Given the choice, most of us would decide to earn more for our daily exertions.
Thankfully for employers though, we don’t all just get to set our salaries as we please. But, importantly, neither do they.
Salary negotiation is an essential part of your working life, whether it be during a job interview, as part of a performance review, or something you raise with your HR department or line manager.
Negotiating your salary is the best way to ensure you are paid fairly, and that your hard work is adequately rewarded. It’s not about being greedy or driving a hard bargain.
Done right, salary negotiations benefit everyone – including the employer. At the end of the day, they want you to be happy in your job and motivated to do your best work.
These 5 tips will help you negotiate your salary with success, avoiding that awkward feeling and maintaining a strong, positive relationship with the people responsible for paying you.
1/ Come prepared
Salary negotiation may take place in a number of different ways. It may very well be in person, especially if you’re negotiating your salary with a current employer.
But negotiations often happen over the phone or via email too, particularly following an offer from a prospective employer.
However you get there, you must be prepared to negotiate. Don’t turn up to an interview without considering your salary expectations, as you might be asked.
Do your research
The best way to know what salary you should receive is to look it up.
There are a number of free salary checkers, or “salary calculators”, available online. Of course, salaries depend on two main factors: location and responsibilities. These tools often specialize in a given country, region or city, and will probably ask you to enter indicative job titles to arrive at an accurate figure.
Glassdoor offers a free salary checker service which covers a number of countries.
These calculators are only as good as the data they’ve collected, so be sure to check how many real salaries the final figure is based on. (Local sites will tend to have better data.)
For some jobs it may be harder to find accurate equivalents – or simply enough of them to get an accurate number. In that case, try to find relevant forum discussions, consider average salaries across industries or markets, or ask someone in your network if they can help.
Remember, you don’t need to have an exact figure in your mind. Find a range that you think is fair and use that as a starting point.
2/ Play for time
Salaries are a big deal. Negotiations aren’t something that should be treated lightly, and so should be expected to take a bit of time.
The best thing is for each party to take their time. After discussions, both should go away and consider the offer or expectation seriously before coming back.
That way everyone’s aims are being respected, and a common agreement should be easier to reach.
Don’t just take the first offer you get
If you’re asked during an interview for your salary expectations, make sure you are happy to give an answer before you do. Don’t feel forced.
You may prefer to hear their offer first, or you might just need to know more about the job before you can make a judgement.
After receiving an offer, give yourself the time you need – maybe a day or two – to think about it and consider whether or not to make a counter offer.
Likewise, don’t expect your employer to just accept or reject the first figure you give them. It’s a negotiation.
3/ Make your case
Arriving at a figure or range you’d be happy to receive is all well and good, but your preparation shouldn’t end there.
You must be ready to stand by your stated expectations or proposed salary increase. This should never become an argument or a conflict between yourself and your employer. But they may expect you to justify your position.
Confidence is key
For most people salary negotiations are awkward. Many dread the question about their expectations.
This is understandable. It can be strange to state your value in monetary terms, and no one wants to be thought greedy or overly motivated by money.
That’s why it’s important to be confident about your salary expectations and your needs. Once you’ve decided on a figure or range that you think is fair, then it should be easy to respectfully make your case.
There’s nothing selfish or greedy about ensuring you are rewarded fairly for your work. Your employer is unlikely to disagree on this point.
4/ Present the evidence
It’s much easier to justify your salary expectations with the help of cold, hard facts.
Salary negotiations are not a test of your ability to drive a hard bargain and extract the most you can from your employer. Far from it.
Armed with an objective picture of the market rate, your value, and your needs, salary negotiations will become an amicable discussion based on the evidence.
Numbers don’t lie
First, consider what you’re earning now and ask yourself if it’s enough. Are there any benefits beyond the salary that contribute to your wellbeing and sense of satisfaction?
It’s important to your employer that you can afford to pay the bills, but you’re also helping to pay theirs – and generate their profits.
Consider your role at the company and how far you are responsible for success. If you are vital to the business, your pay should reflect that.
The research you’ve done on salaries for similar jobs, or offers you’ve received from elsewhere, are also important here. This information should be shared during a negotiation to ensure everyone is happy with the final outcome.
5/ Take a long view
From your employer’s point of view, your salary is an investment.
Whether you’re a new hire or a long-time employee, your pay is factored into the bigger picture of a company’s profits today and growth in the future.
Negotiations will be a lot easier if you consider the bigger picture, too.
What does the future hold?
Timing is important. What stage the company is at, and what stage your career is at, will shape the kind of discussion you should be having.
Try to plot a path for yourself, and ask what potential there is for your development. Should you expect your responsibilities to increase over time? Will there be chances for you to move up the ladder internally?
Consider what salary you’re going to need, or expect, in a few years’ time.
If you are negotiating your salary during a performance review, don’t forget that there will be another chance to discuss this at the next one. What might have changed between now and then?
If you are in the process of being hired, consider when you might have a chance to discuss your pay in future. Is the company rapidly expanding? Perhaps you can use your probation period, or your first year in position, to demonstrate your true value.