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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Negotiate your salary like a pro

Personal income can be increased via salary negotiation
Think twice about salary negotiation before accepting a job
By Jemima Winslow

Money is a sensitive subject. It’s not something we really like to talk about, especially when it comes to our jobs.

Many of us struggle to assert our rights financially and request salary increases when they’re due, or negotiate higher salaries when we’re offered new jobs. Jacquelyn Smith cites a recent survey by CareerBuilder, which found that 49% of job hopefuls in the United States accept the first salary offer that’s put on the table. 

The question is, should you negotiate your job offer, or, in this time of economic uncertainty, should you just be grateful that you’ve been offered a job?

It depends on the job

If it’s your first job ever and it’s fairly low-level, then trying to negotiate is probably not a good idea. For one thing, you have no experience that you can use in your favour. For another, the market is full of people dying for a shot at that position and so the employer might rescind the offer and give someone more compliant the job.

The same goes for unskilled positions; unless you have some bargaining power, it’s best not to try and force open purse strings.

On the other hand, it might not be a bad idea to negotiate a salary discussion after your first three months in the position. This gives you enough time to prove your prowess and impress your boss, which does give you some bargaining power.

If it’s for a skilled position or a management position for which you are suitably qualified and experienced, however, then negotiating might be the way to go. Especially as Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America says that many employers purposely propose conservative salaries because they expect negotiations to take place.

The biggest favour you can do yourself when considering a job offer is to know the market value of the job, as well as your value. And that requires some research and preparation.

The art of negotiation

If you are prepared to negotiate, and can negotiate well, you send a positive message to your new employer. Rasmussen says that many employers equate willingness to negotiate with drive and that they see you as someone who will do what it takes to optimise a given situation. Employers believe that how you conduct the negotiation can be generalised to how you’ll conduct yourself in the job.

This is why you need to be properly prepared. You need to know what is reasonable and what is not, because if you go in there guns blazing with expectations of the moon, then you’re going to be sorely disappointed – and probably out of a job.

So, how do you negotiate a job offer?

In an article by Kim Lankford, Robin Pinkley, who co-wrote the book Get Paid What You’re Worth, says that you need to find out about the company’s salary ranges – it’s no good asking for a salary of $100,000 at a small company where even the owner only takes home about $80,000 a year. You also need to find out about what salaries are competitive within the industry as a whole, as well as what the competitors are offering. And, don’t forget about benefits. Always look at the offer as a complete package, including promotion opportunities, leave, flexible working options, medical, pension, bonuses, annual increases, and even continuing professional development.

Jack Chapman wrote a series of articles on salary negotiation on The Ladders and his very first tip is not to discuss salary at all until they make an offer. This means that you don’t say a word about your salary expectations during the application and initial interview stage. He recommends that you wait until you’re on the shortlist. This is tricky because many employers ask about your salary expectations – usually so they can weed out the chancers, but also so that they can choose the cheapest options. Chapman recommends that you carefully rehearse a tactful explanation as to why you’ve declined to provide your salary expectations, so that you don’t cause offence. Chapman’s series is comprehensive and covers the entire process is great detail. It’s well-worth a read if you’re on the job market.

In the end, according to Alison Doyle, your tactics are largely determined by your personal circumstances. So, don’t rush the decision. Ask for a few days to think about the offer and make a list of the pros and cons of the job, consider everything, including company culture and working environment. Never underestimate your instinct or your intuition.

Two final tips:
  1. Always get the offer in writing before you make any commitment.
  2. Always reply to the offer in writing. Doyle says that it doesn’t matter whether you accept or reject the job it’s professional and polite to do so in writing.

About the author: is one of the 49% who is reluctant to negotiate salary, so she appreciates tips on how to sell herself properly when it comes to new employment opportunities, especially when it comes to overseas opportunities like the ones offered by niche job boards like Skilledmigrantjobs.com.

Image license: Evan Jackson; CC BY-SA 2.0