card, eco-vouchers, etc.

The two benefits offered the most often are hospital insurance and group insurance. Hospital insurance refunds, in whole or in part, the charges normally borne by patients after social security contributions. Group insurance, taken out by employers, allows wage-earners to build up a pension capital and to top up their state pension when they stop working.


Other parameters which can be important: working time flexibility. The work leisure balance has become paramount nowadays. “In addition to my work, it is important for me to have time for my art. A flexible timetable is, therefore, a supplementary benefit”, emphasizes Holly who would like to combine a half-time job with her artistic activities. If the conventional 9-5 timetable does not suit you, flexible hours or working from home can be satisfactory alternatives.

Cherry on the cake

Your job is also an opportunity to network. You can network at events such as staff parties, seminars, training courses, Family Days, etc.

Moreover you can receive attractive discounts from your employer’s trade partners.

Enquire before negotiating!

As you can see, there are plenty of possibilities to negotiate your wage package. What matters is that you are well informed before starting negotiations, which avoids missing major benefits. To help you with your enquiries, go to the wage barometer website (FR)*. There you will see how much someone in the same position as you earns, which fringe benefits you can obtain, how your wages will evolve over time, etc.

Bear in mind that fringe benefits are also beneficial for employers: they cost less in social security contributions than paying higher wages. So don’t hesitate to ask for such benefits from your employer.

Finally, bear in mind: for your first job wages are not the only thing that matters. It is also important to learn and to move forward.

What now?