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Tips for timing salary negotiations at a job interview

As the time-proven maxim tells us, “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail” and nowhere is this truer than with job interviews. One aspect of the job interview that is tough to introduce is the discussion around salaries and benefits packages. If you fail to bring it up, you could be left kicking yourself and wondering how much more you could be earning; bring it up too early and you risk seeming like someone who has money as their main interest.

No matter how exciting the job opportunity, salary, and benefits are major factors in accepting or declining a job offer. Being compensated fairly for your skills and experience has a direct impact on job satisfaction.

But job market complexity creates opportunities for people who can skillfully negotiate the terms and conditions of employment. After all, negotiation matters most when there is a broad range of possible outcomes, especially in a talent crisis. As such, understanding the nuances of when and how to negotiate salary — during an interview or after getting the job offer — is incredibly important. Follow these top tips to time it just right.

1. Know your worth 

 Before you go into an interview situation you should have a realistic expectation of what the job is worth and, more importantly, what you’re prepared to accept for the role. Use salary survey such as Redline Group’s report to get the right level for the job. This will allow you to benchmark your request against an industry expectation – then the pressure is on the employer, are they really expecting to secure talent at a discount?

2. Wait until it comes up

 Just as you are shaking the interviewer’s hand and taking off your coat is not the right time to ask about pay and benefits. Before anything else you need to convince your prospective employer that you are right for the job. Only when that happens can you talk about the often-thorny subject of salary, benefits, and working conditions such as hybrid or remote working. Typically, an employer will start to broach the subject of current salary, benefits, and conditions towards the end of an interview. After all, if they decide that you are not a good fit for the role then they are unlikely to try and get into the real details of the job with you. So, take it as a positive sign if they bring it up.

3. Don’t be scared to negotiate

If salary comes up during the interview, you can use several techniques to benchmark your worth. You could mention that you have looked at salary data across the industry, so you have a good idea of what the “going rate” is for the job. Additionally, you could point out how your own skills give you a premium for the role. If you have experience or skills in elusive areas, then you will know that the balance of power is on your side. The key here is to explain your expectation with a good, reasoned case that tells an employer you have done your homework and know what your worth is.

Do not ever let your proposal speak for itself—always tell the story that goes with it. Don’t just state your desire (a 20% higher salary due to inflation, or permission to work from home); explain precisely why it is justified. If you have no justification for a demand, it may be unwise to make it. Again, keep in mind the inherent tension between being likable and explaining why you deserve more.

4. If in doubt, ask for time

 An employer should always accept that you might need time to think about their offer. You could also explain that you need to talk to your partner, parents, friend or trusted colleague about the role and benefits. At that point you can get some distance to really consider the offer and whether it is right for you.

5. Never bluff

 Never mislead a prospective employer about your current compensation or invent other job offers to gain more money. The truth will eventually come out. Instead, emphasise the value you can bring to the organisation and the skills from which they will benefit when discussing salary during an interview, and be honest about your situation.

6. Make it clear you will accept

 People will not want to expend political or social capital to get approval for a strong or improved offer if they suspect that at the end of the day, you’re still going to say, “No, thanks”. If you intend to negotiate for a better package, make it clear that you’re serious about working for this employer and be prepared to explain under what conditions you would be happy to forgo those options and accept an offer.

7. Don’t just show me the money

 The keyword here is “benefits”. You want to be able to look at the complete package an employer offers. Try and get a full list of the sort of things you can expect, working arrangements such as flextime, hybrid and/or remote working, hours, holiday, whether there’s a dental package, loans towards season ticket travel, or just a free beer on a Friday afternoon – try and outline exactly what the entire package value is to you.

Also, remember that it is not all about money it could be training, personal development, location, responsibilities, or reduced travel. If an employer offers flexible working, allowing you to spend more time with your family and friends then ultimately that could be worth an extra X on your pay cheque each month.

8. Do not negotiate just to negotiate.

 Do not negotiate over every little thing. Most businesses have a standard set of terms and benefits; some may have some flexibility but fighting to get just a bit more can rub people the wrong way — and can limit your ability to negotiate with the company later in your career or they may even withdraw the offer.

9. Get it in writing

Congratulations, you got the job offer and the salary you desired! Now ask for it in writing. Never resign from your current position without having the compensation, benefits package, working arrangements, job title and responsibilities, and other details documented.

Many people find conversations about salary extremely awkward, but it is important. Remember, it is a routine conversation for HR people, and they may expect a level of negotiation!  Being prepared and have a strong ability to communicate your most relevant strengths will help you put your best foot forward.

Let the experts assist with your job search.

For the same reason, recruiters want to make you look fantastic to potential employers – and they have years of professional expertise in doing so. Besides guiding you through the application process, they may even give you ongoing development advice to help you thrive in your future career.

Recruiters can control the speed of the interview process and guide both parties through offer negotiations. They are accustomed to having uncomfortable conversations that you may be less experienced in.

Redline - the UK’s most trusted Electronics and High Technology recruitment specialist for professional Contract, Permanent and Executive positions.

With four decades of experience in knowledge-led recruitment, Redline is well positioned to offer advice about future-proofing your permanent, contract, or interim career. If you want to be kept informed about the latest job opportunities, register your details, and create job alerts.

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