How to negotiate a salary

Updated: Apr 12


Money isn’t everything in a job, and most of the time, when you’re employed, you barely think about how much you earn each and every day that you go to work. In other words, mostly, the job is more important than the money; however, I’m sure all of you would like to be paid a competitive salary.


Today, jobs and the job market are changing very fast; and this is particularly the case because of the current global Covid-19 predicament, I thought that many of you will be in a situation of changing their jobs soon.


So, having the following tools, at the back of your mind, will be fundamental to achieve an appropriate salary (or increase) that you will be happy with, and that you would be seeking to make life a bit better for you and your family.


First, before we tackle the subject of “negotiating”, remember to watch for the self-talk that many of us have; that self-talk that conjures up negative thoughts of unworthiness that plagues the internal dialogue in most of our heads. This is just in case you think you do not deserve this job? Remember, it is important to note that most of the time, an employer does not hold all the cards, (they want to fill the position just as much as you want the job), so focusing on your strengths rather than your weaknesses will help you to achieve your goal. 

Bear in mind to give the employer/employment agency a chance to voice his/her opinion before you decide to not apply for the position you would really like.



Tools for negotiating a higher salary:

What you need to do before the appointment:



1) Research the industry – industry pay scales can be found all over the internet and you can also ask for this information from an employment agency.

Finding out an industry middle, average and upper salary range helps you to determine how far an employer might be willing to extend a pay band.


2) Ask others who have a similar position in the industry for pay rates, based on qualification and experience.


3) Update your CV - review all the courses/training you have undertaken – it may be private or inhouse or voluntary work – assess them all and make a list of all the competences and proficiency you have acquired. Undertaking this exercise will assist during your conversation with the other party at the interview.


4) What will your everyday look like once you’ve landed a job.

This is the most important exercise you should do; this is to avoid disappointment once you’ve accepted an offer. Remember, once you have started, you will soon forget about the paycheck.


So, ask yourself: 
- What will your day look like at this job?
- What is the culture of the company? 
- Who is the boss? 
- Who is my immediate manager?
- What is the company’s management reputation?
- That also means do NOT believe the employer who spoke in front of 5,000 people in a conference and gave a killer message as they may not have the company culture to match. Go a little bit deeper, before going into the interview, ask people who could know someone, an ex-employee for example or you may consider to enquire further about what happened to your predecessor at the interview.
- What are your long-term prospects, as no one wants to change jobs too frequently, even though, I’m sure this will not be your last employer. Also, consider the tools you need to learn to grow in the role. Make a list and consider your ideal working environment. 

What could be on this list? Supportive management, paid further education, ease of promotion? you decide.

At the interview:


Once you have finished your preparation, it’s time to look at common negotiation styles and how they can be applied:


1. Co-operating - means engaging in problem solving to reach the best possible outcome for both sides.

Co-operating with the employer to negotiate a better pay cheque could increase your bottom line. For example, you manage to increase your bottom line by $10,000 a year and you stay at the job for another 10 years, that $100,000 difference if you just accepted the pay offered.


2. Competing - trying to maximize one’s own outcomes with little concern for others.


Competing is linked with a certain amount of aggressiveness, not that aggressiveness in negotiation is a bad thing, but what is important is your demeanour – this is another subject altogether. Should you choose this style you could still negotiate to get what you want, to a certain point, that the other party is not offended by your attitude.


Job seekers who negotiate forcefully may not succeed if they don’t recognise their own bargaining position – and if you cannot differentiate yourself from the crowd, the _n this may not be the best style.

The following 3 styles – will obviously not get you anywhere near the fair salary that you seek.


3. Obliging - Putting the other party’s concerns first.
4. Compromising - Trying to reach a middle ground.
5. Avoiding - Dodging negotiation altogether.

Putting it together:


- Demeanour - be likeable and it is not just being polite because asking for what you deserve without seeming to be greedy is the key.


- Be gentle, smile.

- Always be mindful of the mood of everyone in the meeting and if someone is having a bad hair day, be gentle, calm and smile – this will help to reduce any tension in the room.

