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How to negotiate your salary

When you’re starting a new role – from a promotion in your current company to a new job entirely – the salary negotiation can easily become an awkward conversation. Knowing how to negotiate your salary with a few key strategies, can ensure the process goes smoothly and you achieve the best possible result for yourself.

Research and prepare

It’s crucial that you have a good understanding of what the market average salary is for those in similar roles to yours, before the salary negotiation begins. Speak with people in the industry, recruiters and investigate job ads online.

Think about the possible questions and objections you might face when negotiating your salary and prepare adequate responses. It’s worth practising these scenarios with a friend who’s experienced similar kinds of negotiations and can play the role of the employer.

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Discuss your achievements

Employers also want to see you can get results – that’s what they’ll be considering when setting your salary. If you’re negotiating with your current employer, make specific reference to outcomes you’ve achieved, particularly if there are savings or additional revenue you’ve helped generate. For example, saying something like “This project, which I planned and rolled out, increased the company’s revenue by $15,000 last financial year” helps demonstrate the value your skills can bring.

If you’re interviewing for a new job, you might not be able to be quite as specific, but it’s still important to show how you contributed to your previous employer in a quantifiable way.

Education and training

Employers want staff that are ambitious and who demonstrate a willingness to build on the skills they already have. That’s why further training and education can be a great way of driving up your earning capacity. Not only can it give you a competitive advantage over those who haven’t got the same level of training, it demonstrates that you are self-motivated and able to complete tasks when you set your mind to it.

When you’re negotiating your salary, it’s important that you emphasise both the content and the skills the extra study has equipped you with. This is important to employers because if they want to grow their business they need to look for where they can make improvements: building on the existing capacity of staff is one of the easiest ways to do this.

Aim high

Don’t be afraid of being ambitious and aiming for the best outcome for yourself. If you’re asked what your intended salary is, the number you give will have a significant bearing on the course of negotiations. Understand what the industry average is and set a number slightly higher than that, so there’s room for movement. Also, continue to sell yourself throughout the negotiation process – it’s important you keep reinforcing your contribution to the business.

Don’t give too much away

Information is your ally in the negotiation process. If you’re considering a role at a new company, it is fine to mention the current salary you’re on (though you may opt to give a slightly higher figure), and suggest that you’re seeking a particular salary based on the market and your level of expertise. 

Take your time

Remember that you also don’t have to accept the offer there and then. These conversations can be high-pressure exchanges, so even if you think you’re happy with the offer, there’s no harm in politely telling the person conducting the negotiations that you’d like a 1-2 business days to consider their offer.

It’s a mindset

One of the things that can make negotiating your salary so intimidating is the idea that it’s some kind of contest between you and your employer, and that all you have to do is be hard-nosed and hold your nerve.

Instead, treat it as an open, honest conversation and keep in mind their underlying interests and requirements, so you can work towards finding an outcome that satisfies both parties. And remember: this is business, not personal. Whatever happens, don’t take the discussion to heart as it could impede your ability to make rational, measured decisions.