Negotiating Salary – Do you know what you are worth?

Money, money, money – we all work for it, but do you know how to negotiate the best salary for your skills and experience?

Whether negotiating with your current employer or as part of the job selection process, you need to be prepared to get the pay rise that you deserve.

From an employers’ perspective, there are many factors they consider, including:

  • the level of the job within the organisation
  • the scarcity of the skills and experience needed for the job in the job market
  • the career progress and experience of the individual selected
  • the fair market value for the job you are filling
  • the salary range for the job within the organisation
  • the salary range for the job within the geographic area,
  • the existing economic conditions within the job market
  • the existing economic conditions within the industry, and
  • company-specific factors that might affect the given salary such as comparative jobs, the culture, the pay philosophy, and promotion practices.

I remember when I was applying for a new role in a bad economy; I knew I had to be realistic with my expectations. I found a new role that was very similar to what I had been doing previously, however it would be a more fast-paced environment and the hours would be a little more demanding. I also knew, however, that this role would be sought after by many candidates who were also struggling to find work. So I agreed to start at a lower base salary.  I knew that, like with every new role, I had to work hard to prove myself. After six months I was able to negotiate a higher salary level.

Now I know that not all organisations work that way. If you agree to a salary it could take a year or two to negotiate any kind of increase. I also know that financial security is important for individuals, especially when they have financial responsibilities (e.g. a mortgage, a car, a family, bills, personal expenses etc.). So if you are considering a negotiation process, make sure that you are prepared to take the necessary steps.

I found an article by Randall S. Hansen on Quintessential Careers that covers 10 Salary Negotiation Mistakes, and I have summarised this to the ones that I think are most important to focus on:

1. Settling/Not Negotiating. Probably the biggest mistake you can make is simply deciding to settle and accept whatever offer you receive. But settling for an offer that you feel in your heart is too low will not only set you back financially, but also eat at you until you finally begin to seriously dislike your job and/or employer.

2. Focusing on Need/Greed Rather Than Value. A very common salary negotiation error is focusing on what you feel you need or deserve rather than on your value and the value you being to the prospective employer. If you plan to negotiate a job offer, do it based on solid research (see next mistake) and a clear demonstration of your value to the organisation. Don’t ever tell the employer that you need a certain salary.

3. Weak Research or Negotiation Preparation. With the number and variety of salary resources available online – there is no excuse for you as the job-seeker to not know your market value. Even if you decide you don’t want to negotiate salary, you’ll have a better understanding of the market for your services — and your value in that market.

4. Making a Salary Pitch Too Early. The longer you wait, the more power you have. Yet, there are many job-seekers who jump in too early in the process and ask about salaries and compensation. The ideal time for talking salary is when you are the final candidate standing — and you get the job offer. It’s at that point when you can ask more specifics about salary, bonuses, commissions, health insurance, and other perks.

5. Asking For Too Many Changes in Counteroffer. If you have a strong interest in the job and the employer is a good fit, but the offer is not what you expected, you can consider making a counteroffer proposal. If you decide to make a counteroffer proposal, remember that you should only pick the one or two most important elements; you can’t negotiate every aspect of the offer.

6. Taking Salary Negotiations Personally. Whatever you do in this process, always stay professional in handling the negotiations. If the employer has made you an offer — then you are their choice, the finalist for the position — so even if negotiations go nowhere, or worse, keep in mind that you did receive an offer, even if it is not what you expected or deserved. And if negotiations break down between you and the employer, move on graciously, thanking the employer again for the opportunity — because you never want to burn any bridges.

7. Not Asking for Final Offer in Writing. Once everything is said and done — and you have received a job offer that you find acceptable, the last thing you should do is ask for the final offer in writing. No legitimate employer will have issues with putting the offer in writing, so if yours balks at your request and accuses you of not having any trust and tries to bully you to accept the verbal agreement, take it as a MAJOR red flag that there is something seriously wrong.

Do not be afraid to negotiate. Be prepared, have clear and transparent communication, and work towards being paid what you are worth. And worst case scenario, if they turn down your offer to negotiate, see if there is a time to review this discussion at a later stage At the end of the day you need to find what works for you and only you can decide whether to take it or leave it.

Have you had a salary negotiation that worked in your favour? How did you approach management about it?