The job is fantastic and you’re perfect for the role – there’s just one problem. It doesn’t pay enough. The prospect of salary negotiation strikes fear into the hearts of many candidates, but raising the subject of remuneration doesn’t have to be painful. Here’s how to improve your interview negotiation skills and secure a higher starting salary.
While many job seekers shy away from talking about money, the good news is that employers are more willing to negotiate salaries than they were 12 months ago. Two thirds (67%) of HR directors said they were willing to negotiate salaries with leading job candidates, according to a recent study by recruitment specialist Robert Half.
In the past, candidates were dissuaded from discussing potential salary during the recruitment process, but attitudes are changing. Less than one in 10 (7%) of HR directors believe the company should always be the first to ask about hiring salary. In fact, many employers welcome candidates being upfront about money, with 21% saying it is appropriate for candidates to initiate remuneration discussions when they apply for a role or during the first interview.
Nearly half (46%) of HR directors feel it is appropriate to raise questions about salary levels in a second or subsequent interview – and only 28% feel candidates should wait to the final interview or offer stage before talking about salary.
How to open the conversation
The easiest time to negotiate salary is during the recruitment stage, when the employer is convinced that you’re the best person for the job and is keen to secure your signature.
‘Before you raise the question of money, you must persuade the interviewer that you are really interested in the job and want to do it. They are not going to negotiate with anyone who is half-hearted about doing the role in the first place,’ warns Corinne Mills, Managing Director of Personal Career Management and author of Career Coach.
‘Look at the total benefits package before you start to negotiate, so you know exactly what you are getting and how it compares with your previous job. For instance, if you had more generous annual leave or private health insurance in your last role then you could ask for your salary in the new job to compensate for the loss of these.’
Do your homework
To make a clear commercial case for why the employer should pay you more than the advertised rate, you need to do your homework.
‘Research market rates for this type of role and see where their salary offer fits,’ advises Corinne. ‘If it’s on the low side, then tell them this nicely and ask if it is possible for them to increase their offer in line with market rates.’
To avoid pricing yourself out of the market, check how much similarly skilled and experienced individuals working in the same sector earn. Speaking to employment agencies who specialise in your industry, using online salary guides, and quizzing industry contacts can help you build up a picture of remuneration.
John Lees, author of The Interview Expert adds: ‘When you raise the issue of salary, use evidence and examples to make your case. Focus on what skills you can bring to the role, your level of experience and qualifications, and how you will add value to the organisation.
‘Consider what you bring that other candidates don’t. This could be things like your industry contacts, personal clients or knowledge of competitors.’
While it can be tempting to inflate your previous salary, honesty is the best policy. ‘Your employer will see your P45 when you start your new job and will know how much you have been earning – so don’t be tempted to lie and inflate your previous salary,’ warns Corinne. ‘You could get found out and that’s not a great start to a new working relationship.’
If your request is turned down
If the employer turns down your request, remain composed and react professionally. Salary negations are a business decision – and a refusal shouldn’t be taken personally.
‘If you’re keen on the role, ask if there is room for negotiation on benefits,’ advises John. ‘For example, could they offer additional annual leave or a better work life balance, allowing you to work from home one day a week, in lieu of a higher starting salary? The hiring manager may have the remit to approve such requests, even if they can’t sign off a higher salary.’
Finally, it’s worth raising the prospect of having a salary review after six or 12 months into the job.
‘Setting the expectation that you will return to the question of salary makes it easier to open the conversation at a later date. Prove yourself in the job, and the next time you meet to discuss salary, you may find the outcome is more positive,’ adds John.
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