Your application went well, your in-person interview was a success and your potential new employer is keen to hire you. This should be a huge relief. But this is exactly where lots of candidates start to panic – because it’s time for salary negotiations.
It’s not just people at the start of their careers who find this hard. Seasoned employees with many years’ experience sometimes struggle with negotiating their pay, too. And there’s a very good reason for this uncertainty: salaries and wages vary widely, depending on sector, location, company size, your professional experience, qualifications and, above all else, your negotiating skills.
When is a good time to start negotiations?
Finding the right time to get started isn’t the tricky bit. Once you’ve had a pay rise, it’s a good idea to wait around 12 months before asking for another one.
It’s also not advisable to jump straight to the point during a job interview either. This stage is primarily about showing your potential employer your worth and highlighting the value you would add to the company. This will then create a better foundation upon which to base your argument. If the topic of remuneration doesn’t come up, be brave enough to raise it.
Generally speaking, you’ll have the following opportunities to negotiate your salary:
- When having your performance review
- When your probationary period comes to an end
- When you’re at your interview
- When receiving a permanent contract
- When transitioning between two fixed-term contracts
- When receiving a promotion
- When being transferred
Making the first move
There are differing opinions on who should make the first move. However, studies have shown that you can benefit from the anchoring effect. Here, reference information (known as the anchor) has a major impact on the decision to be made, even if it’s completely irrelevant to the decision at hand.
In other words, if you start by stating your desired salary, the negotiations are more likely to go in your favour as this will unconsciously impact your manager’s decisions. In other words, take the initiative and be the first to mention a number.
The amount of your salary
Regardless of the anchoring effect, you should avoid over-inflated figures. Do thorough research prior to the interview to find out how much other people are earning in this or a similar role. You could look at salary tables and job boards, or talk to your friends and family.
Once you’ve got a sense of what’s out there, think about what your preferred salary would be. During the conversation, feel free to give a slightly higher number for your preferred salary so you’ve got some wiggle room during the negotiations. Plus, work out what your hard-and-fast limits are.
This will give you a salary range to use as guidance. If managers are faced with a salary range during negotiations, they will always go for the lower end of the range you mention. You should therefore give the company precise information, stating your desired gross annual salary.
The right mindset
Applicants or employees need not be ashamed for wanting to negotiate a suitable salary: they know their worth and should be able to assert this with confidence, too. Plus, a self-confident mindset will also put you in a better negotiating position. It signals that you’re willing to stand up for yourself and not be satisfied with peanuts.
No matter how the salary negotiation goes, it is important to keep calm, because your boss will naturally try to bargain you down. Don’t let yourself get wound up: simply calmly reassert arguments you’ve previously made. Respond to your negotiating partner’s objections objectively and with a cool head. This highlights your professionalism and has a positive impact on subsequent collaboration.
It’s always worth entering into salary negotiations, whether you’re just starting your career or you’re an expert in your field. Many employers actually regard candidates as being particularly competent and respectable when they do so. So, don’t be shy – your efforts are more likely to earn you respect than ridicule.
Especially during the application process, you’re at an advantage – because you know your new employer’s intentions. When they make an offer, they’re showing their willingness to negotiate.
Take it to heart: never accept the first offer and always negotiate.
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Money isn't everything
But it’s not just your remuneration that’s part of these negotiations. If your boss can’t (or won’t) pay a higher salary, there are other special benefits you could ask about. This shows you are willing to compromise, which will also encourage your interlocutor to do the same.
Even before the discussion, think about what’s particularly important to you in your day-to-day work, apart from your salary. Here are some examples of non-monetary benefits:
- Extra leave
- Gym membership
- Contribution to commuting costs
- Flexible working hours and place of work
- Education and training opportunities
- Opportunities for promotion
- Extra leave or sabbatical
- Company car
Set out your arguments for a pay rise. What special value do you bring to the company? This could be a particularly customer-focused approach to service or a hefty increase in turnover. You might have specific specialist knowledge that is relevant to the role, whether from your training or from your bachelor’s thesis. If you’ve already got professional experience, back this up with figures to reinforce your arguments and give them more credibility.
Prepare for potential counter-arguments and plan how to rebut them. This means that, even if the worst happens, you can still respond confidently if your supervisor tries to take the wind out of your sails.
Preparation is worth its weight in gold
Most people feel uncomfortable with salary negotiations because they’re not used to negotiating things. The more often you negotiate your salary, the calmer you’ll feel – but until then, preparation is worth its weight in gold. This will ensure that you appear well-organised and professional to your employer and allow you to engage in these conversations with more confidence and more optimism.
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