Career Woman

How to negotiate a higher salary


Whether you’ve applied for a Senior Partner position or as a dishwasher in a café, no one likes being offered a dream job only to find out the salary isn’t quite what youexpected. But when there’s no numbers in the job ad to guide you, how do you know what you deserve?

Money talks

A good recruitment process should involve an understanding of the candidate’s salary expectations from the very beginning of the process. That way,by the time you get to the offer there are no questions or awkward moments. But recently I have seen a number of online threads relating to people’s discomfort and irritation about a HR professional or Recruitment Consultant even asking them the big money question.

So, clearly, there is a reason why we ask this question.

Even though it almost always get’s the momentary pause of weirdness (let’s face it, money talk is still a relatively taboo topic), we want to know:

  1. Are you within the budget of the client/role?
  2. Are you too senior/junior based on salary?
  3. Can the client afford you?
  4. Do you have an inflated sense of ego?

I know you “can’t handle the truth!” – but there it is.  And that’s why we want to know.  It’s the number one indicator of what type of candidate you really are, and whether or not you’re the elusive ‘purple squirrel’ (that’s the perfect one for the job).

Whether you are going through this process with an external agency or HR Manager, they all have a client: the Hiring Manager.  And every person in the process wants to see the right person get the right job. They definitely don’t want the whole process to fall over at the last hurdle when an offer is made that is well below the expectations of the candidate – “OMG more work for everyone”, right?

Great expectations

So, if everyone is actually speaking up and being honest about their expectations, why areemployers offering a lower salary than the candidate wants?

In my experience, the answer is quite simple:

  1. The candidate isn’t quite as great or experienced as they think they are. Therefore they are truly only worth the salary being offered (on a “take it or leave it” approach).
  2. The employer can’t afford a higher salary than the one on offer, but is hoping they can secure the candidate through other means. That may be awesome conditions, company culture, bonus structure, or other non-monetary part of the package.
  3. The employer wants to see how the candidate will react to the offer and whether they are capable of negotiating to a higher salary. It’s a test that may indicate the strength of their performance in that particular role and a win-win for the employer either way.

The latter is the most common method used to hire experienced sales professionals and I have seen it used a lot of times  -even if the employer would never admit it!

What to do when you feel the ball swinging

So, you get a “low-ball” offer – what next? Here’s how you can pave your way to salary success:

1. It’s time to have a good, hard think about the “why”.

Which one is it? Are you letting your ego drive your expectations or should you be fighting for your real worth?

If your buddy in a similar role was the one telling you to aim high and inflate your salary expectations by $10k, give him a good clip around the ears. Think about what you really need to live on and what you are being paid now – is there a middle ground to negotiate?

If you really believe you are worth more than what the company is offering, there are a couple of options:

  1. Discuss some set KPI’s or tangible expectations to meet within a reasonable timeframe (usually 3 or 6 months) and if you exceed these, the salary is increased to your expectations. Make sure it goes in the contract, this is then an opportunity to prove yourself.
  2. Negotiate! Would you take the first offer when selling your house? No. It’s ok to negotiate, where appropriate. Find a middle ground or see if there is a way to balance the make-up of the offer – things like superannuation, medical insurance, car allowances, bonus structures, working from home on a regular basis – find things that you can negotiate if the actual base salary cant budge

2. The next time a recruiter asks you what your salary expectations are, don’t be a coy.

Be confident and honest about what you want. Most likely they will need to seek approval for any salary that is above their allocation, so it’s always a good idea to have a business case that demonstrates why you are worth the money you are asking. This shows the employer that you are not only worth your asking price, but that you understand how business works.

Some great places to start when working out your salary expectations are:

  1. What salary are you on now? Unless you are completely changing careers or taking a sideways move to get some experience, most of the time you will want more money than you are on now. Or at least the same as a minimum. Use that as your starting point.
  2. There are loads of free online salary surveys, including the Hays Recruitment survey, which comes out annually.
  3. Have a look at online job boards for similar roles and do talk to people in the industry. Ask a trusted recruitment adviser or industry experts for advice. That’s what they are there for!
  4. Finally, what do you need to live on? It’s great to ask for the world but what do you need to meet your current needs. This has to be a factor.

About Anna Hodges

Anna Hodges is the founder of Purple Squirrel Recruitment. With over 12 years’ experience in recruitment and leadership roles, Anna has personally managed the recruitment of hundreds of candidates in Australia and overseas. Her vivacious personality and renowned tenacity has kept her on top of her field.As well as an obsession with STEMM industries, Anna is known for her commitment to delivering frank and honest advice that empowers other women to create their own pathway to success.

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