This article will help you prepare yourself for the pay you deserve — whether you’re a job candidate or employee

Although it’s critical to job satisfaction, virtually no one looks forward to ‘talking money’ with a prospective, or current, employer. A potentially contentious discussion of your professional worth hardly seems an ideal way to begin or nurture a professional relationship. Meanwhile, the fear of selling yourself short by accepting too little is rivaled only by the fear of pricing yourself out of a job by asking for too much. During economic times that are less than robust, these concerns can be even more unsettling.

A competitive job market is no reason to be timid about your remuneration. Keep in mind that under such conditions, the hiring manager has likely chosen you over many other qualified candidates for the job — a ringing endorsement of your value.

Still, it can be tempting to put off thinking about the issue until the last moment. This approach can leave you making a snap judgment about whether an offer is acceptable, and then scrambling to come up with a convincing counter.

By considering current remuneration trends, clarifying your needs and understanding your potential value to the employer before a salary discussion arises, you can set yourself up to negotiate from a position of confidence. Here are some tips that can take a lot of the guesswork and stress out of negotiating compensation.

Research current salaries

Start by researching the going rate for the position, which can help you begin viewing compensation in a more objective, less personal light. Even a ballpark sense of what others are making can help you adjust notions about what you ‘should’ be making, based on previous jobs or personal goals, with a salary range that’s rooted in current reality.

Check out up-to-date compensation surveys that include geographic adjustments, such as the Salary Guide from OfficeTeam for North America (www.officeteam.com/salarycenter) or the United Kingdom (www.officeteamuk.com/salary-guide). Colleagues can also help give you a sense of what people in similar roles are making. Discussing your findings as part of your negotiations can demonstrate that you’re looking for a fair figure, rather than the maximum amount you can extract.

Get specific about what you want

Once you have a general idea of what the market will bear, take a closer look at what you hope to receive. Entering a negotiation with a vague or unreasonable sense of your desired salary puts you at a major disadvantage. If the employer’s offer falls short, you won’t be prepared to counter it effectively. And even if the offer exceeds the figure you had in mind, you might begin to wonder whether you underestimated yourself to start with. That’s why it’s important to take the time to refine your thoughts not only about the amount, but also the types of compensation you’ll be happy with.

Don’t overlook nonmonetary factors, which can have more to do with your long-term career satisfaction than a minor pay-cheque boost. A salary that sounds great on paper might not suffice once you consider the tradeoffs. Conversely, meaningful perks might make a lower figure acceptable. What have you found most valuable in previous jobs? A strong benefits plan? Work-at-home options? Generous annual leave? An easy commute? Opportunities for advancement and future raises? Ask yourself which of these factors, if any, would make it easier to accept a figure that’s below your ideal. The hiring manager might have more flexibility in some of those areas than with the starting salary.

Make a Case for Your Value

Don’t confuse what you want with what you can demonstrate you’re worth. Despite how personal it can feel, your remuneration isn’t primarily about you. That’s why one of the most effective steps toward getting what you want is to forget what you want — at least temporarily. While most employers want their employees to feel fairly compensated, that’s a secondary concern. The first is getting a positive return on their investment.

Your resume or CV may have emphasized the ways you’ve saved employers time and money, but it’s important to make those connections even more explicit during salary negotiations. Be as specific as possible about how your capabilities will benefit the employer’s bottom line. Hiring managers know that it’s often difficult to put an exact monetary amount on your work, but even attempting to do so can help them justify a higher salary. Tying your accomplishments directly to those required by the position at hand also lets the employer know that you’re focused on delivering a return on the investment in you, not just on getting the amount you think you should be making at this stage of your career.

Close the Deal

While you should present your case with confidence, communicating in a brusque or stern way won’t help you get what you want. The ability to remain polite and professional about such a sensitive topic is an attractive trait in any potential employee.

Once you agree to terms with an employer, ask for written documentation, including salary, benefits, chief responsibilities, and any other arrangements that resulted from your negotiations. Such a document can help you avoid future confusion and conflict. Don’t hesitate to ask to review the offer overnight, even if you have no immediate reservations.

Don’t Let It Slide

Salary negotiations aren’t just for job seekers. After you’ve agreed upon a starting salary at a new job, it’s natural to want to let the matter rest for a while. But, routinely considering the issue can help you avoid finding yourself feeling inadequately remunerated down the road. The longer you wait to voice a concern about a perceived discrepancy, the further apart you’re likely to grow from your employer. While you shouldn’t demand a raise every quarter or when you know the business is performing poorly, you also shouldn’t keep lingering dissatisfaction with your compensation to yourself.

Receiving raises will likely be easier if you’ve already set the precedent of successfully negotiating a satisfactory salary. Asking for a raise involves many of the same principles as negotiating starting pay, including keeping track of salary trends and how much you think your contributions have benefited the organisation.

Keep in mind that even the most well-prepared, persuasive case for higher compensation, whether it’s your beginning salary or a raise request, might be met with the response that the employer simply can’t afford it right now. That’s no reason to remain silent on the matter. Politely ask what conditions would need to be met in order for you to receive the requested amount, or at least a higher amount than you currently receive. If you’re not satisfied with the answer, you’ll know where you stand and may want to start considering your options elsewhere.

Reap the Benefits
The luxury of not thinking or talking with your employer about your compensation can come with a heavy price tag. A minor deficiency in pay that seems acceptable at first can add up over time. Perhaps more important, feeling unfairly compensated can quickly lead to demoralisation, which can become just as costly for your employer as it is for the growth of your career.

On the other hand, an assertive, well-reasoned negotiation can set the tone for your entire tenure with an employer. Investing a small amount of effort — and yes, discomfort — into negotiating your remuneration can reward you with a much more satisfying career.”

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Robert Hosking is the former Executive Director of OfficeTeam (www.officeteam.com). OfficeTeam is a division of Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. The company has more than 300 staffing locations worldwide and offers ... (Read More)

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