Salary Negotiation in the Netherlands: A Guide For Recent Graduates

Updated: Jul 29

Negotiating your salary in the Netherlands will require thorough preparation. Make sure you go in confident, with an idea of the salary range you position yourself in. It is essential for you not to oversell or undersell yourself and to take other parameters, such as the holiday allowance and the pension plan into account.


Coins stacked

Overcoming the fear of negotiating

Many recent graduates fear the first salary negotiation and presenting their salary expectations. In addition, having no or few years of experience, often the case for grads or undergrads, adds to the impression of not deserving to ask for reasonable salaries.


The “what is your expected salary” leaving the recruiter's mouth has terrified more than one young graduate. This panic might quickly turn into a disadvantage as you'll appear unconfident and unprepared.


That’s why it is so important to be prepared. This will prevent you from panicking and help you know exactly what to expect from the negotiation.


Whether you have much or few years of experience, we want to make sure you are well prepared.


Here are general tips, useful phrases and the specifics of salaries in the Netherlands.


How to prepare a salary negotiation

Come to the job interview prepared. You might think negotiating salaries only comes in later in the interview process, or when you're 100% sure of getting an offer. However, it is very likely these discussions will come up early in the interview process.


You can prepare by:

  • Researching the salary range and compensation packages for similar positions

  • Knowing your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement)

  • Knowing the difference between gross and net salaries

While salaries are generally negotiated in gross amounts, it's always useful to have an idea of what will really end up in your pocket at the end of the month.


Researching the salary range: points of reference

Starting your preparation by looking up points of reference is very useful in getting a feeling of salary ranges.


Job portals

Glassdoor is a great portal for that:

  • Create an account

  • Enter your potential employer's company name

  • Salary ranges and information about employee satisfaction will pop up! for example. Also, job portals might show similar positions and the corresponding salary.

University websites

University websites can also be a great source for points of references. Typically, universities survey alumni on their salaries and post the results on their websites.


It's likely the establishment for publish an average gross salary for your specific field of study or degree. Research this data and decide before the interview whether you consider yourself average or above average.


Checking several sources of information is a great way to become aware of the market conditions.


Know your "Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement" (BATNA)


Your BATNA

BATNA is a common phrase in negotiation theory. It basically describes the best or most advantageous option you're left with if negotiations fail. In sum, it's the option you're left with if you don't get exactly what you want. Finding out what your BATNA is will help you establish the minimum you're willing to settle for.


You might be applying to several firms at the same time. If one company doesn't match your request, another one might!


The company's BATNA

It is also good to think about the company’s BATNA.


Does the employer have many people queuing up for the position? How valuable would you be to them? Can they afford to lose you?


Remember not all the power is in the employer's hands. They need you too, companies need talent. If you're convinced you're the gem they need, showcase yourself and your selling points to differentiate yourself from others.


The trick about BATNA is to not share it in a negotiation. Keep it to yourself and use it to estimate how good or bad a tradeoff is for your situation, and theirs.


Gross and net salaries

Usually, you negotiate gross salaries. Not always easy to know how that translates into net value, especially if you are not used to the tax system in the Netherlands.


To get a better feeling, use the Dutch Income Tax Calculator. This tool is extremely helpful as it not only computes what your gross salary represents in net value but also takes holiday allowance and other nation-specific allowances.


In addition, it also presents hourly, monthly and annual wages. If you had previous side jobs, you might be familiar with hourly wages. It might thus be easier for you to better understand the quality of an offer.


Useful phrases in salary negotiations


Business meeting

Now that you know how much to ask, how do you ask for it? You need to prepare argumentations, examples, and maybe references so that you can back up any question the recruiter might have for you.


Highlighting your skills

When talking about salary recruiters might ask you “What do you feel comfortable asking?”

Possible answers are:

  • “The average salary for this job position is …€ but with me, you don't get the average employee, because …”

  • “I am asking for the upper end of the range because …”

  • “I see that your company values … and that is exactly what I bring to the table. For example… so I feel comfortable asking for …”

After that, make sure to emphasise:

  • Work experience

  • Education and diplomas

  • Skills (hard skills, soft skills, language skills)

  • Extracurricular activities

  • Committee experience

  • Voluntary work

Anything that makes you stand out and is relevant for the job you can mention here. The more you connect your skills to the job, the more credible you'll be to ask for a higher wage.


Dos and don’ts when negotiating salaries


Do's


1. Ask about the salary

No need to be afraid to ask about money. The person you are talking to is aware of the fact that you will not work for free.


Bringing it up can show that you stand up for yourself and that you know how it goes. All beneficial qualities in the hiring process.


2. Practice how you deliver

Rehearse your argumentation and how you highlight what you bring to the company. Presenting salary expectations is not the best instance to freestyle.


Write down what you plan on saying and practice the tones you'll be using. Come up with concrete examples in your argumentation.


3. Make your offer in a determined and polite way

Your tone of voice matters! When you sell yourself dare to be determined. Tell them about your achievements and the value you can add convincingly.


Saying "Soo I think it is okay to ask for xxx€ because, well,…uhm because I am very motivated and bring the knowledge you need??” will not help you. Instead, use one of the phrases we listed above. You can do this!


Don'ts


4. Don’t overstate your qualifications

You do not want to overstate your qualifications because your new employer will become aware of that quite fast. Most of the time, recruiters and hiring managers have interviewed hundreds of people: they can see individuals overselling themselves a mile away.


The consequence could be them losing trust in you or your reputation suffering. Hence, be honest in your answer, but also don’t undersell yourself.


5. Don’t undersell yourself

As a recent graduate, you might feel you don't really have anything to offer. Not much work experience, average grades etc. But this is not the case!


This is not the moment for imposter syndrome to take over: if you've made it to the interview, you're doing something right. Capitalise on that and stand strong on your abilities, skills, and experience, however modest it might be!


6. Don’t start too low

You can always go lower, but you cannot go higher. If you mention a sum, it is optimally at the upper end of their range. Some would advise therefore not to mention a sum at all but to work with ranges instead.


Extra benefits to consider


Training session

Salary negotiations are not standalone. They come with contracts. We recommend you to be aware of salary-independent factors.


Monetary extras

If you could not reach your desired wage, other monetary benefits might help you get there:

  • Bonuses

  • Commissions

  • Raise policies

Often, companies have a routine in issuing these. Don't hesitate to request more information about their policies regarding them.


Non-monetary extras

Because money is not everything you could also consider non-monetary factors to compensate for unmet expectations.

Have a lookout for:

  • Company car/travel budget

  • Training budgets

  • Number of vacation days

  • Possibility of a home office and flexible working hours

What else do I need to be aware of when negotiating my salary in the Netherlands?


As an international coming to work in the Netherlands, you might be surprised by the word holiday allowance, in Dutch, vakantiegeld.


Holiday allowance

In the Netherlands, your employer is obliged to pay you an 8% holiday allowance. This means that your gross monthly wage is multiplied by 12 months and then you get 8% of that.


Sometimes you get the 8% at once like a 13th salary, but it is also possible to get a slightly higher salary per month. When a job posting in the Netherlands mentions a yearly salary it often includes the 8%. So, make sure you divide it by 13 and not by 12 to get an estimate of the monthly salary.


Need interview tips, training or help with your applications in general?



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