Career Management

Do You Know the Art of Salary Negotiations

Tips to Help You Come Out On Top

Few experiences in your professional life are likely to be as rewarding and exciting as the satisfaction that your first pay check at a new job brings with it. But before you feel the same sense of triumph, you have to learn the art of “Salary Negotiations” skills through a process that can make sense into the hearts and minds of jobseekers everywhere. So you’ve decided to move on from your current position and are about to start out on the jobs market. You’ve sent in your CV. You’ve had your interview and the job is yours. Now all you need to do is agree on the remuneration you will receive.

Annual reviews are also vital to career development. Too many professionals ignore the opportunity the annual review offers to improve their job. While the current economy might make salary changes difficult to come by, you can still win concessions in other important areas like training and new projects.

Most entry-level positions have set salaries that leave room for little negotiation. Mid-level positions typically have salary ranges of between 10 and 20 percent (i.e., a job paying €30,000 a year might have a salary range between €27,000 and €33,000.) Employers will negotiate within the range, but will rarely exceed it unless you are an exceptional candidate. Let’s say you are offered a position as Systems Analyst at a firm in the city centre. You have a good indication that other companies offer €40,000 per year. So you know that you will be looking for a salary at this range, as a minimum. So let’s say for example they come back with €40,000 as a figure. You could say “Well the figure you proposed to me has come in way lower than what I was thinking about.” They could ask “What range were you thinking of?” At this point I would look to say “Somewhere near the high €40K mark, around €48-49,000”.

Now they have an indication as to what sort of salary you are looking for. At this point they may counter back at €42,000. Say to them “Thanks for the offer. Unfortunately I don’t think I can commit to moving across for €42,000. I will have to speak with my spouse/partner/brother about this and see where we are with it. Can I get back tomorrow?” You are buying yourself sometime here with the negotiating. If you stay there, salary negotiation decisions will solely be on you and you alone. They can zone in on you making decisions. Referring to your spouse gives you a chance to think about it.

Next day, call them back. Explain you talked it over with your partner, but really can’t come anywhere near €42,000. €46,000 is the best you can come to”. They more likely will counter with €45,000. Now you can try to negotiate for better bonuses, more holidays and even health insurance. “I may be able to accept the €45,000 but to be able to do this; I would need an extra three days holiday added to my entitlements, and health cover”.

They may see your demands as too much here, but the reason for adding two extra things here is that they are more likely to give you one, rather than had you gone to them with just the one extra you were looking for.

Now, more than ever, successful negotiation requires careful planning and tactful skills to help you create a win-win situation for your prospective boss, as well as for yourself. The following tips will help ensure you don’t leave anything on the table.

For most of us, the interview process itself is already associated with tension and anxiety. The idea of addressing the potentially sensitive issue of compensation just adds an additional layer of complexity into the mix. Because of this, many jobseekers tend to put off the process of preparing for salary negotiations, choosing instead to focus their efforts on general interview groundwork and practice. As a result, the salary questions that hiring managers pose can often catch jobseekers off-guard and un-prepared.

Expect the Unexpected
Because jobseekers are often so focused on landing the position for which they are interviewing, it may seem premature to think about salary negotiations beforehand. In addition, most interview advice books and columns caution jobseekers to let the hiring manager make the first move when it comes to talking about money.

Although this advice is absolutely correct, you should still come into the interview fully prepared to discuss the issue of salary if the interviewer chooses to bring it up. Jobseekers who fail to prepare for the salary negotiation process are much more likely to undervalue themselves or to accept the first lowball figure that the interviewer offers up. So how can you avoid this all-too-common interview pitfall? I think jobseekers can easily overcome these obstacles with a bit of advance planning, practice, and preparation. Use these simple salary negotiation tips to set yourself on a course for competitive compensation throughout your entire career.

Conduct pre-interview research:
The old saying “Knowledge is power” definitely holds true when it comes to preparing for salary negotiations. With a firm base of factual details about typical salaries in your industry and region at your fingertips, you’ll feel much more confident when you embark upon the process of negotiation your own starting wage. Sources to check include industry websites, government labour data, and help-wanted ads from competitor companies. Online salary calculators and anecdotal evidence from your colleagues, friends, and co-workers can also be helpful, although it is important to take these findings with a grain of salt.

Be ready.
Learn all you can about your prospective employer’s goals. Then try to determine–as specifically as possible–the results you can produce. Remember, your new employer is seeking opportunities through a suitable match. By being able to clearly articulate the value you can offer, you put yourself in the best possible position for negotiations.