- Before engaging into any terms of an offer, make it clear that you’re serious about working for this employer.

- Always focus on the intent behind the questions being asked rather the question itself, ask for clarification, if required so that you can answer correctly.

- Don’t lie – this is a risk you should never take in negotiation – it might come back to bite you later.

- Consider the whole deal

- Don’t negotiate – just because. If you have hundreds of competitors looking to take up your position, it would be difficult for you to negotiate and you will be seen as haggling and naturally rub the other person the wrong way.

- Avoid giving ultimatums, even if you’re certain that you are the only candidate for the job.

- Perception – the employer is looking to fill a position important to their business so do not take anything personally during an interview.

- Always leave with the door open, people change their mind all the time depending on their current circumstances. Therefore, if you leave on good terms (even though you may not get what you want on the day), the employer might contact you if they change their mind about your application and your conditions.



Instances when to ask for the increase:


What present the value you bring to the organisation:


Pre-empt: the employment agency and your employer will have alternatives. Which means that they would have other options to choosing you. Therefore, ask yourself - What are your alternatives? so that you have something to bargain with that will give you some flexibility in differentiating yourself.

If you take a look at the weaknesses in your CV – Find the flaws the employer might not favour.


Now you should address the ways you have been or are going to - compensate for them.

Be eager and enthusiastic when discussing these limitations.

For example – if you don’t have enough experience, think about what you have been doing in your career which will be of value to the current job, which compensates for the lack of experience.

This is one of the hurdles you need to eliminate to position yourself for a raise above what is being offered.

Note, suggesting that you’re especially valuable can make you sound arrogant if you haven’t thought through how best to communicate the message.


What are the areas the potential employer or employment agent could be flexible with?


While researching your industry or looking at other industries you would like to move into; you could find areas where employers could be flexible in terms of your potential – are your qualifications suitable for other areas? Say, where you can add value and affect the bottom line of the business.

What is your expertise which could qualify you for that senior position? Should you strike a great employment agent, that person would be able to assist you in unlocking that potential.

Here, you are in a position of getting a higher paid position and therefore changing your bottom line.



Negotiating the perks


Most of the time these little extras go a long way in contributing to your personal finances which in effect is an increase to your salary.


For example, paid phones, a car that you can use for private use, gym membership, transport allowances, medical allowances or vacation terms. 

If one of the perks cost the company $200as say a fancy gym membership, then that is a saving of $2,400 and if you stay there another 5 years – that’s a whopping $12,000. 

Don’t forget about bonuses – that too is a bargaining point, for example should your bonuses be linked to the whole company performance or to your own? You could propose the terms to be on a scaling basis.


Salary negotiations are often stressful and challenging. But with the right strategies, you can negotiate your employment terms with ease, and you’ll discover innovative ways to negotiate not only your salary, but also your job satisfaction.


Negotiate the pay


Pre-empt: You have your pay scale of your job position within the industry with regards to your education and experience, build a case for asking for what you deserve to get paid. 


For example, when asked, what are you expecting to get paid? And was your response a figure that was a little bit higher than your last job?


Instead you could use these methods:

1) Make a non-offer - which is used in real estate negotiation all the times.


Once the question of salary comes up, your answer could be along these lines:



I have heard that the industry average is from $80,000 to $100,000”
In saying so, you in effect sow the seeds of the dollar amount you are worth. 
Note, don’t exaggerate the figure, as this can easily prompt the employer to re-consider you as a candidate or withdraw any proposed offer altogether.  

2) If you’re up for trying out some humour (and the employer seems receptive).


You might say,I’d like $1 million, of course, but based on my experience and industry standards, I think $37,000 would be appropriate.

The $1 million figure might serve as an effective anchor alongside a more appropriate one.



Take aways:

  • Keep your negative feelings at bay

  • Prepare

  • Reflect

  • Use the tools above

  • and go get that job!


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(Rosh’s extracts come from books, articles, personal research and experiences. Drop her a line – she looks forward to hearing from you. E. rosh@jameslaw.co.nz)



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