Negotiating your salary is the Everest of workplace challenges. You might be the supreme negotiator for deals and contracts and even advocate for others, but when it comes to championing ourselves, very few of us do it well.
“There is an unwritten cultural code that the discussion of money, in any regard, is taboo,” says recruitment specialist at EST10 and author of Employable – 7 Attributes to Assuring Your Working Future, Roxanne Calder.
“It’s not that we are out of practice, it’s that, in fact, the majority of us are not in practice at all. At the heart of it, though, what we’re paid can have a big impact on our value within the company and even our societal standing. Is it any wonder we keep that vulnerability under wraps?”
The good news is, though, our current employment landscape means you have more power than you think when negotiating, explains Calder. The unemployment rate, at 3.9%, is at a 48-year low, and if you thought Everest was high, our job vacancies are peaking month on month. In February 2022, job vacancies were 86% higher than in February 2020.
“You have leverage, and an almost lay-down misère,” Calder says. “But, there is still the right way to do it.”
Ahead, she shares her tips for the best way to go about it.
Keep in Mind: Your Employer Will Expect It
Just like interviewing is part of the job-seeking process, so too is negotiating, says Calder. In fact, 75% of managers expect to negotiate when making a job offer, and you should too. “It’s also expected for you to self-promote. Another cultural taboo, it seems! It is not bragging and when done the right way, can be humble and professional.”
Do Your Research
“Knowledge of standard salaries within your industry gives you bargaining power and confidence,” says Calder. “It will allow you to speak assuredly, a deal maker in negotiations. Before making assumptions, endeavour to compare like with like, education, years and levels of experience, breadth and depth. Use recruitment agencies, job advertisements and industry salary guides.”
Pick the Right Timing
Typically, the first interview is not the place to discuss salary. Instead, Calder says it’s far better to gauge if the job is right for you — cultural fit; job satisfaction; capability, and future goals — before then allowing your enthusiasm and buy-in to guide your communication. “You might be surprised how your ardour magically harnesses words, body language and tone. A winning formula!”
Be Mindful of Your Words
Negotiation is a process. It requires a constant move forward.
“Words such as ‘no’ can halt conversations quickly,” says Calder. “Passive communication is equally debilitating. It indicates you lack conviction and can be swayed, even if reluctantly. Or worse, it leaves both parties languishing. Instead, phrases such as, ‘I’d be more comfortable with’ keeps the flow, holds your ground, and moves the negotiation forward.”
Practise and Practise
The better you are at saying, ‘I believe my salary worth is XXX’, the more relaxed, open and confident you will be. Practise assists your conviction, and without it, we may be inclined to retreat in pressured moments like this.
“Nervously, we quickly reduce the salary figure we had in mind, no matter the research and justification,” says Calder. “The result: a job offer with your disappointed acceptance, accompanied by a touch of resentment further down the track. To harbour this feeling is unhealthy for you and your employer. Practise reduces the inclination and impulse.”
Decide What You’re Comfortable With Ahead of Time
“Have a realistic salary range in mind and pitch according to the role’s requirements,” says Calder. “A high pitch at a lower-level job, as a ‘chancer’ could erode your credibility and integrity, so be mindful. After stating the salary, do not justify it with a meandering conversation to nowhere. The justification has already occurred during the interview. You have proved your worth already, which is why you are at this point and negotiating.”
Don’t Accept the Offer Straight Away
If you are not entirely comfortable, allow time to consider, says Calder. This bides you time if you feel under pressure and thus an opportunity to formulate an appropriate response.
All this said, what if your salary cannot be met? Where do you go from there?
“It is vital to understand and know you have a choice,” says Calder. “At the stage of offer, often we think there is no turning back. It is understandable, as you have invested so much, but be comfortable walking away. Say ‘no’ politely, professionally and with the door left open. You never know what can come from our current market conditions; you may just get a callback.”
“If you are acutely nervous discussing salary and think it easier to do with a stranger at an interview, on that score, you may be right. But what if you could achieve the salary increase at your current workplace? Businesses are despairing of talent and the high prospect of staff resignations.
“Your boss will likely welcome the opportunity for a discussion,” explains Calder. “Plus, conversations of this nature have the dual benefit of establishing important boundaries and trust, both critical for successful careers.”