Speak up.
When entering the office of your interviewer, pick out something unusual and comment on it. It makes a good icebreaker. A positive comment from you will build goodwill and help overcome any adverse negotiation circumstances.

Is it money only?
Today’s two-earner and single-parent families bring other compensation issues to the table besides money. For many, quality-of-life benefits outweigh monetary compensation. If this is the case, ask about the availability of flextime, childcare, or telecommuting. Define exactly what you want, remembering that your prospective employer can be very creative in meeting your needs.

Plan and rehearse.
There’s an adage in negotiating that the person who speaks first loses. When asked about your salary requirements, do not specify a single-salary figure. Instead summarize the needs of the position as you understand them, and then ask the interviewer for the normal salary range in the company for that type of position. Should you be presented with a range, remember that while this sets salary boundaries, it does not preclude bargaining on quality-of-life benefits.

Don’t settle on an unrealistic salary range:
After you’ve developed a clearer understanding of the salary ranges that are prevalent in your industry, it’s time to develop a general range that you feel comfortable with. Consider your salary history and current rate of compensation, and make sure that the upper end of your stated range is slightly higher than what you actually expect to receive. That way, you’ll leave a bit of wiggle room for the negotiation process. If you are asked the question, what are your salary expectations? Your answer should be like this, “Well, obviously I would like to be on a top salary for the role as I see myself bringing great value and experience to the company, as well as determination and commitment. What do you think is a fair salary for what I hope to bring to your company?”

Write it down.
As you reach agreements on terms of employment, put them in writing so there isn’t any backtracking later in the process. If an agreement is on paper, neither party should be able to contest it.

Bite your tongue.
Never let yourself become angry or frustrated. It’s better to excuse yourself from the interview for a few moments than to get hostile and alienate a potential boss. Playing “hardball” with a new boss won’t score points. Negotiations that go negative will damage a relationship before you begin the job.

Build a persuasive case for yourself:
Master the kind of evidence you’ll need to prove that you’re well worth the salary you’re requesting. To refresh your memory and sharpen your argument, compile proof of your salary history, a list of your major qualifications and accomplishments, and evidence of the ways in which you’ve helped your past employers save money, increase earnings, or improve efficiency.

Hone your pitch and map out potential responses:
Try to anticipate the counterarguments that the interviewer is likely to put forth after you’ve named your desired salary range. Create and get comfortable delivering a one-minute “elevator pitch” that sums up your qualifications, experience, salary history, and potential value. Cast a critical eye on your argument and look for any loopholes or inconsistencies that the hiring manager may pounce on.

Focus on Issues.
If your interviewer has come as far as making a job offer, and you reach an impasse in negotiations, stick to the issue important to you. You obviously have perceived value. One divisive issue will most likely not keep the negotiation from resulting in a mutual agreement. Remember, a negotiation is a series of give-and-take issues. Your prospective employer doesn’t expect to win every one.

Sit on it.
Don’t prematurely discuss salary before acquiring information about the job or before communicating your qualifications. When the time comes and you are presented with a first offer, use timing effectively as part of establishing your value in the eyes of your prospective boss. Don’t be too quick to accept the first offer and don’t worry that the employer will change his or her mind because you ask for more. If you’ve interviewed well, you’re already the front runner.

Consider alternative concessions:
These days, many companies are operating under strict budget constraints that may limit their negotiating power when it comes to setting new-hire starting salaries. Brainstorm a few other bonuses, benefits, and non-salary perks that you might accept in lieu of compensation. Possibilities include schedule flexibility, personal leave, profit sharing, reduced-cost benefits, and professional development opportunities. Just make sure to get the total package value in writing before you tender your response.

One key point to remember about successful salary negotiation: the deal must be a win-win situation for you and for your employer. Think in terms of the whole pie, not just your slice of the pie. The bigger the pie, the more everyone gets. And isn’t that the best way to start a new job?

With a little advance planning and preparation, you can take some of the stress and guesswork out of the salary negotiations process. Armed with these strategies, you could be experiencing that first-pay check thrill in no time at all!

About the author

Rahat Kazmi

Rahat Kazmi is Business Development Director at MONSTER FINANCE Ireland (which is a Recruitment Consultancy) and CareersAndCareers Jobsite( for Financial & Management Consulting professionals. He writes articles on number of professional networking sites, blogs and groups; he has an expert status on LinkedIn by answering questions regularly

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