TIPS TO NEGOTIATE YOUR SALARY
It’s always a bit painful, but you have to ensure you get the best possible pay deal when negotiating with a prospective employer. Agreeing to an inferior salary package will undermine your earning capacity for years to come, and ultimately leave you feel
you came, you saw, you conquered the interviewing panel with your easy wit and impressive domain knowledge. Now comes the really tough part: negotiating your salary. Here are some fatal mistakes to avoid:
Unless you are completely thrilled with the offer, always try to press the company for a better deal.
1. REVEALING YOUR MAGIC NUMBER. Whatever you do, avoid being the first to put an actual amount on the table. If your salary expectation is too high, the company might take fright and you could lose a job offer. If it’s too low, you end up being underpaid. Force the company to reveal what they are prepared to pay, and use that as the starting point for negotiations.
The prospective employer will, however, try to press you on your expected salary, or your current pay, throughout the interview process. Resist. Deflect questions about remuneration with noncommittal answers (“Pay is not my main consideration, I’m focused on finding the right position where I can deliver the best value”, “I would first like to learn about what the job will entail”, or “I will consider any reasonable offer”). Or answer the question with a question: “What do you pay people in similar roles?” Bottom line: Force the employer to make you an offer first.
Never bring up compensation during an interview as this sends the wrong message. Instead postpone all questions about pay until you are one of the final candidates. The further you have progressed in the interviewing process, the more time and effort the company has invested in you and the more leverage you have.
If the company is absolutely insistent and you can’t avoid offering a salary expectation, mention a pay range between two amounts that would be acceptable to you, but make it clear that you are flexible.
2. NOT PREPARING A DETAILED COUNTER-OFFER. Unless you are completely thrilled with the offer, always try to press the company for a better deal. In response to the company’s initial offer, prepare a short document backing up your salary expectation with data on what your skills are worth in the industry. Do extensive research on salary levels and establish what people in similar jobs are earning in that city.
Importantly, demonstrate clearly to the company what value you can add to its bottom line. For example, if you have a diverse set of skills, show how the firm can save money by not having to outsource certain activities.
3. FOCUSING ONLY ON YOUR NEEDS. Don’t ever justify pay demands with your own financial requirements (for example, the fact that your salary needs to cover a student loan repayment, your large mortgage or alimony payments). In all your negotiations, the focus should be on how your prospective employer will benefit from your appointment.
4. GETTING STUCK ON PAY. If the company clearly won’t budge on a salary offer, and you definitely want the job, negotiate other aspects of the offer to sweeten the deal. This can include extra vacation, flexibility on office hours and working from home, a commitment that your salary will be reviewed at an earlier date, support for future studies, bonus payments, relocation benefits and stock options.
5. BEING TOO EASY. Throughout the salary negotiations, be enthusiastic about the prospect of working for the company. Make eye contact, be polite and pleasant. Don’t talk too much, keep the ball in the prospective employer’s court as much as possible, and don’t be too dramatic: refrain from large gestures and overstatements. But importantly, don’t try to please the interviewers too much. Often, new recruits refrain from negotiating on pay because they don’t want to hurt the relationship they are building with key figures in the company. This is a mistake: make sure you defend your own interests.
6. THINKING SHORT TERM. It is important to think about your remuneration trajectory and future with
the company. Pieter Human, director of the labour advisory service Labourwise, says uncertainty and potential disputes can be avoided by including a very clear performance agreement in your employment contract. The agreement should detail specific information about salary hikes and targets that will be rewarded. “These agreements have to be very clearly worded to exclude any uncertainties.”
7. NOT DOING A DRY RUN. Before participating in negotiations, first practise what you are going to say and make sure you are comfortable to talk about all issues that may arise. Role play the conversation with a friend beforehand and rehearse your responses to possible questions.
“The employee should always come prepared when discussing salary increases, backing up all demands with concrete evidence and numbers about how value was added to the employer’s bottom line.”
Pieter Human Director of the labour advisory service Labourwise