Negotiation Tips

It can be easier holding out for more money when you're being offered a job than trying to get a raise when you have one..
How do I negotiate a better salary?

Once you've established your personal market value, how do you actually make sure you get it? It can be easier holding out for more money when you're in the process of being offered a job than trying to get a raise when you actually have one, but the negotiating process is essentially the same.

Negotiating a salary for a new job
If you're being offered a new job, don't rush things. If specific salary numbers are discussed directly at an interview, ask for time to consider any offer made to you. If your interviewers ask what you think the role is worth, be ready to turn the question round and ask what range they had in mind. If you expect your new employer to beat your existing salary package, be sure to include all your various benefits in your calculation and then add on a bit extra for bargaining space.

If you're not absolutely crazy about the job anyway, you could consider turning it down to see whether they come back with an improved offer that might tip the balance. Be aware that this can be a risky strategy if you're desperate for work.

Negotiating a pay rise in your current job
If you are already in a job and trying to secure a pay rise, you need to go in well prepared. Your boss is certain to question why you think you're worth the extra money, so be ready to argue your case clearly and persuasively using specific examples to prove your worth. Make sure you have a good idea of what other people with your experience and responsibilities are earning, presenting evidence of your research if appropriate.

Whatever your situation, here are some of the key things to consider:

  • Positions of power - Who's holding the cards? Each side has something the other wants - you want their job and salary, they want your skills and experience. The eventual winner of the negotiation will be to one who holds more positions of power so make sure they know just how much impact you can have on their business.
  • Bargaining tools - Is there anything extra either side can add or remove from an offer that is of value to the other side? Would you be prepared to forgo a company car allowance if they were able to get a salary closer to what you desire? These tools may not have a specific monetary worth, such as having the option to work from home, but can be of great value to the negotiation process. Added extras to enhance your overall package that could be extracted from the employer include extra holiday, an increased pension contribution, health care, flexi-time working or even your own office. Think about things you could offer such as essential business contacts or insider knowledge on a competitor. You could also suggest a guaranteed increase in salary after a certain time period once you have proven your worth. This makes the employer aware you will put in extra effort to achieve goals during that time to get the reward.
  • Consequence of non-agreement - What happens if neither side is happy? If you're negotiating for a new job there may be another candidate who is just as good that they could offer the job to instead at a lower rate. Or you may be the only suitable interviewee and they are desperate for you to join the company. If you're asking for a pay rise, if they don't give you what you want would you leave, meaning they have to go through the cost and effort involved with finding a replacement? Whoever stands to gain the most from completing the deal will generally lose out in the negotiation.

Unlike more straightforward transactions, such as buying a car where all the cards are on the table, many of the factors to salary negotiation are hidden or implied. This makes it very difficult to judge who is on top in the negotiation so you may need to be more flexible than you would usually be.

If you approach the negotiation in the right way, your employer or potential employer will be impressed, regardless of whether you eventually win or lose, and see it as another skill which you can bring to their business.

Closing the deal
Make sure you have a record of the agreement down on paper which is signed by both parties. There's no point winning a negotiation if you allow the other side to go back on their responsibilities at a later date.

Particularly when negotiating a salary for a new job, be sure not to overlook anything that needs to be factored in. Will you need to relocate? Will the company make a contribution to your costs?

If the job is really your dream role, you might find you're willing to be more flexible. But if they ask you to accept a lower salary than you currently enjoy, always check to see how regularly you can expect a pay review.

Most companies want to keep good employees, which puts you in a strong position when trying to secure a pay rise..
How can I secure a pay rise?

Asking for a pay rise is similar to your initial salary negotiations; however, once you're in the job and have been doing it successfully for a while, you're going to be in a fundamentally stronger position. Most companies will work hard to keep good employees, as the cost in time, recruitment fees and the handover process make losing a valued employee bad news.

When's the right time to ask?
You can ask for a pay rise at any time, but there are certain moments that are more naturally suited to it than others. A performance review is an obvious example, but you might also want to consider the end of the calendar or financial year. These are the times when companies take stock of what they have achieved against their forecasts and provide a natural opportunity to discuss your future if you've contributed to a successful period for their business.

The general rule is, unless your responsibilities change dramatically, not to ask more than once a year as you'll come across as greedy in your boss's eyes. This infrequency means you really have to make the most of it when the opportunity arises.

Preparing to pop the question
You're going to need to sit down for about half an hour with your boss with their undivided attention, so book some time in their diary. Afternoons are generally better as the stress of the morning will have disappeared. If your role is judged on monthly targets you should also aim to set time aside at the beginning of the month when everyone is a little calmer. You're best not to say directly that the meeting is about your pay as they may try and put it off, just say you need to chat about a few things.

Once you know your personal market value, prepare for the meeting thoroughly. The stronger the case you can present, the better your chances of getting what you want. Use every possible advantage to help weight your case, including any recent achievements or additional training, qualifications or skills you have gained.

As well as listing all your professional skills and qualifications, don't forget to add soft skills. These can be crucial in helping your boss to see why you are worth the extra money. Attitude, teamwork, good time keeping, willingness to work overtime, and personal popularity are all valuable bargaining points. However well you feel your boss knows your work, he may not be actively aware of your wider reputation, profile or ability to add value.

In the few days before the meeting, tie up any obvious loose ends that may harm your case. If you're on good terms with any managers in other departments you could try asking if they could email your boss to tell them they've been impressed with your work recently. If what you are asking for involves moving up a grade, be sure to dress the part. Make it easy for your boss to imagine you in a more senior role.

Making your case
You'll probably be nervous, but think back to the lessons you learned during the job interview process and deploy as many of those techniques as possible. Sit up straight, make eye contact with your boss and don't fidget. Speak slowly and deliberately, and use confident hand gestures. Don't giggle nervously or allow your gaze to wander round the room or cover your mouth while speaking - these are all suggestions that you are lying.

Begin the meeting by mentioning a recent project you have completed successfully. This will immediately put you in their good books.

To successfully negotiate a pay rise, you need to present a clear case. Saying you want more money because one of your colleagues got a rise recently isn't a good enough reason. The more certain you are of what you want to achieve, and the more convincingly you can present your value, the better your chances of achieving the pay rise you're looking for.

Aim high
As with any negotiation, always ask for more than you expect to get. You'll regret it if your boss agrees to your demands immediately. On the other hand, don't go in too high or you may end up being seen as arrogant, with an inflated view of your own abilities and value. Let them know you're willing to take on more responsibility in return for extra money.

It's unlikely that you will get a definite answer in this initial meeting as your boss will have to check his figures and probably ask his managers for their input. The bigger the organisation you work in, the longer the process will usually be to secure the extra pay. Don't rush things, but do ask to be kept up-to-date with how your request is progressing.

Expect some resistance and be prepared to fight your corner, but don't overdo it. As part of this strategy, consider giving your boss a set period in which to consider your request, after which you want an answer. Buried in that is the implication that you have other options, and the company may risk losing you if they don't at least meet you halfway. Anticipate the sort of objections or excuses your boss might come back at you with, and have a reasoned response ready.

If the cash you want is not available, be prepared to ask for additional benefits such as a company car or an increased employer's contribution to your pension scheme. These could prove more cost-effective and achievable alternatives. There are also intangible benefits such as flexible working hours or an extra few days' holiday that could make all the difference.

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