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The Subtle Art Of Salary Negotiation

Posted by: Marc

The Subtle Art Of Salary Negotiation

‘Adept at negotiating salary’ is one requirement you’ll never see on a job listing, but the art of negotiation is a sought-after quality among candidates. According to Robin Pinkley, co-author of Get Paid What You’re Worth, people who attempt to negotiate their salary in a constructive way’ are perceived more favourably than those who don’t, ‘because they were demonstrating the skills the company wanted to hire them for.’

The key word here is ‘constructive.’ An ill-considered salary negotiation could be disastrous for your employment prospects, which is why so many candidates prefer to take the first offer, delaying any talk of a pay increase until they’re safely ensconced in the job. A study from indicates that almost one in five people never negotiate their salary. But if you avoid negotiation due to fear, you’re setting a precedent that could dog your entire career. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the subtle art of salary negotiation:

Before the Interview

  • Know your value. To get the salary you deserve, it’s imperative that you know the going rate for the role. Sites like Payscale can help you evaluate wage ranges for similar positions in your industry. Talking to recruiters is another good way to get a realistic appraisal of what you’re worth to an employer.
  • Research. Once you have an interview set up with a specific employer, gather as much data on them as possible. If you can, find out their typical salary ranges and compare them to the industry as a whole. Learn about the benefits and give them careful consideration – the salary and benefits may add up to adequate monetary compensation, but there’s no point factoring in a gym membership or parking space if you’re not going to use them. Be prepared to tell the interviewer that you can’t take advantage of certain benefits, and use that to leverage a higher basic salary.
  • Go high, and be precise. Once you’ve established the range of your market value, it’s tempting to plump for a figure somewhere in the middle, but that would be a mistake. The employer will often start with a lower offer than they’re prepared to make, so you need to give yourself some wiggle room (rule #1 of negotiation). Another oft-overlooked tactic is to be very precise with your number. If you want $75,000, ask for $74,750. To the employer, an exact figure looks like you’ve really done your research. Even if it’s an excessive amount, precision pays.

During the Interview

  • Start confident. The way you walk into the interview room can have a powerful impact on the impression you make, so it’s important to psych yourself up and hit the ground running. Hold your head high, smile and maintain eye contact. Self-belief inspires others to believe in you, and compensate you accordingly.
  • Forget the money. Wait, what? Isn’t that the whole point? Well, yes, but if you go through the interview with the silent mantra of your ‘golden figure’ on a constant loop, you’ll be distracted – and it’ll show. Unless the interviewer brings it up, salary should be the last thing you talk about. Focus on all the other reasons you’d be a good fit, and emphasize what you can bring to the company, irrespective of the compensation. Once they’ve fallen in love with you, the question for the employer becomes ‘how can we make this happen?’ – the perfect starting point for the salary negotiation process.
  • Ask questions. They want you to work for them, so it makes sense to probe into the companies preferences and priorities. If you show a keen interest in finding out how you can help them grow, they’ll likely be more responsive to your higher salary negotiation starting point.
  • Don’t mention personal needs. It’s surprising how many candidates mention changes in their personal situation, like having a new baby or a recent rent hike, as if this would influence the offer. To paraphrase JFK, ask not what your company can do for you, but what you can do for your company.

After the Offer

  • Perfect your poker face. Even if they hit you with an attractive offer, resist the temptation to accept too quickly. Instead, maintain a straight face and allow a few moments pause while you mull it over. Remaining silent after an offer is hard to pull off, which is why it has such an impact on the interviewer. Those few seconds will give your counter-offer a much greater chance of success.
  • Don’t commit if you don’t have to. Even better than a moment’s pause is a day or two to consider the offer. Ask if you can give an answer within a certain timeframe. Again, this strategy can be disquieting for employers, and improve your chances of negotiating a higher salary.
  • Stick to a ‘walk away’ figure. Before the interview, settle on the lowest figure you would be happy with and walk away if negotiation doesn’t get you there. Provided your expectations are realistic in the first place, accepting a job with an unfair salary will result in long-term resentment and set your career back.

As with all aspects of a job interview, you can’t predict how the negotiation process will go until you get there. Flexibility is essential. Even your ‘lowest figure’ is subject to change once you arrive at the office and get a feel for the corporate culture. The more research you do, the fewer surprises there will be, but be ready to adjust your expectations based on what you learn in the interview.

Oh, and if you really want to maximize your chances of a higher salary, set the interview for a Thursday. Psychology says so.

Marc is a Director of The Talent Hive and leads our IT recruitment practice. Originally from the UK, Marc has been living in Christchurch, New Zealand for ten years and working in the recruitment sector for just as long. Marc has worked as an in-house recruiter and within multinational recruitment consultancies and independent SME recruitment businesses.

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Categorised as: Career Development, Job Seeker Advice