"If you don't ask, you don't get."
This is something that applies to business and life just as much as it applies to your career. Here is what I’ve learned about negotiating your salary following my first hic-up. They’re pieces of advice that I’ve applied since then, which have never failed me.
1. Avoid accepting the first offer
This seems obvious, but it’s easier than you might think to fall into the trap of accepting the first offer. You’ve probably spent weeks or perhaps even months in the application process, doing everything you could to appear likable and make the employer want to choose you over all of the other candidates. So their bargaining power appears to be much stronger than yours.
Not wanting to sound ungrateful, you immediately say thank you and accept the offer before changing their mind.
Do your best to avoid this.
Thank them and ask for at least a day to get back to them so you can assess all of the terms in the offer.
Bear in mind that the recruitment process requires a significant investment of resources from the employer, both time and money. By this point, they’re glad it’s almost over — they will be willing to give you a few days to think about it. It’s a completely reasonable question to ask. Nobody expects you to sign a contract that you haven’t had enough time to consider.
Plus, this might make them question whether you have received other offers from their competitors, and it’ll strengthen your bargaining position when you come back to negotiate. They might be more inclined to accept an increase in salary to avoid losing you to another company.
2. Don’t sell yourself short
As promised, here’s my take on the “how much did you earn in your previous role?” question.
I hate this question, and I think it’s wholeheartedly redundant.
Whether this is your first job or you have some prior experience, the only things your salary should correlate to are:
- The requirements of the role you’re applying for
- Your experience and capabilities
- The average salary for that role in that industry
These are the factors you should be clear about when it comes to negotiating your salary.
For example, if you’re expected to sign a contract that says you’re expected to be flexible with working the hours ‘required by the firm’, or ‘during peak times’ — trust me, you’re expected to work late nights and potentially weekends. Negotiate to either be paid for these extra hours or justify an increase in your salary in exchange.
Also, what you earned in your previous role is irrelevant; what matters is what you can bring to this role. Highlight what you’ve learned either in a previous role or throughout your studies and extra-curricular activities, and how these will benefit the business.
Plus, even if your previous salary was relatively low, don’t forget about the benefits you may have had as part of your total compensation. These have a value that can help you justify an increase in salary if this employer doesn’t offer the same benefits.
3. Find out what you’re worth and define a range
Before you begin negotiating, it’s crucial that you find out what the average salary for someone doing the role you’ll be doing, with your experience and in your location, is paid. For this, I always use Glassdoor’s salary search tool or their Know Your Worth tool, which gives you a personalized estimate.
Trying to negotiate a completely unrealistic salary in the context of the current market is like serving them your credibility on a silver platter. You want to justify your value on the basis that you’re just as capable (if not more) as the other people performing that same role. It’s not unreasonable or ungrateful to expect to be compensated accordingly.
Set the parameters within which you’re willing to negotiate by defining a range. This will help you with the ‘likeability’ point above, and it also shows that you’re realistic because your future employer will also have a range in mind, which brings me to my next point.
4. Don’t trade in likeability for assertiveness
This one is short and sweet. You do want to be assertive and confident, but they’re only going to fight for you if they like you. Your future employer is looking for someone they’d be happy to work with and who they trust will fit into their existing team with ease.
Be polite, and don’t dwell on petty things. Don’t negotiate for the sake of negotiating, have clarity on the one or two major things that you want to get out of the negotiations, but try to come as close as possible to a win-win situation.
5. Understand their constraints and remember they’re not out to get you
By this point, they probably do genuinely want to give you the job. They’re likely to be at least open to considering a salary increase. But they might also be unable to give you exactly what you want; they might have salary caps, for example. Don’t worry; this isn’t the end of the road.
They might not be able to go to the exact figure you have in mind, but they might offer flexibility in other aspects. For example, I was once hired by a large company, along with several other candidates. They couldn’t give me a higher salary than everyone else, but I was able to negotiate a minimum bonus.
They might also offer flexibility in other areas such as holiday days, flexible working, or offer other benefits in exchange, such as health & fitness benefits, childcare, or training and professional qualifications.
6. Be confident
You’re not unreasonable by wanting the best conditions for yourself. You’ve done your research, understand your worth, and appreciate their constraints, but within those parameters, you want the best you can do.
That’s not being ungrateful; by all means, thank them for the opportunity; but being confident in your worth is wholeheartedly respectable.
7. Make it clear that you want the job
You haven’t said ‘yes’ until you say ‘yes.’ You know that, and they know that. As much as you want to show that you’re confident and understand your value, this isn’t the time to play hard to get. If they think you’re going to turn around and say ‘no’ anyway, why would they waste their time negotiating?
Express your interest in the job and make it clear that you’re serious. If you do want to use other offers as leverage, state what it is about their business that you particularly like. Why do you like them over the others? And under what conditions would you be happy to forgo the other options?
In short — negotiate your offer. Your first salary is a springboard from which you’ll negotiate your future job offers, so put yourself in a good position from the start. Be sure that although you might not negotiate your offer — others will negotiate theirs.
Know that your bargaining power is greater than you think. Your future employer will have invested considerable resources into this process by the time you receive the offer — they’re more willing to negotiate than you dare to find out.
So be bold and take a chance on yourself with these 7 tips:
- Avoid accepting the first offer
- Don’t sell yourself short
- Find out what you’re worth and define a range
- Don’t trade in likeability for assertiveness
- Understand their constraints and remember they’re not out to get you
- Be confident
- Make it clear that you want the job