When seeking a new job, it’s imperative to know the market, understand where you fit within it, and form a realistic salary expectation to stick to. A good talent partner will help you to know your worth within the industry and organization you’re interviewing for and will assist with communicating those expectations back to the hiring manager, but no one is a better advocate for you than you.
Learning how to negotiate a salary when you receive a job offer is a vital skill for both now and in the future, and when done appropriately, will put you in a better position not just financially, but also in terms of how valued you feel in your role. As we know, feeling appreciated and adequately compensated for our time, effort, and expertise has a direct impact on productivity, engagement, and general happiness within a company, so salary negotiations play an important part for both sides.
It can be difficult to communicate those expectations as a professional hoping to onboard with a new company, and there is certainly a residual stigma around speaking about money and asking for more that is hard to overcome. But on average, professionals who negotiate the salary presented with a job offer receive an average increase of 7%, so good communication skills and an understanding of your contribution can really pay off.
As a general rule, always assume the offer is up for negotiation. And don’t forget to approach the process with positivity, as chances are the hiring manager isn’t crazy about negotiating, either. Here are our top tips on how to bargain for the salary you deserve.
Know the industry salary trends
Trying to negotiate for a higher salary without being familiar with industry trends will get you off to a bad start. Information is your biggest asset and conducting some research as well as speaking openly to a talent partner that knows your industry, the hiring company, and what you have to offer, will vastly improve your bargaining power. You can be a negotiating pro, but without being able to back up your requests with solid reasoning, it will be harder for the hiring company to take your expectations seriously.
Pay particular attention to the most sought-after roles and skills within your industry and think about how your experience relates. Being able to recognize when your skills are transferable to a particularly in-demand area will add to your negotiation power.
Start negotiating only when you have a firm offer
There is a process to be followed when it comes to receiving and accepting a job offer and understanding the etiquette will help your negotiation when the time comes. If you are interested in a position but it doesn’t meet your salary expectation, resist the temptation to bargain until the company has given you a formal offer. This is your signal that your skills, expertise, and personality are a strong match for the business and the role, and is a great asset to you when it’s time to tell them why you’re worth the higher salary. Once the ball is in your court, you can use the fact that they think you’re right for the job along with your understanding of the industry and the market to your advantage, making it harder for them to dismiss your requirements.
It can also be worthwhile to take a reasonable amount of time to consider the offer rather than jump into negotiations. Tell the hiring manager that you’re serious about the offer and the position, but that you need some time to consider the whole picture. Be gracious and enthusiastic but take the time you need to prepare for negotiations and signal to them that there may be elements of the offer that don’t align with your requirements. Chances are they’ll have a counteroffer in mind for you.
Build the business case
In order for a company to seriously consider your request for an increased salary offer, it must make commercial sense for the business. Make a strong case, show that you understand the company's current financial situation, and know who has the power to negotiate. “A request for an increase in salary needs to come with justification as to why," advises Associate Director, George Aplin. "Increased offers are going to go through several discussions and approvals and unless you present a clear business case, you'll give the employer a reason to decline. Stick to facts and sell the tangible value you’re bringing to the business, including your unique skills and experience that exceed what is usually required for the role.”
While likeability shouldn’t be underestimated in the hiring process and a large part of your job offer will be to do with character fit, it’s not enough for them to like you when it comes to financial compensation. They have to believe your worth in fiscal terms, so don’t expect your personal compatibility to get you the salary increase you want. Instead, explain precisely why your requirements are justified in a business sense; your glowing personality will just make them glad your business case checked out.
Suggest an exact number for your salary
Time is of the essence, and hiring managers are particularly strapped for it while conducting interviews alongside their other duties. Therefore, they’ll likely appreciate a direct approach to your negotiation in terms of giving them the exact offer you’re looking for. It can be a powerful strategy in that it keeps the ball rolling and avoids pointless back and forth.
Research from the Columbia Business School suggests that candidates who use a specific number end up with a final offer much closer to the figure they were hoping for. Your potential employer will assume you have done your research on your market value and want to stay competitive in their offer. Don't suggest a range, you will always get offered the lowest if the manager knows there's room to haggle down.
Reveal your current salary when negotiating
Outside the US, the hiring manager may ask what you are currently earning, which can be awkward if you feel you are currently being underpaid. It might be tempting to lie and state a higher salary more in line with what you’re seeking, but if you're unhappy with your current pay, it can be valuable to tell them why. Include all your benefits, bonuses and confidently explain the figure you're hoping for while making the case for why. If anything, they’ll have a more genuine understanding of what you know your worth to be and that salary is important enough for you to walk away from a role that isn’t aligned with your requirements.
Have a walk away point
Know your limits and your expectations and keep them firmly in mind. Have a pre-considered ‘walk away’ point - the figure you’re absolutely unwilling to drop below. Base this on your financial need and the market value of the role, but keep in mind the role itself. Why are you interviewing for the position in the first place? Is your passion for the work worth lowering your salary expectations?
Get help negotiating your salary
Speaking with a specialist talent partner will help you understand your worth in the context of current industry trends and the wider job market, too. At Selby Jennings, we can evaluate your profile against the wider talent pool, as well as align your expectations with that of our current database of hiring companies. We'll help you pitch your value at the right price during the salary negotiation process, giving you the best chance to make your next position a rewarding and fulfilling one. Get in touch for tailored advice.